Know When To Walk Away

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run…”

Barn & RoadI was eight years old when Kenny Rodgers made those lyrics popular. I heard that song so many times in subsequent growing-up-in-Texas years, I think it’s part of my DNA. Some things are hard to forget.

Unfortunately, as an adult my codependent tendencies overrode my “DNA” when I was married to a chemically dependent spouse. I did not know soon enough when to walk away or when to run. I couldn’t hear the wisdom in other people’s counsel. I was too busy rescuing and enabling someone else. I didn’t care for myself, or even recognize my needs.

A person stuck in codependency will “feel anxiety more consistently than any other emotion in the relationship,” Psychologist Seth Meyers says, “and they’ll spend a great deal of time and energy either trying to change their partner or … trying to conform to their partner’s wishes.”

For the past nine days, I’ve been having a running dialogue with an emotionally abused woman. She has spent seven years stifling herself in order to fit someone else’s mold; tiptoeing through life so as not to set him off, taking neglect, emotional abandonment and verbal abuse because she “made a vow” and doesn’t want to become another statistic. I get that. I’ve done that.

But there comes a time when enough is enough. A light bulb goes on one day and suddenly, we’re done. And when a woman is done she is D-O-N-E. Sometimes it takes years, decades even. Sometimes we wake up in time to exit the relationship and still have time for the abundant life Jesus speaks about in John 10:10.

This D-O-N-E thing doesn’t just happen with women. I bumped into a male friend at the gym last week and asked, “How’s it going?”

Oh, things are okay.” Then, with lowered voice, “I’m going through a divorce.”

I didn’t even know you got married! What happened?”

Pain pills and alcohol. I’ve never been around a person with addiction like that before. I just couldn’t take it. I told her she had to go.”

I’m quite certain they were married for less than a year.

She doesn’t want help. She doesn’t think she has a problem,” he replied after I asked if she was part of a recovery community. “I just woke up and said, ‘I can’t live like this.’” He was done.

Waking up from our codependent slumber requires honesty. In my recovery group yesterday, someone said, “Being honest with ourselves is not a place we arrive – it’s a process we work for.” Wow! Honesty is not an event. It’s a process.

Where are you on the honesty continuum? Are you pretending everything is okay when your gut tells you something is terribly wrong – as the emotionally abused woman I mentioned earlier did on her wedding day? She didn’t listen to the gnawing in her brain as she walked down the aisle – devoid of the joy a bride normally exudes on a day like that.

Are you trying to “make it work” as she’s done for the past seven years, but find yourself exhausted emotionally, physically, or spiritually because YOU seem to be doing all the work?

Are you so numb inside that you’ve forgotten how it feels to be free of the burden of trying to be someone else’s Savior?

It may be time to look yourself in the eye and ask some tough questions. Have you begun the process of being honest with the person looking back at you in the mirror? Taking that honesty step today is better than looking at yourself years down the road and wondering where the best years of your life went. Sadly, I read the pain of that reality between the lines of a brief book review I received today. My heart aches for that reader. She wrote:

“I downloaded this book to my Kindle in the afternoon and did not put it down until 3 am when the last word was read! My own 20 years of marriage with an abusive man was the reason I had to read this book so that I could try and wrap my mind around why some of us go through relationships that crush us but yet we keep going and keep trying to fix it. Thank you Juliet for putting all the ugly down on paper and sharing how you finally, after many years, bounced back.” Sharon S.

Reading her words made me weep – tears of joy that a stranger bought my book, Same Dress, Different Day: A Spiritual Memoir of Addiction and Redemption, and could not put it down! Tears of sorrow for those 20 years of heartache she experienced. As I think of her story, and mine, and a dozen others I know of, I can’t help but start singing a Kenny Rodgers song…

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run…”

Dear God, Please reveal, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, the reality of what each reader sees in his/her mirror. Show them the path to freedom from codependency’s destructive grasp. Pull them out of the gutter and plant their feet firmly on the bedrock of TRUTH. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


If you love or know someone who loves a chemically dependent or otherwise addicted person, and you’d like to order your own copy of my eye-opening memoir, here’s the Amazon link: