William Burrows was born and raised in South Wales by his mother and adoptive father. He left home at age sixteen to join the British Army, serving for fifteen years in Scotland, England, West Germany, and Gibraltar. He joined the technology department of a major US bank based in Bournemouth. He quickly rose to vice president before relocating to their Manhattan office in 2000 to help lead a major technology project. For decades he unknowingly filled the classic codependent role in his family, enabling his mentally ill wife and children until he met an addictions counselor named Margo.
Besides his memoir, Super Dad: A Memoir of Codependency and Redemption, William’s writing credits include a chapter for the anthology, Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter. William is retired and lives in New Jersey with his second wife, grandson, and stepson.
Author Q and A
Q. Super Dad is a deeply personal story about one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of your life. Why did you decide to go public with it?
A. During the crisis years, I felt I was alone, that no one could possibly know what it was like being me. There are very good self-help books, but they weren’t enough, at least not for me. I belonged to several online and in-person support groups and there always seemed to be someone who had already faced whatever crisis I was facing. When they shared their personal experience, it gave me hope. When they shared how they coped, I found it inspiring. These people, most of whom I never met in person, are a significant reason I’m alive today. I wrote my memoir hoping that sharing my experience would inspire others, just as people in my support groups inspired me.
Q. How does your family feel about your memoir? Weren’t you concerned they would be upset and embarrassed?
A. Yes. I was particularly concerned my children would think I was unduly harsh about their mother, Lindsey. It helped that I’d reconciled myself with what happened during the crisis years before I started writing, but I wanted to be as compassionate as the facts allowed. I decided to ask my eldest children, Peter and Dawn, to review the manuscript, knowing they’d make sure I was honest and hadn’t exaggerated. Interestingly, Dawn commented that more than once she found herself thinking, Well, that would never happen. Oh wait, yes it did! In the end, besides a couple of minor detail corrections, they didn’t ask me to change anything. I also decided to use a pen name, change character names, and pay for a high-level legal review. My memoir is about helping others, not hurting my family or ex-wife.
Q. What difference do you want your book to make?
A. It’s all about providing a source of hope. The truth is there are Super Dads and Super Moms all over the world dealing with mental illness, personality disorders, or addiction on a daily basis, all doing their best to fix things, often at the expense of their own mental health. They need a reason to believe recovery is possible. The memoir is not really about my family’s mental health issues or the crisis years. It’s about Super Dad’s spectacular failure. It’s about me discovering my codependency and my subsequent recovery.
Q. Wasn’t Super Dad doing what any loving parent would do for their children? Why was it a problem?
A. Most parents would do anything for their children. That didn’t change just because someone told me I was codependent. And yet, I knew something was seriously wrong: my daughters were stuck in crisis mode, and I was on the point of killing myself. It took a six-week codependency course and intensive therapy before I understood. I was so enmeshed in my family’s crises that my self-worth and emotional stability was entirely contingent on their behavior. There was no “me,” only Super Dad. I was psychologically trapped, deluding myself that I could fix everyone, unable to see how they were controlling who I was. I’m not unique. I hope seeing the mistakes I made and how I addressed them will help others achieve a balance between doing the best for their children and maintaining their own well-being.
Q. Isn’t codependency tied to addiction? What does it have to do with mental health issues and personality disorders?
A. It is true the term codependency was first used to describe the behavior of spouses and children of alcoholics. However, it was later expanded to include any situation where there is a dysfunctional care-taking relationship with addictive, compulsive, or exploitive individuals. In my situation, I had slipped into a caretaker role, enabling my borderline family members, focusing on their problems rather than my own.
Q. Why do you think there are so few codependency memoirs written by men?
A. Codependency behavior tends to overlap stereotypical feminine gender roles—things like nurturing, caring, sensitivity to others’ needs. My father would devalue and throw scorn on such traits and tell me to “grow up, be a man.” Given these contrasting stereotypes, it’s natural that codependency was expected to impact mostly females and this is reflected in available mental health literature. However, studies as early as 1995 suggest there is no significant gender effect (Cullen and Carr 1999) (Gotham 1996) (Irwin 1995). Indeed, many professionals are rethinking the relationship between men and codependency (Griffin 2012). My memoir is a step in the right direction.
Q. How much of a role did your faith play in your recovery?
A. Faith for me is like a full moon in a clear night sky—something to marvel at, something that sheds light in a dark world. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never find a way of reaching it. Then I found myself sat in my car at 2 a.m., in the middle of nowhere, about to end my life, and a miracle happened. I received a phone call. Who calls anyone at that time in the morning, never mind a person who isn’t speaking to you? I look back at that moment and have no doubt it was divine intervention. It marked the start of my spiritual journey—finding Jesus, finding a spiritual partner, and finding Catholicism. It’s through God’s mercy I’m alive today, and through his grace others may be helped by my memoir.