August 21, 2019:
What exactly the fuck is "codependency", specifically?
The term seems to have evolved. Originally it appears to have been applied to relationships where both partners are addicts. Co-addicts, where neither will recover while the other is in the room, so that breaking up the relationship is necessary for either to become sober.
Later it came to mean a relationship where one partner is addicted while the other is their enabler. For example a wife who cleans up after her husband's abusive alcoholism and hides it from the neighbors, creating the context in which her husband's addiction is allowed to flourish unchecked.
More recently it seems to refer to relationships where one partner is a substance abuser while the other is emotionally dependent on the addict. A different flavor of addiction, to a relationship rather than an intoxicant, where the co-dependent needs the relationship with such depth of force that s/he's willing to put up with chaos and violence rather than see it end.
None of these definitions reflect my experience in any tidy kind of way.
I lived aspects of the second and third. I protected my addicted fiancée, sheltering her from the immediate consequences. I recognized that my loyalty was enabling, and that in some measure it originated in loneliness. But that wasn't the full reality, and labeling my decisions "codependent" in a reductive way is too glib to be fully true.
While I sheltered her I was seeking solutions. I searched-out therapists and Naltrexone, sent her to rehab. This was early in my understanding of alcoholism, when I was hopeful for successful treatment. It was in part through pressure of experience, in part through knowledge gained in intensive research that I came to accept the truth that only 5% of alcoholics recover, and that my fiancée would not be one of them.
After passing that crossroad I struggled to find a way to keep her alive while protecting myself. It was clear that if I let go of her she'd land on the streets or in prison. I was unwilling to allow those outcomes. I was loyal to my promises and I kept them. So I quit my job, and insisted on rules. I'd accompany her everywhere: to therapy, DUI class, shopping, everywhere. She'd never be alone outside the house and I would not allow her to buy alcohol. If she wanted to live under my roof she'd have to accept me as her shadow.
That was our life for eight months. She was sober, and by the end of that period a largely clear of PAWS. It was still very stressful. She was capable of bolting at any moment, or she'd pick fights trying to goad me into walking away. I gritted my teeth and saw it through, because I was unwilling to let her die.
But I was also unwilling to continue the relationship. I broke the engagement, slept on the couch. I could have torpedoed the online romance she immediately found. Instead I saw it as my own escape. She'd marry someone kind, he'd take care of her, she'd be safe, I'd be free. Happy ending for everyone but her new husband, who'd inherit the violence and the stress.
I don't claim that this was a healthy way to live. Not at all. I do contest the label of "codependency" in these specifics. I didn't enable her drinking, I forced it to stop. I was originally emotionally dependent, but I pulled away, restructuring the relationship around entirely new purposes. It was no longer about my loneliness, it was about keeping her safe long enough to hand her off, like a hot potato, to someone new.