Some part of my codependency originated in competition with her family. I held them in such contempt that I was determined not to fail her the way they'd done. Inevitably I failed her in different ways but I did keep my promise not to abandon her. That was important to me, not only because I loved her but because it allowed me to tell myself that for all my failings at least I wasn't as horrible as them.

That family repulsed me by the ease with which they abandoned their daughter-and-sister — then rationalized their betrayal as tough love. It wasn't love, not even a little. It was, first and foremost and last and forever, worship of material comfort. They resented her drain on their disposable cash 'cos they wanted a bigger TV. So they dropped her on the sidewalk — the special needs child they'd adopted knowing her mother was an addict — to live whatever sordid existence an addict's life would bring. While lying to themselves it was not for their benefit but for hers.

Her mother said to me once, seeming genuinely astonished: "You have the patience of Job!" You and I though know I have no such thing. What I did have was a rational understanding of addiction as disease; a working brain which God gave me to allow me to research things like this; loyalty; and a plan.

But that's not what she meant. She wasn't actually thinking of me at all. She was rationalizing her own betrayal by imputing something exceptional to me. Because if my loyalty was ordinary human loyalty — the debt we all owe to the ones we love — then her entire relationship to her daughter was something less than human, certainly less than loyal. Irony indeed for a right-wing Evangelical claiming to revere family values. But hardly unique in that milieu.

That family was a sinkhole of hypocrisy, selfishness, vanity. They claimed the name of Jesus but they lacked even the most elementary compassion for human suffering. Oh abstractly, sure. There are people hungry in whereverthefuck. But they condemned their daughter for being ill, they left her adrift in the cold without food or shelter or, as she put it herself once, sober but in tears of bone-deep hurt, "hugs".

So yah. To me they were foils: negative examples I would refuse to emulate. I stayed with her until she was safe, and I stayed friends with her for a long time after, until I became at long painful last convinced she didn't return my feelings. Then I let her go.

I'm still to this day confused about the line between loyalty and codependency. Her family obviously had neither. Did I have too much of both? That's not for me to say. Only that knowing what I know now about addiction and about this addict, I'd do things differently. I'd still try to help her, including financially. But I'd never in a million years let her under my roof.