“I love you more than..." is healthy. - No One
"Codependency" wasn’t really a word I was familiar with until I met my current partner and started working on myself. Not surprisingly, it’s actually something that a lot of loved ones of addicts have issues with, and being very close to an addict (especially when actively using) really exacerbates it.
My codependency origin story took place in my childhood, when I was younger than 10 years old (I have no clue how old I was, maybe like 6? Details aren’t super important as far as that goes). I was really close with my grandparents since I spent a lot of my time over there, being watched by them while my parents were at work. I had no idea at the time, but apparently my grandparents were going through some marital problems, and so grandpa moved out while they settled the divorce. To me, however, this looked as though he was abandoning me, especially since no one wanted to tell me anything out of fear of hurting me. I would spend hours every day looking out of the front screen door, calling for him and wondering what I did to make him leave.
I didn’t really get the story of what happened until later in life, well after things had begun to sink in and cause me to retreat. I had no desire to get close to anyone, and this kept me from experiencing typical childhood and teenage milestones. No boyfriends, no first kiss, no huge group of friends, no dreams of a wedding or family for adulthood, etc. I had already come to the conclusion that I would spend my days alone, watching everyone else do the things I scorned but secretly wanted.
When I got to my 20’s is when I started to branch out a little bit, but since I had no compass of how things should be done really, I went too far to the other side and tried to make up for lost time. But that’s irrelevant to this story, as the only thing that matters here is that when I was 20, I met James.
You already know him as my current partner, and how he told me that he had issues.
But the point now, is that I latched on to him for dear life. Not only was he a very close friend that I cared about, but he was also someone I now desperately wanted to fix, but at the same time, I was terrified that the act of him getting better would cause him to leave me as well.
I think that this is what people call a double-edged sword.
Anyways, I would bounce back and forth through each cycle of active using and sobriety, not sure what was healthy or not, what was too passive or not, and what was too unreasonable or not (I’m not sure if where I am now is correct either but it’s miles ahead of what I used to do).
I would feel like my world was falling apart when he was gone, like a ship lost at sea, but his newfound independence from his time without me in rehab caused me just as much heartache (especially when we weren’t officially together yet). Why does he get to feel so good? Doesn’t he want me? Doesn’t he miss me? Doesn’t he want to be around me 24/7 and put me first all the time like I do with him?
That sounds healthy.
Finally, at one therapy session our therapist told me I was codependent and I about walked out. How dare you say something so rude to me?! I couldn’t handle it at all. But once it actually sunk in and I 1. Realized that it was ok and was something I could work on and fix and 2. Was something a lot of people felt actually, I didn’t feel so guilty or embarrassed about it.
And so began the long road of fixing myself instead of him.
And here I am.
It took years of more cycles, more times for me to be broken open when he left, to start to get more and more comfortable with my life when he was gone. Slowly but surely, I gained my own sense of independence, and stopped trying to anticipate and care for his every need (this really helped his active using too even though the addict in him HATED it). Also came boundaries, and the strength to stick with them.
Which is hard.
It’s so easy to want to break when you hear how terrible they are doing, or watch them walk to their car when you told them they can’t see you or your daughter so you sob uncontrollably to your sponsor on the phone to keep you from running outside to change your mind.
It’s really hard.
But it’s so worth it.
Why? Well, I know everyone and their mother will tell you this, but it’s true: it’s for BOTH of your benefit. If I really wanted to help him, and not just do what the broken part of me thought I needed, then I had to do what was best for both of us. This required boundaries and a clear cut line that he could not cross. It’s not quite an ultimatum, as I never said “you need to get sober this instant or I’m never seeing you again”. It was more of “I’m doing just fine over here and you can’t see me until you seek recovery, and if you decide to never do that, well, my door is always open if you change your mind.”
And that’s the cool part: I was doing just fine. Well, at least most of the time. Which is just fine, too.
Part of recovery from codependency as I’ve said is being able to be ok even if your loved one is not ok at all. It’s really hard to get there, but I know now that no amount of control or help or coercion could ever get him “better”. It had to come from him, inside, just like no one could ever really help me until I was ready to help myself. No amount of advice or telling me to leave could do anything but push me closer to him and my desire to prove everyone else wrong.
And it was especially difficult because he was so used to me helping him and so to flip the switch almost instantly was hard for us both.
But I’ll say it again: it was worth it.
Of course I still have my times where it’s hard, and I wonder if I’m really missing him because I’m sad or if it’s another “flare-up”, or I realize that this can also affect my relationship with our daughter (crying for an hour and checking my phone every 30 seconds when she is down the street staying the night at her cousin’s house that is like a second home is definitely not normal or healthy), but I’m miles ahead of where I started.
And that’s what really matters here.
So, keep going and never stop trying to improve yourself, because you never know the cool things that could happen when you do.