Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Addict Boyfriend’s Mother is His Supplier!”

pills prescriptions medications drug pill prescription medication drugs-thumb

I am 34 and my boyfriend of two years is 27. He has struggled off and on with a prescription pill addiction. He has, thank God, finally agreed to counseling and treatment. We have struggled through this together and he is worth the fight, but the biggest obstacle is that his mother is the supplier! She gets scripts and then sneaks them to him for free. She is an alcoholic who has been in and out of rehab several times. She lost her marriage (my boyfriend was raised by his father from the time he was three), her job, and is now back living with her parents at 52. Obviously, she and I don’t get along. She thinks I’m trying to control him and says there is nothing wrong with taking “a few pills.” She plays constant guilt trips and threatens suicide when my boyfriend tries to stand up for himself.

My question is: is there any hope for the three of us having at least a semi-normal relationship? Is it terrible and wrong if we have to cut her out of our lives? She has another son, who lives out of the area and limits contact with her, but I feel horrible about the thought of my boyfriend and I doing the same.
I want to some day be able to sit in the same room and feel at peace. What if we have children someday? Should I trust her enough to supervise my child!? My boyfriend and I have both agreed that we will take the steps necessary to focus on a happy and healthy relationship between the two of us. — Dating Addicted

I do sympathize with your predicament, but you’re wrong about something very big. Your “biggest obstacle” is not that your boyfriend’s mother is his supplier — that’s an issue, I will grant you, but it isn’t the biggest one. The biggest obstacle is that your boyfriend is an addict, period, end of story. If he didn’t have a drug addiction, it wouldn’t really matter whether his mother was pushing painkillers or whatever else on him. I mean, yes, it would matter in the sense that his mother would have a problem and that carries its own baggage, but it’s baggage that is much lighter to deal with than a partner who’s an addict.

Rather than focus on your boyfriend’s mother, the two of you need to focus first on your boyfriend’s addiction and figuring out how to navigate a relationship around it. It’s great that your boyfriend is willing to go to counseling and treatment and that you’re so committed to standing by his side. But I’d urge you to also seek counseling or to attend meetings with other friends and family members of drug addicts. Something like Nar-Anon would help give you some insight into the potential long-term issues a spouse of a drug addict faces day-to-day and year-to-year. If you’re serious about spending your life with this man — and if you’re asking about whether you should leave your future kids in his mother’s care as I’m assuming you are — you need to proceed with your eyes wide open. Go to some meetings, talk to people, see what you’d be getting yourself into.

As for your boyfriend’s mom, it’s really up to your boyfriend to determine what kind of relationship he wants with her. I’d suggest he keep in contact with her but establish a zero-tolerance rule when it comes to her pill-pushing. As soon as she offers him pills, he ends whatever it is they are doing, whether that means hanging up the phone, leaving her home, telling her to leave his home, or paying the bill at the restaurant and heading out. Eventually, she will get the message and stop her pushing, and if she doesn’t, she’ll have to deal with the consequences of a severely limited relationship with her son. As for leaving future children in her supervision, no. I have a 92-year-old FIL who is not physically capable of caring for a 15-month-old, so while I am happy to take my son to go see his grandfather, I would never leave him there without me or Drew. Why would I? There are babysitters I can hire if I need them, just as you will have sitters you can hire when you need a break. You do not leave your children in the care of someone who isn’t able to handle the responsibility, and a crazy pill-pushing grandmother definitely falls in that category.

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37 comments… add one
  • katie

    katie January 28, 2013, 9:19 am

    WWS, exactly. i was thinking the same things as I read the letter.

    i feel like, LW, that you are making the deal about the mother a huge deal to minimize your boyfriends problem… he is the real problem, you have to understand that. his mother is not making him take pills at gunpoint- he is taking them (or, took them in the pas) of his own will to get high. she is really not the issue… he is. although i do agree with wendy that she is an whole seperate issue herself, she is not who you need to be focusing your energy on. let your son do that after he gets clean.

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  • avatar

    cdobbs January 28, 2013, 9:20 am

    LW…please listen to Wendy’s advice! also i would seriously consider whether you want to have kids with someone who in your words has “struggled off and on with addiction”…not the most ideal candidate as a stable father figure

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom January 28, 2013, 9:32 am

      Not only can she never leave the kids with the mother she should never leave them with the boyfriend unless he can quit taking pills.

      LW he is still taking pills. He is not father material and maybe never will be.

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  • avatar

    crazymary January 28, 2013, 9:34 am

    Run. Don’t walk away from this relationship. The addiction is in his blood. No good will come from this relationship.

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    • avatar

      Jennifer January 28, 2013, 10:57 am

      “Run. Don’t walk away from this relationship. The addiction is in his blood.” There are a lot of recovered addicts that would have a problem with that sentence. If LW’s boyfriend gets help, he may make a full recovery. Even if “The addiction is in his blood.”

      That being said, if he is not getting help you need to move on!!! His mother is not the issue, he is.

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      • avatar

        crazymary January 28, 2013, 1:50 pm

        @Jennifer, I do understand what you are saying. But I stand by my original statement, and here’s why… I have lived this life. Loved a man who was an alcoholic. After 4 stints in rehab he was sober. Then came the pill addiction and the coke addiction. As much as I loved him, and supported him, there was something missing that I couldn’t help/cure. As much as I loved him and as much as our kids loved him he had these demons. And he had everyone’s support. Everyone knew the issues, yet there were always those around us that thought “Well, what’s one BEER? It’s not hard alcohol. He will be just fine.” And there we would go again, right down the rabbit hole.

        So, yes, I say run. Years from now, if it was meant to be LW can see what happens. But this is such a HUGE undertaking, I know from experience the heartache and devastation that she may have to face.

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      • avatar

        Lucy January 28, 2013, 8:59 pm

        For every story like that there is a story like my husband’s, who has been sober for over five years. It’s impossible (and a little grandiose) to generalize based on one’s personal experience of one addict.

        LW – your boyfriend will learn in treatment about triggers. His mother’s behaviour is a trigger. If he commits to his sobriety being the most important thing in his life, he will probably have to have extremely limited contact with her until he feels secure enough to be unaffected by her attempts to draw him back in. My husband’s father gave him booze and drugs starting at age 9; it’s classic addicted parent behaviour, to turn one’s child into a co-conspirator against all those controlling, nagging people who want to ruin their fun. It took decades for him to see through the head games.

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      • avatar

        crazymary January 29, 2013, 9:08 am

        That is wonderful for you. That was not my experience and I venture to say that you worry every single day that your husband WON”T be sober by the end of the day. It’s a shitty way to live, and if you aren’t worried, then you are in denial.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar January 28, 2013, 9:39 am

    If your boyfriend is in treatment then why not let his counsellor a guide him on the issue of exposure to temptation and people who facilitate his drug use? I’m sure it’s not the first time family members have been part of the problem. From what I understand attaining lasting sobriety is no easy feat – your boyfriend needs to concentrate on himself right now. And you, my dear, are jumping the gun. Forget about deciding if your future MIL (who happily does drugs) will be responsible enough to watch the children you don’t have yet. Because surely you know the answer to that question. How about you make a rule instead that no one involved with drugs will be part of your life when you are ready to have kids…including the potential father. Start there. After your boyfriend has mastered sobriety for some time then you think about a future with him. Any plans before that time is just fantasy for you and a potential hell for your future kids.

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    • avatar

      MMcG January 28, 2013, 10:48 am

      “How about you make a rule instead that no one involved with drugs will be part of your life when you are ready to have kids…including the potential father. Start there.”

      Brilliant Firestar! Words to live by…

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle January 28, 2013, 9:56 am

    His mother sounds troubled (to say the least), but the fact is that your boyfriend ACCEPTS her little gifts, right? The idea of “choice” is hazy, of course (since he’s addicted), but he’s still the one responsible for what he puts in his body. She’s just an enabler.

    So Wendy’s right—you need to get real & stop thinking of his mother as the “biggest obstacle”. The biggest obstacle for both you & your boyfriend is his addiction. He’s willing to get help and counseling now? That’s great, but it’s only the first step. I hope you’re looking at this as one long, never-ending journey, because to me…it’s reading like you believe the mother is the source of the problem here.

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  • avatar

    mainer January 28, 2013, 10:09 am

    I’m going to give the LW the benefit of the doubt that she is confident moving forward in her relationship with her boyfriend. Just because she doesn’t go into detail about the steps they have taken or the strides they have made in his addiction problem does not mean she is ignoring it or focusing her attention on his mother as a means of avoiding the issue. He has obviously recognized he has a problem and they have been fighting this thing together. If she wasn’t confident in that, she would have written in, as we have seen so much, asking if she should tough it out with her addict of a boyfriend or not.

    I’m going to go in the direction of agreeing that her boyfriend’s mother is one of their more immediate issues (at present). Part of treating an addiction is recognizing you have one (which he has done). Another very big part of addressing an addiction is cutting ties with enablers, which his mother very much is. So in that sense, I think the focus of her letter is appropriate and it appears to be a larger concern for her (perhaps even more than her boyfriend’s issue, which they have been working on for quite some time now and sounds like they are beginning to get a handle on).

    LW, I know this is easier said than done, and the situation is not easy to control for you since it is not your mother you are talking about, but at some point the mother needs to be held accountable for her actions. Your boyfriend will learn a lot of this in his counseling and treatment, so you may just need to wait for him to catch up, but the last part of Wendy’s advice is spot on. Zero tolerance from here on out and hold her accountable for her actions. She has done a great job of pulling apart pieces of her life because of her issues, and pushing pills on her addicted son sounds like one way she is trying to hold on to another thing that is ready to drop her. Don’t feel guilty if you need to write her out of your life. The most important thing to focus on is you and your relationship, because god knows that is going to take a lot of work. There are many big decisions that need to be made on your boyfriend’s path to ending his addiction, and this will be one of them. Just be there for him and work with his counselors in tackling this issue (and be sure to bring this to his/her attention if you feel it is not a focus on his treatment).

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    • Lianne

      Lianne January 28, 2013, 10:19 am

      Wonderfully said.

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  • avatar

    MMcG January 28, 2013, 10:35 am

    Am I bad that my first inclination was to call the police on mom? Sharing scripts is a crime, and I can’t imagine that whatever doctor she is going to isn’t shady and probably doing a lot of people a disservice.

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    • avatar

      MMcG January 28, 2013, 10:37 am

      Oh and if your asking if this alcoholic woman, who couldn’t be trusted to raise her own kids, should be trusted with yours… OMG PLEASE DON’T HAVE CHILDREN RIGHT NOW!! I can’t believe that’s where your head is at… um why not wait to see if your bf can be clean and sober for a few months in a row!?! Totally jumping the gun…

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. January 28, 2013, 10:39 am

    I disagree with Wendy on the issue of maintaining contact with the mother. For a lot of addicts, getting clean means severing ties with those people who might tempt them with the pills, the drink, the lifestyle they are trying to escape. Your BF needs to cut ties with his mother until he is strong enough to resist that temptation. This can only come after a lot of work on his part. I don’t recommend having children with this man, but if you do, do NOT let the mother anywhere near them.

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    • niki

      Niki January 28, 2013, 3:39 pm

      I agree with this. I believe Wendy’s advice is spot-on, except for the part about maintaining contact with the mother. During the initial stages of his treatment is going to need to cut off contact with his mother because he will be too vulnerable to temptation. He should state this to her clearly and firmly so that she understands why he cannot have contact for some time. After time and sobriety he can reintroduce her into his life slowly. His counselors can give him more specific guidelines, but in the meantime he needs to sever ties to his drug dealer.

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl January 28, 2013, 10:54 am

    -Is there any hope for the three of us having at least a semi-normal relationship? NO.

    -Is it terrible and wrong if we have to cut her out of our lives? NO.

    -What if we have children someday? Should I trust her enough to supervise my child!? NO.

    Seriously, listen to Wendy. Think seriously about if you want to have a marriage and children and a life with an addict, even one in recovery. It is seriously hard work to stay sober and to be the partner of an addict.

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  • avatar

    Bossy Italian Wife January 28, 2013, 11:05 am

    LW, I hope that you will take Wendy’s advice on getting into a Nar-Anon group ASAP. I hope that your boyfriend is likewise working a program because that is his (and your) best shot at navigating these complicated situations. Nar-Anon and other programs (like for your boyfriend, NA) are a great way to gain support for treatment and better chances of him staying clean and for you to be able to trust him EXPONENTIALLY. The situation with his mother is one that is going to have to decipher for himself…

    The bottom line is that everyone can say what he should and shouldn’t do, and they may be right, but until he has the tools to deal with the issue for himself, (by being in program), there is nothing anyone can say that would be as helpful as to him as program.

    I also want to take a moment to address the forum, as there have been a few drug-related questions recently and the forum seems to overwhelmingly support LWs leaving their addicts. I feel I have an obligation to state that addiction is a disease, and it doesn’t discriminate. It effects people of all classes and races. Rarely are addicts bad people; rather, addiction turns them into people we no longer recognize. Until you have been through the experience, you may feel an inclination to pass judgement, but I urge you to come from a more compassionate place than “MOA” or the like.

    I have known many addicts in my life, and have been in program (Nar-Anon) for several months now. Many addicts go on to have perfectly lovely lives including having healthy relationships, children, and successful careers. The people who stand by addicts need tools, but simply leaving is not always the answer.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow January 28, 2013, 11:07 am

    If the show Intervention has taught me anything (ha), it’s that treatment is going to involve your boyfriend cutting the toxic people and enablers out of his life. I like Wendy’s advice to attend some meetings yourself, LW, so you will best know how to support him and what to expect throughout this journey.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom January 28, 2013, 11:08 am

    I think that when you are trying to decide whether to keep someone in your life (his mom) you have to ask if their presence is positive or negative. Do they help take your life in a positive direction or do they take it in a negative direction. If the answer is positive then keep them in your life if you want but if the answer is negative let them go because if you keep them in your life you are sacrificing your life or the quality of your life. No one who cares for you or loves you will want to make you sacrifice the quality of your life for their presence. If she gives him pills she is definitely damaging his life.

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    • CurlyQue

      CurlyQue January 28, 2013, 4:11 pm

      I hope you don’t mind, but i’d really like to post this on my facebook for some friends to see. Very good advice.

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  • landygirl

    landygirl January 28, 2013, 11:09 am

    People constantly choose the wrong person and then wonder why things are so difficult. It’s like getting a cat and then desperately wishing and hoping that it will turn into a dog. You’ve convinced yourself that this guy is worth it whether or not he actually is.

    Word to the wise, you can’t change someone to fit your needs. You can make an addict stop being an addict, only he can. The problem is your holding on to a relationship that you shouldn’t hold on to.

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  • avatar

    Lindsay January 28, 2013, 11:40 am

    I’d also suggest not marrying this man or having kids with him until he gets this mother thing under control. Wendy has good ideas on how he should handle his mom, but he’s actually got to follow through with them for it to work. As other commenters have said, handling and cutting out toxic people is a big part of addiction recovery, and if he can’t stand up to his mom, then I would say he’s still in the middle of his recovery, no matter how long he’s been clean.

    As for the general concept of whether LWs should leave addicts, I don’t think that should be a knee-jerk response to MOA, but at a certain point, they do have to consider whether their SO’s addiction is going to prevent them from doing things that are important to them, like having children, being financially stable or even just being happy. I think there are a lot of people out there who rightfully support their SO’s who have addictions, but a lot of the letters we see here are people who don’t know how to have boundaries.

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  • avatar

    spark_plug January 28, 2013, 12:21 pm

    I don’t want to be sucking all the energy out of the room and say MOA, but I would never begin or continue dating someone with any kind of addiction no matter how “worth it” they were. My uncle is an alcoholic and has struggled with alcoholism all of his life. Finally, he went clean and started to get his life back together. Everyone in my family was really excited! He relapsed after three years, and now goes on 2-3 week drinking binges every 6 months or so. This has been happening for a few years now. Also, because of the lifetime of binging, he’s irritable, unhealthy, a bit mentally unstable and even though he’s 40, looks like he’s 65. As sad as it is, I don’t like to visit my family because of my uncle. In his 20s, he was a wonderful person with an on-off “drinking problem”. Perhaps my experience with my uncle is extreme, but growing with a worst-case scenario, I say, run not walk, away from addicted people, esp when you’re not tied to them after a decade long relationship or by blood.

    After your boyfriend becomes clean, you’ll want to wait a few years to make sure he stays this way before having children. So even if he gets clean now, as a responsible person, you’d want to wait until you’re 36 or 37 min before seriously thinking of having children with him.

    I guess why you thought it was a good idea to get into a relationship with someone with a family history of addiction for 2 years is a different question, but do think about this very seriously if you want to bring a child into the world and don’t fall into the trap of trying save all of the time you invested in this relationship by continuing to stick with it unless you boyfriend is truly serious about getting clean for the rest of his life.

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    • avatar

      spark_plug January 28, 2013, 12:29 pm

      Just wanted to clarify since I don’t think this came through well that I don’t think LW should automatically leave addicts. If you have something that binds you to that person, like a child or a long relationship history or family and that person is willing to work it out, then staying is the right thing to do.

      However, life is short and I guess I don’t personally see the point of struggling with someone’s issues if you have very little (like a 1-2 year relationship) holding you together. I also don’t know if the LW has a ticking clock at 34 and this is why she’s thinking of children.. but if so, then it’s even more important to re-evaluate if investing further (and waiting who knows how long to have kids) is worth it.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom January 28, 2013, 12:31 pm

      I think your experience is the norm. I have a cousin who was married to an alcoholic. That marriage lasted for eight years and she was emotional exhausted and ready to divorce after six years. She wanted to have children but knew she couldn’t have them with an alcoholic so now she is in her upper 30s, divorced and no children. This is not what she imagined her life would be like when she got married. Another cousin married a drug addict and her marriage lasted less than two years. She had a son with her husband and has been raising him by herself. No help or contact from the father for years. The last I knew she was getting the father’s parental rights severed. Her son is in high school and doing great and she got remarried two years ago and is happy but it has been a long, hard road to reach that happiness.

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  • avatar

    llclarityll January 28, 2013, 12:57 pm

    YOU, LW, can’t make him stop taking pills from his mother. Only he can do that. Cutting off contact from his mother will do nothing; he’ll just get his pills elsewhere. Please get him into an intense rehab program, stat.

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    • avatar

      llclarityll January 28, 2013, 1:00 pm

      And a “healthy” relationship doesn’t mean not cutting her off. Unless she is able t overcome her addiction, the healthiest relationship (assuming your SO also quits the pills) is for you and SO to stay away from addicts.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark January 28, 2013, 1:10 pm

    Newsflash and Reality Check. If not for his mother (who sounds AWFUL by the way) your boyfriend would simply have found another way to get pills. End of story. So stop blaming her for HIS bad decisions. And some making YOUR own bad decisions as well. What are your bad decisions, you ask? Well, gee LW, I dunno…how about wasting two years or your life on an addict when you are looking to have kids and the clock that works against you must be ticking rather loudly that you are dragging 34.

    Do NOT marry this person.
    Do NOT have kids with this person.
    Do NOT even DATE this person any more.

    It will only bring you a life of misery, pain, and regret and fuck up the lives of your kids… (Hey, look at how great your boyfriend turned out! Yeah… what a winner.) If he is REALLY that great, which somehow I very much doubt that he is… perhaps revisit this issue only AFTER he has been sober for two to three years… Two to three years. That’s right. Two to three years.

    PS: The fact that you even would bother asking whether or not such an unstable drunk of a woman could watch your as-of-yet unborn (and hopefully unconceived) grandchildren makes me think that you NOT having kids may NOT exactly be the worst thing for the planet… I know that sounds harsh, but no good mother would even ask such a fucking dumb question. Sorry my patience is at an end for those who go so out of their way to make such disastrous choices…

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    • avatar

      llclarityll January 28, 2013, 1:31 pm

      I’m curious, why the hell did she wait 2 years to really push this issue? Two years with an addict is a lost of time to waste period, but in your 30s?

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      • avatar

        llclarityll January 28, 2013, 1:31 pm

        *a lot

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark January 28, 2013, 1:32 pm

        DENIAL…

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  • AKchic_

    AKchic_ January 28, 2013, 1:29 pm

    Your boyfriend and his mother cannot have a “normal” relationship as long as she pushes his drug of choice on him. She is an enabler because it allows her to continue her drug of choice (alcohol). As long as he’s an addict and using, she has no guilt and no remorse and no desire to change HER habits. Of course she is going to threaten all sorts of things in order to keep him from changing. If he changes, she may actually have to change herself.
    Of course she is going to accuse you of controlling her son. You are taking her position as the most important woman in his life.

    Yes, he is going to have to limit contact with this poisonous woman. However, that has to be up to him and his therapist, not you. All you can do is be supportive.

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  • avatar

    Temperance January 28, 2013, 2:43 pm

    LW, why on earth would you ask whether a fucking loser of a woman who supplies her son with drugs in order to keep him in her life would be able to care for your future kids? It scares me that you’re 34 and have this mindset.

    His mother does not deserve to have anyone in her life because she sounds like a horrible, toxic human being. I’ve met plenty of victims of parental drug addiction (both those who had to grow up with an addict parent, or those who were fed drugs by addict parents in order to get them hooked), and they don’t have good lives. Could you REALLY have a child sucked into the same loop, and expose that child to her?

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  • avatar

    Sonia January 28, 2013, 2:50 pm

    I think the LW is hoping to somehow idealize this very non-standard situation. There is no waving of a magic wand for you to have a good relationship with someone who enables an addict, no matter who they represent in your life. The brother seems to know how the mother is and keeps away, and the LW and her boyfriend should take a cue there. By trying to cookie cutter this situation its only going to make things worse. Do what NEEDS to be done, for the best health (mental as well as physical) of your boyfriend, which I think has to include keeping her out of your lives, at least for now.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite January 28, 2013, 3:15 pm

    Shoot, lost an entire response because I forgot to log in first. Oh well, I’m going on 2 years with an alcoholic who has been sober for nearly 7 years. We still discuss addiction and his plan if he ever experiences the urge to drink (he hasn’t had urges the entire time I’ve been with him but they can always re-occur). It’s an on-going process that fundamentally changes relationships and it doesn’t sound like the LW wants the relationship to change in a way. Like she’d like him to be off pills but isn’t envisioning what that will mean for them. MOA LW, this isn’t a fixer-upper, it’s someone struggling with addiction who will have to hit rock bottom and find his own path in life.

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