Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My New Boyfriend is a Drug Addict”

I married an abusive, cheating drug addict. I was with him for 12 years and have been divorced for nearly two years now.

I’ve been dating a man, seven years my junior, who was a cocaine addict before we met. It’s been seven of the best months of my life. He felt he had hit rock bottom and stopped doing drugs cold turkey right before we started dating; he didn’t see a counselor or attend meetings. I think this has shown great strength on his part. We have been practically inseparable since day one but still have our own lives, so it’s been great.

Last week, he told me he’s very unhappy with himself and just wants to be alone. He thinks we have different agendas and he wants to stop hurting me because he doesn’t think he can give me what I need. So he basically broke up with me, but since then he’s been flopping between anger, sadness, confusion and remorse, and he’s been texting me daily, often multiple times throughout the day, to tell me he’s bummed and confused.

I’m a strong believer in following my gut, and right now it’s telling me his addiction is taking over but he still loves me and doesn’t want to lose me. Now, as far as I know he’s been coke-free for 6+ months, but addicts lie, so I can’t be sure.

I love him dearly, more than I have ever loved another human. We’ve talked of marriage and moving away together, and he’s told me many times I’m his soul-mate. I want to let him know I’m here for him but he needs to talk to someone about his demons and why he has them. I also don’t want to walk away from him. I know he needs me and without me he won’t be able to do this.

Am I a fool for thinking there is any future with us? Regardless, how should I tell an addict to seek therapy? — Dating an Addict

Honestly, I think YOU could use some therapy. It sounds like you might have an addiction, too — if not to damaged men, then to this particular guy anyway. It’s just telling that even after being married to an addict, you would jump into a relationship with another addict seemingly without any trepidation (i.e you’ve been inseparable since day one). And this isn’t just an addict — this is an addict who, when you started dating, had JUST stopped using. Like, maybe within days? And… yet, you jumped right into a relationship with him? Surely, you know from your marriage how difficult being involved with an addict is. Why would you so willingly put yourself right smack into a potentially volatile situation?

Look, it’s not your job to tell this guy he should seek therapy or join a support group or do a 12-step program. And it’s certainly not your job to help him through the initial stages of recovery. If you’d been together years and years, sure. But to step in days after someone decides to quit using and think he can’t do it without you? It’s… well, it’s arrogant at best, and delusional and dangerous at worst.

You may be this man’s soul-mate. And I don’t doubt that you love him very much. But that doesn’t mean you’re his savior or that without you he can’t conquer his demons. It seems to me that there’s as much potential of you being a distraction in his recovery or of him dragging you down with him. You’ve even been down that road before, haven’t you? Why would you want to go down it again?

I say give this man a full year to sort his shit out. Tell him you love him and, if you’re still single and he’s still single after he’s been clean a full year without any relapses, you’d be willing to give your relationship a shot. But right now there are just too many hurdles he needs to jump. And it isn’t fair to you and it isn’t fair to him to bog down his recovery with the demands of a brand new relationship.

You were married for 12 years to an abusive, cheating drug addict. And now you are involved with another addict you believe could be lying to you and who is “flopping between anger, sadness, confusion and remorse.” Even if you can’t see the pattern here, I hope you will at least consider that your boyfriend isn’t the only one with a problem who could use someone to talk to. If you want so much to be someone’s saving grace, I hope you’ll start with yourself.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

26 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite January 16, 2014, 7:57 am

    WWS!!!

    I could not believe this letter reading it. Dating addicts may be your fix that you need to break. You are not a therapist, drug counselor, or anyone else who should be sorting out someone’s demons with them.

    You also should drop the stigmatizing, dated beliefs that anyone who doesn’t see a counselor or attend meetings “has shown great strength on his part.” That’s not great strength, that’s kidding yourself. Even if you need to search to find a therapy or recovery program that fits the model better than the 12 Step program, help is absolutely necessary to reflect on patterns and beliefs that originally led to use.

    Very few people quit addictions without support and 6 months is not a symbol of long-term remission yet.

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  • avatar

    Painted_lady January 16, 2014, 9:44 am

    So I feel like this bears repeating, and clarification at that: most addiction recovery programs insist pretty emphatically that recovering addicts should not start new romantic relationships for at least a year after they sober up. For a lot of them, it’s more. There’s a reason: even the best new relationship is stressful, and any added stress is going to threaten an addict’s recovery, especially as relationships tend to be placed ahead of lots of things in life that *should* be priorities, including sobriety. So while you seem to be operating under the illusion that all this man needs is the love of a good woman, that’s actually not only NOT going to help him, it’s actually setting him up for failure. And you’re setting yourself up to be in a relationship with yet another addict.

    You don’t seem to value yourself enough at this point to do the thing that puts your needs and happiness first over the people you date (for seven months!!!) and that definitely needs to be addressed once you’re out of this relationship, but for right now, just get out of this relationship with this guy you sooooo want to save – who doesn’t sound like he wants to be with you anymore, honestly. Keep telling yourself, you’re not saving him, you’re hurting him by staying. And then when you’re good and gone, get your ass into therapy and figure out why you feel like love means saving someone from themselves. And why you think it’s both your job and in your power.

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  • avatar

    Amanda January 16, 2014, 9:55 am

    WWS. Seriously LW, get yourself into therapy. Two unhealthy individuals like you and your boyfriend cannot have a healthy relationship. Please MOA and give both you and your boyfriend a chance to get better.

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  • avatar

    Shadowflash January 16, 2014, 10:31 am

    I don’t remember what my original comment on this letter said, but the gist of it was: MOA from the romance, definitely. This is no way to begin or conduct a relationship for either of you, since really you’re both in recovery. MAYBE in a year or three you will both be in a place where you can conduct a healthy relationship, but now isn’t the time or the place. IF you think you can (platonically) remain in his life and support him then do so, but only if you have it in you to keep it platonic with your “soul mate”.

    PS Ditto everyone else: It’s NOT “great strength on his part” to go it alone, and you already know it. Hell, you lived with an untreated addict for TWELVE YEARS. You’ve already seen this movie and know how it ends.

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  • avatar

    TECH January 16, 2014, 10:35 am

    There were many insightful comments yesterday that unfortunately are gone. I can’t remember everything I wrote yesterday, but I do remember recommending that you read “Women Who Love Too Much”

    Also, if he’s a drug addict, he’s not your soul mate.

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  • kare

    kare January 16, 2014, 10:40 am

    Cut your losses and move on. I strongly believe addicts need a year of sobriety before being in a relationship. Best case, he’s not using but is still facing a lot of issues he needs to work through on his own. My brother is an addict, after he stopped using pills, he had to learn how to process emotion again. After being emotionally numbed to everything, it was difficult for him to feel anger and not know how to react without getting high or violent. It’s not pretty. Worst case, this guy is using again (or never stopped) and it’s not your place to save him.

    Focus on yourself. Figure out why you are attracted to damaged men. If you have the need to nurture, find a volunteer organization so that you can channel that energy in a positive way.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki January 16, 2014, 11:19 am

    I didn’t get a chance to comment on this yesterday, so fortunately it is back today. I have experience being involved with an addict and I don’t need to tell you it’s not fun. I got fortunate in my situation, but most people aren’t as lucky. So just a few points LW –
    1) Not seeing a counselor or attending meetings when trying to overcome an addiction is not a show of strength. It takes more strength to admit that you need help. I don’t like AA/NA for many many reasons, but I know some people find what they need there. There are a ton of other recovery options including other groups, individual therapy, religious intervention, etc. Doing it by yourself is not usually a successful way to do it.

    2) Addicts lie. You know that. You know in your heart and your gut that he is most likely using again. Don’t put yourself through that. You’ve been through it once before. History repeats itself if you don’t take steps to stop it.

    3) While (as already mentioned) I don’t like NA or AA, I do agree with on thing they say – people shouldn’t start a new relationship in the first year of recovery. It adds too much stress and it sets everyone up for disappointment. The chances of relapse are much higher in that first year.

    4) “I know he needs me and without me he won’t be able to do this.”
    This line is the worst thing I’ve read in the whole letter. First of all, don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. Secondly, he CAN do this without you. Whether or not he wants to or will is on him, it is NOT on you. You are not responsible for his actions or his addiction. He is the only one responsible for them. Quit trying to fix him and quit telling yourself that he needs you to be able to quit. If he quits, then it will not be for you. It will be for him. Until he stops for himself, he will never really be done.

    My advice is to MOA. Cut your losses, get into therapy to find out why you keep finding yourself with the same kind of man. Get new hobbies, join a club, do something for yourself.

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    • avatar

      Painted_lady January 16, 2014, 11:30 am

      It’s not just putting too much pressure on herself to say that he can’t do this without her, it’s exceedingly arrogant and self-centered. His recovery should be about him, and she’s somehow making it about her and making herself a martyr in the same sentence.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 16, 2014, 11:41 am

        I was going to write something like that, but wasn’t sure how to put it tactfully. I believe what I typed was “You’re just not that damn important” but then I deleted it.

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      • avatar

        Painted_lady January 16, 2014, 1:09 pm

        You’re classier than me 🙂

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 16, 2014, 1:10 pm

        I try sometimes 🙂

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    • avatar

      Lucy January 16, 2014, 11:49 am

      If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard #4… oy. LW, he can ONLY do this without you. Addicts don’t get better until they decide to get better, on their own, for themselves.

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  • avatar

    rachel January 16, 2014, 11:25 am

    It sucks for the LW that there will be fewer comments today for her to look at. I think I basically said, LW, you should date someone who’s NOT addicted to drugs, or better yet, take some time to be single.

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  • veritek33

    veritek33 January 16, 2014, 11:37 am

    I’ll try to remember what I wrote yesterday.
    I dated an addict and abuser for 2 years. This is something that anyone can fall into, so it’s not your fault. HOWEVER, I cannot imagine being in a marriage with an addict and then voluntarily dating another man with an admitted addiction so soon after he claims to be clean.
    Cold turkey is not a sign of strength, it is a sign of ARROGANCE. He thinks he doesn’t need help and can do it on his own, etc. I hate that I’m saying this, but he’s probably not clean and hasn’t been clean while you were dating. Until he, and YOU, get some professional help, I see you repeating this pattern.
    Take some time for yourself. Learn the warning signs. You deserve better.

    I know personally, through my own limitations, I don’t have the strength to date an addict ever again. But those are my limitations.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope January 16, 2014, 11:39 am

    Bitter Gay Mark where are you? This one was tailor made for you! Lol.

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  • avatar

    Lucy January 16, 2014, 11:45 am

    1. He is using again. Let him go. He is on his own journey and you cannot save him. He has to save himself.

    2. You have your own issues you need to deal with before you get involved with anyone else. Go to therapy, Al-Anon, or (preferably) both. The fact that you think his quitting cold turkey with no support is a sign of strength just shows that while you may have lived with addicts for a long time, you understand almost nothing about them.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark January 16, 2014, 12:37 pm

    Only your “special” and magical love can save this man. Sure, he will lie to you, steal from you, and yes, even cheat on you… But don’t be discouraged! That will never be the “real” him — but rather, just the coke. Never, ever let anyone or anything stop you from saving this mess of a man. Logic be damned! This is your gut talking!! Remember, you will only truly be happy if you waste your life monitoring your one and only 24/7. Such is the price of your “special” love! Truly one for the ages!!

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope January 16, 2014, 1:35 pm

    BGMark, Love it!!! I knew you’d save the day!

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  • avatar

    va-in-ny January 16, 2014, 2:37 pm

    This letter and the comments made me sad. I’m not saying I disagree, I don’t. Basically, this woman (like others have said) entered this relationship too quickly after he had sobered up.

    But, all of the comments of “he’s a drug addict. you deserve better.” is harsh.

    My brother is a drug addict. He’s currently in a rehab facility and will be for at least another 9 months. Should he never be able to have someone that loves him because he has had drug problems? Does he deserve to be alone because he has a disease?

    I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with what his future may hold for him, and I’d like to think that there is someone out there for him that is good, and that can keep him from going back to the needle. But, most of the comments here echo “he’s no good. he’ll never be good. MOA.” and it just makes me sad.

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    • avatar

      kare January 16, 2014, 3:16 pm

      My brother is also an addict, and I still think the LW deserves better. I would love for my brother to be in a loving, healthy, stable relationship when he has fully recovered and is no longer self-medicating his many underlying issues. Sadly, this has not been the case. As much as I love my brother, I don’t like seeing him meet these sweet girls that are so loving and patient be destroyed by his demons. They always think they can save him, and that’s simply not true. He can only choose to save himself.

      This isn’t to say someone who has recovered and has been sober (ideally for at least a year) is less deserving of love. It’s just that an addict who is struggling with recovery or has relapsed is not a good boyfriend.

      Your brother is getting the help he needs, and that’s truly amazing. It takes a lot of strength to admit you can’t fight an addiction alone, which is very different than the LW’S boyfriend.

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki January 16, 2014, 4:42 pm

      I don’t think mine said he’s a drug addict you deserve better. I’m married to an addict. Our 5 year anniversary is coming up in less than 3 months. But this LW thinks she is the end all, be all as far as this guy’s addiction and that’s not the case for 2 reasons – 1: he can’t/won’t/shouldn’t quit for anyone but himself and 2: she’s not that important. He will be fine without her if he chooses to get clean. He’s obviously currently lying (if not actively using) and that’s not cool. No one deserves that.

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    • mylaray

      mylaray January 16, 2014, 6:17 pm

      So I do know what you mean when you get the feeling that some people might say that someone deserves better than a drug addict. But I don’t think anyone is saying that here about all drug addicts. This guy the LW is in a relationship with hasn’t had enough time to be stable enough in his drug recovery, in my opinion. He needs to continue to work on himself before he can be with someone else. He can’t just quit one day (seemingly quitting for her) and jump into a relationship and expect everything to be okay. And the LW, with her history of being a long and abusive marriage with a drug addict really shouldn’t be involved with someone who does drugs, in my opinion. So she does deserve better.

      My husband and I both had a long history of painkiller abuse, but we were clean long before we met. I never sought out someone who was also recovering, but I think it ended up well because we understand the other in staying away from painkillers, the pain with stopping, etc, in a way that my exes didn’t get. I was looked at by an ex for being a ticking bomb, one that was always going to relapse, simple because I was recovering. But most people aren’t like that. Everyone has their scars, it’s just that you have to be wary of someone with a fresh wound.

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    • avatar

      Lucy January 16, 2014, 11:22 pm

      My late husband was an addict with 6 years sober when he died. There’s a big difference between saying she deserves better than someone who’s ever had an addiction problem but is in recovery, and saying she deserves better than someone who has been white knuckling it for several months and is probably already well into a relapse. Would you wish your brother in his current state on your best friend? I very much doubt it.

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  • avatar

    Lindsay January 16, 2014, 7:21 pm

    If you believe that your partner can’t function or stay clean without you, then it is really selfish and misguided to stay with them. Sobriety as a result of your partner your crutch is not real sobriety. Because they haven’t made a real decision to save themselves and aren’t actually using any real self-control or -awareness and never have to, it will inevitably fail. And as for yourself, if you care so little about your life and value yourself so little that you are willing to commit yourself to someone who can’t be an actual partner to you now, then that’s something you need to address immediately. And honestly, how can a person who sets such low standards for their own life going to help someone else set high standards for theirs? You’re modeling addiction (to him, love, etc.) to an addict.

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  • meadowphoenix

    meadowphoenix January 17, 2014, 12:06 am

    So he’s strong when he doesn’t need therapy or counseling or methadone or help, but he absolutely needs you or he’ll never be able to overcome this addiction? I need you to see the problem here.

    How do you tell someone you need therapy? You just tell them. You say, “Hey, I’m worried about you and you seem to need someone to talk to who has some experience with your situation. Here is a number/place/person who might be able to help you sort your thoughts.”

    He’s an addict, not a child. He broke up with you because he couldn’t handle the relationship and the addiction. Treat that as a valid choice and reduce, if not cut entirely, contact. I’m not saying you should never date someone who doesn’t have their shit together. Lord knows a lot of us don’t entirely. But you should be able to see a time rapidly approaching where that person does have their shit together, with or without you.

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  • avatar

    melancholia January 20, 2014, 1:01 pm

    I speak from experience when I say YES, you are a fool if you think you have a future with a struggling addict. If you had said he has been sober for years and had followed a proper sobriety program, went to meetings and actively sought help and assistance for his addiction, then MAYBE you would have a chance at a lasting relationship. Alas, you are putting yourself RIGHT back into the same situation you were in with your ex.

    YOU need to seek counseling. Clearly there is a pattern here where you want to be the caretaker and life coach of drug addicts…. do some soul searching and remind yourself that you deserve better. Active drug addicts cannot offer anything other than lies and disappointment. Sorry to break it to you, but you need to MOA.

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