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Your Turn: “My Boyfriend is a Heroin Addict”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I just found out that my addict boyfriend is using heroin again. I had been asking him for the past month whether he was using heroin and he lied and said he wasn’t. Finally, he was honest and said he had been using heroin for a while but he wants to be clean. This is the fifth time he has said this but the first time since we’ve been together.

I feel so stupid. I saw so many red flags, but I wanted more than anything for them to be wrong. I’m not sure what to do. A majority of addicts will relapse over and over until they overdose. I’m not sure why he felt he couldn’t tell me because I’m nothing but supportive towards him. When he does pop pills or smokes weed or anything else, I’m so cavalier about it, but this drug is pure evil!

He’s been through it so many times and is miserable, so why does he keep doing it to himself? Watching him go through withdrawal is heart-breaking. The fact he lied and that he would do it while we are living together is heart-breaking. I don’t know what to do. Do you have advice? — His Other Love is Heroin

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

theattack theattack May 22, 2013, 3:04 pm

MOA. You can’t trust an addict. You feel like you’ve been accepting of him and he still lied to you. You’re right, relapses are very common. With that knowledge, you should decide to leave because you are smart enough to know that he’s going to continue to use heroin and to lie to you about it over and over again until he actually recovers. I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s hard to love someone in the depths of an addiction because you hate to see them hurt and because deep down you know that they love their substance more than they love you. You can’t have a healthy relationship with that dynamic. It’s impossible.

avatar lets_be_honest May 22, 2013, 3:06 pm

MOA.

othy othy May 22, 2013, 3:08 pm

Heroin would be a deal breaker for me. That, and abuse of prescription pain pills. It goes hand in hand with destructive behavior, which is not at all good for a healthy relationship.

A good friend of mine was married to a pain pill addict. She bent over backwards to help him get clean, to help him hide his habit, and even once, she picked up the pills for him. It was not good for either of them. She ended up leaving him, after he left her with mounds and mounds of medical debt (which in our state, both of the spouses are on the hook for, regardless of whose debt it was). After she left him, she was in a much better place. And I just went to her wedding to an awesome guy this weekend.

Fabelle Fabelle May 22, 2013, 3:08 pm

I’m sorry LW, you can’t help your boyfriend. Unfortunately, heroin abuse is becoming more & more common because of the “pill popping” you describe (heroin is cheaper than oxy or percoset, & it’s the same high, so people who experiments with prescriptions are more likely to realize this at some point). MOA.

Fabelle Fabelle May 22, 2013, 3:11 pm

*experiment

also, cross out the “more” & just read it as “likely”, I don’t know why I can’t write today, ha

kare kare May 22, 2013, 3:14 pm

This is terrifying. I’m hoping my brother doesn’t make this connection. Of course his pills are cheap through the VA…

avatar GatorGirl May 22, 2013, 3:40 pm

I read an article about this recently. Charlotte, NC is seeing a big spike in herion overdoses because “professional” type people who were addicted to oxy/percosets aren’t able to get and/or afford them anymore, so they try herion to get the high, but are over dosing because they don’t know how to do it.

avatar kerrycontrary May 22, 2013, 3:50 pm

Pills are bad news bears. Even if they don’t take heroine, they can overdose on pills. Ugh they are just really really bad.

avatar GatorGirl May 22, 2013, 3:55 pm

I completely agree. My grandmother is an oxy addict. It’s terribly depressing. (And all of hers are “legit” with perscriptions from her 8 million different doctors.)

It was just interesting to see that people are resorting to herion when they can’t get their pill addiction, which IMO shows how scary pill addictions are.

Fabelle Fabelle May 22, 2013, 3:52 pm

Yep. I’ve seen it a lot in my area, too. People start off doing “blues” (Roxicet, I believe?) & then move on to heroin. One guy in my outer friend circle mostly did/sold coke, but then wound up trading a bag for a Roxicet pill & got addicted to that. Very quickly. Then, he moved onto heroin & unfortunately overdosed.

People also tend to overdose after they’ve tried quitting. They’re clean for a few weeks, then get back on it, giving themselves the same dosage they would’ve when they were using, say, every day—but after x amount of time without, the dose is too much.

It’s really sad, & I understand why a person like this LW would wanna help. But she needs to move on, or else get dragged down.

avatar Slamy May 22, 2013, 11:24 pm

A guy I knew went and got clean in rehab. He came back home and I would see him around, and he looked so good. Such a difference. Then he overdosed at a party because it was his first time doing it since then and he took too much. Really fucking sad.

avatar kerrycontrary May 22, 2013, 3:20 pm

What do you do? You move out. You never talk to this guy again. You go to a support group or therapy to discuss having to live with an addict. Dating an addict is NOT worth it. And next time, don’t think of weed or prescription pills as harmless. You don’t need to be ‘cavalier’ about anyone’s drug usage no matter how harmless you think it is just so they will like you or think you are cool. I’m not sure if anyone has ever told you this, but there is nothing wrong with removing from yourself with a situation involving narcotics. You always have the option of leaving the room/house/apartment. You don’t need to pretend that you are cool enough to handle it. The prescription pills your boyfriend was doing are a similar high to heroine and most likely caused his relapse. An addict shouldn’t be doing any drugs including weed or alcohol (some smoke cigs which I think rehabs are Ok with).

avatar SuzyQ May 22, 2013, 8:49 pm

You hit the nail on the head. The LW seems to think that she can handle all of his “quirks” like pills and booze, but she has to draw the line at heroin. No. All of those things are feeding his addiction. By enabling every other drug she is still enabling his addiction. And LW – you cannot make your boyfriend decide to come clean. Not this time, or the next, or the next. You do not want this life of revolving rehabs and hospitals and jobs.

avatar Anna May 22, 2013, 9:54 pm

I disagree with your stance on weed. I’ve smoked weed off and on for nearly 15 years and have never even tried any kind of hard drugs, including pills. I wouldn’t date anyone who does hard drugs but it pisses me off when people lump pot smokers in with hardcore drug addicts like heroin junkies. Illegality does not equal harm; it only means that the bureaucrats haven’t figured out a way to make money from pot. If they did, it would be legal tomorrow same as alcohol.

landygirl landygirl May 22, 2013, 3:21 pm

You dump him and move on with your life. Go to therapy and get strong so you don’t make this mistake again. Empathy is good, being willfully blind is not.

avatar Liquid Luck May 22, 2013, 3:23 pm

Here’s some advice that’s good for everyone: If you have to ask your boyfriend if he’s using heroin, MOA.

You are seeing the person underneath the addiction, and that’s who you want to be with. But let me tell you, he doesn’t exist. Your boyfriend’s addiction is not some little bad habit of his, it’s part of his personality. It will always be there, even if he does manage to stop using heroin eventually. The man you want is a figment of your imagination, because he’s based on your unrealistic view of who this person is.

FireStar FireStar May 22, 2013, 3:23 pm

Actually his FIRST love is heroine. You are a distant second. And no one should play second fiddle in their own relationship – not to another woman, not to a drug, not to a job…not to anything with the exception perhaps of children.
Sorry. It’s time to leave.

avatar Steph May 22, 2013, 3:24 pm

I am frankly shocked that you are cavalier about him popping pills and smoking stuff. It’s time you stop being cavalier. There is nothing okay about him popping pills, smoking stuff and doing coke. If you want to be supportive, be supportive while he is in a rehab facility. Pretending that substance abuse is okay is going to make things better and it certainly isn’t going to make them go away. It’s an addiction! Either he gets help or you get out.

Jess Jess May 22, 2013, 3:28 pm

Heroin addiction is a sinking ship. He can get help but you cannot be the source. If you stand-by or try to become his addiction counselor, you will only sink along with him.

Unfortunately, I have some experience with this. My college boyfriend developed a heroin addiction. He had been “straight edge” all through our relationship. We both were. Unfortunately, he had what I now think is bi-polar disorder and during a terrible phase of it, he began a sudden and rapid spiral into drugs. It got worse and worse and I finally left him even though I loved him with my whole young heart and even though I feared for his life. The only reason I found the power to do it is because I found a great counselor who told me, “He may well die from this. And you don’t have the power to save his life but you CAN get yourself out.” I’ll never forget that moment and how true those words turned out to be! The counselor talked me into a moving off campus for the rest of the semester so I could get some distance.

We still talked a few times a month. After several more months, he cleaned up and seemed to be getting back on track with a job, NA, etc. Two weeks after a very good phone call, his sister called to tell me he’d died of an overdose.

I wish I had a happier story but addicts have to find their own way and are probably not fit for romantic relationships until they find some stability elsewhere. Incidentally, I just watched Flight with Denzel Washington which is essentially a movie about addiction. If you haven’t seen it, it’s eye-opening.

theattack theattack May 22, 2013, 3:42 pm

I’m sorry, Jess. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been only months after your relationship ended, but I’m impressed that you got out when you did.

I had an ex-boyfriend become addicted to heroin a few years after we broke up. He got a girl pregnant and settled down with her, determined he would get clean. He never did. He ended up in jail where he overdosed because of all the drugs he stuffed up his butt. He recovered from that, but as soon as he got out of jail a few months later, he relapsed again and died in a fire because he was too high to put out his damn cigarette. Either that or someone murdered him in a fire over drug money. We never found out which.

LW, these are things that happen when someone becomes addicted to heroin. You don’t want to be there when it happens, and you especially don’t want to end up going down with him. Step away.

theattack theattack May 22, 2013, 3:44 pm

PS – Jess, I wasn’t trying to one-up your story because yours is a lot worse than mine. Just trying to add more horror stories for the LW to read. Sorry if that seemed insensitive. I’m really sorry for your loss.

Jess Jess May 22, 2013, 4:45 pm

Oh god, no worries. I’m sure if we got together, we could spin some serious yarn. Mine was over 15 years ago so the pain has faded but I do think of him and how tragic it was. You know what is tricky about drug addicts? In the abstract, they are bad, pathetic, hopeless people. In real life, they are smart, inspiring, and loveable people who are suffering. It’s very hard to walk away from someone you love, especially when the problem appears long after you’ve met and fallen in love….

She has my sympathies along with my very stern advice to get out.

theattack theattack May 22, 2013, 4:57 pm

“In real life, they are smart, inspiring, and loveable people who are suffering.”

This is too true. But they’re also slowly losing themselves, and it’s hard to grieve the loss of someone when they still have good moments to shine through all the bad. It’s so hard to accept that the bad is going to win in the end. In my ex boyfriend’s case, I was removed enough from him that I could think of him as gone and grieve for him long before he died, but that’s not as easy when you’re in the situation.

avatar oldie May 22, 2013, 3:34 pm

MOA immediately and never look back, then figure out why you have been so willing to have a heroin addict and major consumer of other drugs as you boyfriend. What makes him appealing to you? What do you get out of this relationship? What is missing in your own life that you feel you must fill the hole with a guy like this? You are an enabler who seems to worry a little about your enabling, but have just gone back to enabling in the past. Where has that gotten you?

avatar GatorGirl May 22, 2013, 3:43 pm

Move on honey. This isn’t one a person comes back from. It’s sad but true, and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache if you get out now.

avatar SasLinna May 22, 2013, 3:44 pm

MOA and focus on taking care of yourself. You can’t save him, as heartbreaking as that may be. You deserve some love and support right now – turn to friends and family, and also get professional help if needed.

bagge72 bagge72 May 22, 2013, 4:05 pm

MOA, don’t make it your job to fix him, or don’t be the person who feels like they can’t leave because this person is going to fall apart without you. They will fall apart with or without you so just get out now while you still can, it’s not abandoning. Also I don’t get why you are so cavalier about his other drug use knowing that he is an addict. I would say yeah normally if somebody just does those are things, and they are perfectly fine doing them, then yeah be cavalier about it, but once this person gets addicted to heroin, then I think you need to stop the other drugs too, well maybe not the weed, but definitely the pills, because those are probably giving him a similar high to what he is getting from the heroin.

lemongrass Lemongrass May 22, 2013, 4:11 pm

If you stay with him this is the life you are choosing. You aren’t choosing him when he’s clean or him once he sobers up, goes to rehab and becomes a better person. You are choosing an addict. You are choosing not being able to trust your partner. Ever. You are choosing pain, suffering, drama. For him and you. Imagine today is everyday for the rest of your relationship, whether he dies from an overdose or you are checking his pockets and questioning what he tells you 10 years down the road. You have a choice.

avatar Turtledove May 22, 2013, 4:14 pm

Aw honey, I am sorry. I am sorry that your boyfriend is using and I’m sorry that it’s going to hurt your heart to leave him. But you need to leave him.

I was engaged to a drug addict, once upon a time. I don’t know if he did heroin or not, and really, it doesn’t matter. In the end, all drugs are pretty much the same, it’s only the details that differ. Here’s what I know about being with a drug addict- their attention and energy is focused on their addiction, how to score more, how to hide it, how to avoid the cops, when they can use again, how long until their next fix, how long until their stash runs out. It’s a full-time obsession and leaves no room for you. You may see flashes of someone who is lovely and vulnerable and needs you, but in reality, you are dating the addiction not the person. He is no long a whole person who is capable of giving you a mutual relationship so your wants and needs will become less and less important until he’s just a giant black hole sucking all the support and attention and love from you and giving nothing back. It will sap your strength and ability to care for yourself.

Living with and dating a drug addict will also impact your physical quality of life, not just your emotional one. I was with my fiance for five years. During that time I had a spell of panic attacks, I also had surgery to remove some pre-cancerous cells. Because my fiance was a well-documented drug addict, my physicians would not issue prescription narcotics to me. You also have to live with the possibility that when your boyfriend’s need for a fix grows too large for him, that he will sell or pawn personal items of yours. I was fortunate not to lose too many items that way, mostly because my mother confiscated most of our family treasures. But it is a thing that can happen. Along with the messes and destruction that often happen when an addict falls into a stupor. It will impact your quality of life, and eventually you won’t want to live like that any more.

I’m just going to say to you what I wish I could say to my younger self- get out, get out while you have the strength to pick up the pieces, get out while you have something you can remember him fondly for, get out before you wind up spending the rest of your life in therapy. If you need something to love and support and care for that needs you, adopt an orphan kitten. Then learn to love yourself enough to require better.

Jess Jess May 22, 2013, 4:48 pm

“Aw honey, I am sorry. I am sorry that your boyfriend is using and I’m sorry that it’s going to hurt your heart to leave him. But you need to leave him.”

Also this, “I’m just going to say to you what I wish I could say to my younger self- get out, get out while you have the strength to pick up the pieces, get out while you have something you can remember him fondly for, get out before you wind up spending the rest of your life in therapy. If you need something to love and support and care for that needs you, adopt an orphan kitten. Then learn to love yourself enough to require better.”

Beautifully and compassionately worded, Turtledove. This is proof that you can be caring while speaking the hard truth.

Fabelle Fabelle May 22, 2013, 4:56 pm

I agree, that was a beautiful response. I don’t think this LW needs to hear snarkiness or harshness right now.

avatar j2 May 22, 2013, 6:59 pm

WTS!

I would add one thing. An addict- especially heroin and crack cocaine – will defend the addiction at any cost. Like T’s examples, an addict will lie, steal, sneak, and sell anything at all to support the addiction (including his/her body). There is literally nothing in the world more important to a heroin/crack-cocaine addict than the next fix.

If what will work is telling you that s/he wants to detox, then that is what you will hear. If telling you s/he is sorry and will never do it again is what s/he thinks will work on you, then THAT is what you will hear. If accusing you of abandoning him/her is what might work, then THAT is what you will hear.

These points can never be over-stressed. There have been news reports of crackhead mothers trying to sell their children for their next fix. Men have murdered for it.

MOA. Get out. Run, do not walk.

avatar Nico May 22, 2013, 4:18 pm

Heroin is the most addictive substance on the planet. I just watched an episode of “Vice” about heroin, and it is chilling. MOA MOA MOA

avatar KarenE May 22, 2013, 4:20 pm

Oh my god. Here is something they should teach in schools: DON’T DATE AN ADDICT. YOU CAN’T CHANGE THEM OR MAKE THEM QUIT.

If you love the guy, let him go. Addiction is something addicts have to deal with alone. Someday he may clean up his act and try to get you back. (I wouldn’t do that, btw, unless he’s been clean for at least five years).

avatar bcamber May 22, 2013, 4:52 pm

Sorry, what’s the question?

avatar honeybeenicki May 22, 2013, 5:04 pm

Please listen LW. It will save you a lot of heartbreak.
Here’s the thing LW – I’m going to agree with most of the people on here. You need to MOA. It will be hard and painful and your boyfriend will probably try to guilt you into staying, but at this point you need to do what’s right for you. I will disagree that you can never trust an addict in general. I do agree that you can never trust an addict that is currently active in his or her addiction. They are some of the best liars and manipulators there are. The behavior that they exhibit is basically the behavior of a sociopath. They care about only one thing: themselves. And their drugs, which essentially is part of them. They will lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and guilt anyone and everyone to get their next high.

You may wonder how I know this. Well, there are two reasons. First off, I have a degree in criminal behavior and as you may know, most criminals have a substance abuse problem of one kind or another.

The second is that I’ve lived it. Wendy has posted my essays about my husband. He was a prescription pain killer addict. I knew this when I met him. He had been clean for awhile when we met and he remained clean for over 3 years when we were first dating. Less than a month after we got married, he committed a robbery of a pharmacy for pain killers. And then tried again a month later (but wasn’t successful that time).

I knew during that month that he was using. Well, I didn’t “KNOW” but I knew. He was exhibiting all the signs. I would ask him, he would lie, I would accept it because it was easier. That was dumb and it took me a long time to live with the fact that it wasn’t MY fault. It wasn’t MY responsibility. It was is. It still is his. Sure, if I see those signs again, I’ll know what I need to do and that will be exactly what I’m telling you to do: LEAVE. Leave now. I stayed with my husband through a prison term stemming from this and still stand by my decision. But I won’t do it again. He knows that, I know that, his kids know that. Everyone knows that – which is a way to keep him and myself accountable for future actions and reactions.

LW, you can’t fix him. You can’t make him fix himself. When he is actively using, he can’t be trusted. He could get himself in a lot of trouble, he could get you in a lot of trouble, he could overdose, he could die, he could get into a car after using and kill someone. There are so many ways this could go badly and not a lot of ways that it can get better. He needs to get the help he needs, but you can’t provide it and you can’t force him into it. If you need someone to talk to, please email me. If you click on the link in my name, there is an option to email me through my blog and it will go right to my personal email.