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Your Turn: “My Parents Don’t Approve of My Recovering Addict Boyfriend”

Hello Wendy! I came across your website while Googling if it’s normal to feel sick after inhaling helium… just in case you were wondering and have lost your common sense, yes it is! Anyway, I read through some of your columns and decided to share my problem: I’m in love.

I’m 20, and I’ve heard the “You’re too young to know what love is!” lines as well as the, “Fuck love, you’ll just get hurt” lines. But I know what I feel and I know this is real. You see, I love this amazing, wonderful, smart, down-to-earth guy. I look at him and I see my future. But…my parents won’t get over his past. He’s 24 and he dropped out of high school, got into heavy drugs, and drank his life away. But that’s the past. He went to rehab, sobered up, went back to school and is doing something with his life! We’ve been planning our life together for a while now and are starting to discuss kids.

We’ve known each other since we were kids and grew up in the same community. His family has a bad rep in the community, mostly known for drugs, rape, etc., so our two families were, for the most part, not close. We dated previously when I was 18 for short while. Now, we’ve been dating for the past couple months.

I know I’m a big girl now and can decide whom I want to be with, with or without my parents’ blessings, but I don’t want to do anything knowing I don’t have their full support. Is there any way I can convince my parents that he is the one for me or to at least persuade them to give him a chance to prove himself? — In Love with a Recovering Addict


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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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Gwen Soul July 30, 2014, 10:13 am

Slow down! You may have known him awhile but it sounds like he has done a lot of changing in the last few years and you have only been dating a couple of months. Some of your family’s problem may be that you are moving so fast with someone who has shown he has issues. Slow down and give them time to know him and him time to know them. At 20 there is plenty of time to think about the future, just enjoy the now and see if things rea really going anywhere.

Amanda Amanda July 30, 2014, 10:13 am

LW, I’m just speaking from experience in my own family. But, here’s the thing about addicts – it’s never truly in the past. It’s always something they have to be aware of. And, to some extent, you. I’m not saying that they can’t live full, productive lives and get themselves on a better path. I just think you need to be aware that this isn’t some trivial blip on his radar to gloss over.
All that being said, I don’t think there is really anything he can do to prove himself. But as long as your happy and being treated well, your parents should at least come around. One more word of advice: you’re only 20 (and have been dating a few months ) for chrissakes slow down on the kid discussion!

Cassie Cassie July 30, 2014, 3:47 pm

Agreed. Addiction is not cured; it is managed.

avatar captainswife July 30, 2014, 10:19 am

Bear in mind that if you do have children together, remember his family members? The ones involved in drugs, presumably (based on your letter) rapists? Yes, those will be your children’s family members, too.

You’re 20. Not saying that you don’t have a special love. But slow down, and take a long hard look at the road ahead. Sometimes it makes us feel important and needed to take on these challenges. But at the end of the day, no one else really cares if you’ve surmounted these obstacles to prove your love…and you’ve deliberately chosen a difficult path that can end in heartache and damage for OTHERS for whom you’re responsible (kids) and not just yourself.

Wait. See how long he stays sober. See whether he gets his life on track. Observe his family members. Observe his relationship with said family members. Meet other people.

Then, only with careful consideration, decide with your brain, not just your heart.

avatar Scooze July 30, 2014, 2:06 pm

Good comment. There is a reason they call it “recovery” and not “cured”. His addiction will always be there. He will battle it every day for the rest of his life. And those (hopefully) rare times that he falls off the wagon, he could cause you and your family great distress. Being with a recovering addict is a hard and unpredictable life. While its possible that he may succeed, it’s also possible that he won’t. Picture yourself at 23 with a toddler and an ex that’s bankrupted you and is now in jail or just begging for more money and its on you to manage the havoc that his presence in your child’s life wreaks.

But there is another option! Listen to your family, break up with him now and have a great time in your 20s as you grow, learn about life and meet new people. This is a time that you can never get back – make the most of it. Focus on you, not rescuing some guy.

(PS – good god, I have to use a calculator on today’s “prove you’re not a robot” test)

avatar Scooze July 30, 2014, 2:08 pm

And yes, I said to break up with him. I don’t see you backing up and going slow now. His needs are too great for that. I think you’re already in over your head and you need to get out of this before you are too attached and cannot break free.

avatar csp July 30, 2014, 10:22 am

LW, I agree with Gwen. What is the rush? You can be passionately in love and that is wonderful. But why rush to kids? Why not spend the next few years together just establishing yourselves, traveling, accomplishing your personal goals, etc? In my opinion, I feel like you are hurt that your feelings aren’t being validated. But don’t rush to some grand commitment just to prove you are in love. Also, why not just move in together if you really are looking for something significant?

avatar joanna July 30, 2014, 10:24 am

* Stands for slow the fuck down. I’m proposing this as a new DW acronym.

avatar Ms. Simba July 30, 2014, 10:31 am


Raccoon eyes Raccoon eyes July 30, 2014, 11:29 am

Is it just me or do the two statements “[w]e’ve been planning our life together for a while now and are starting to discuss kids” and “we’ve been dating for the past couple of months” totally contradict each other???

avatar Original poster July 30, 2014, 7:01 pm

We’ve been discussing being together for a while yes. It’s not like we haven’t spoke about it for a good while before we actually agreed to start to date. It took us almost a year to agree to start dating again.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy July 30, 2014, 12:22 pm

Making it official. STFD!

Eljay Eljay July 30, 2014, 2:13 pm

YAY! But just for the record, when I saw this, I immediately thought “Shut The Front Door!” I like your definition much better!

Cassie Cassie July 30, 2014, 3:52 pm

Some Turtles Forget Donuts!

Cassie Cassie July 30, 2014, 3:53 pm

Yeah, for the first few months on DW, I always instinctively read, ‘MOA’ as ‘Mall of America’.

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 3:55 pm


avatar Marcie July 30, 2014, 10:28 am

I’m in support of this motion. Anyone want to second it?

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki July 30, 2014, 10:41 am

I second

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 10:29 am

Hahaha, I like this LW – her intro made me laugh. LW, it sounds like you’re having a good time and you really like this guy and that he has really turned his life around – that’s wonderful! So why not just keep on, keep on. No need to rush into anything. You asked ” how I can convince my parents that he is the one for me…?” The answer is time. You’re lucky because you have a ton of it on your side. So give yourselves time. To finish school, to start your careers, to get to know each other more, to prove to the world you/he have your shit together, etc. … I bet after a few years of that, you’ll parents will be on board. Also stop inhaling helium. ;)

avatar csp July 30, 2014, 11:45 am

LISTEN TO ADDIE!!!! Seriously, Time in a relationship is how it earns respect.

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 11:55 am

if i had a nickel…

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 6:17 pm

man, all day i’ve been waiting for someone to say i’d have 5 cents bada bing!

avatar peachy July 30, 2014, 10:30 am

LW, you don’t have to do anything at all to gain your parents’ approval for the relationship or to convince them that your boyfriend has turned his life around – time will do that for you. Time will show that he has successfully pulled himself out of the quagmire of substance abuse and is doing something with his life, and time will establish the solidity and love in your relationship with him for all to see. Trying to cajole or enroll your parents to buy into it all right now just serves to underline your youth. If they question or fuss at you because they’re worried, you can respond kindly and state your point of view: “I’m so proud of Joey’s hard work” “I thought about that too and Joey and I have discussed it” “I’m really happy with the way things are going for us” whatever the truth is.. that way you aren’t on the defensive, you don’t over-share (giving them ammunition), and are demonstrating to them that your head is in the game as well as your heart. Good luck!

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 30, 2014, 10:31 am

Instead of naming your future, hypothetical children you should be deciding on the boundaries you need to set to protect those children from his family. Picking names is much more fun and setting boundaries is not only not fun, it’s difficult but in your case, almost certainly essential. If you don’t want your future children to be the next generation of rapist, drug abusing drop outs, who are also likely to be sexually abused as children, then you have to, as a parent, set boundaries. If you want to prove anything to your parents, setting boundaries with his family that protect you, your boyfriend and your future children from their damaging lifestyle, will show them the two of you understand the situation and understand the risks and are working to limit the risks. The bottom line is a good parent protects their child.

Kate B. Kate B. July 30, 2014, 12:31 pm

As her parents are trying to do.

bagge72 bagge72 July 30, 2014, 10:37 am

“You’re too young to know what love is!” Normally I don’t agree with this, because at 20 it is very easy to know what love is, but this line does seem very fitting for you. You have only been dating for a couple of months and you are already talking about kids. You skipped over the whole serious relationship, engagement, and marriage parts, and went straight to bringing kids into this world. Now you may not be too young to know what love is, but you sound too immature to know what it is. Listen this guy may have turned his life around or is in the process of it, and you don’t know how long that is going to last, because addictions do come back, and with his families past problems as well, it seems like a recipe for disaster. So seriously slow the fuck down, kill the kid talk, and date for a coupe of years to see what is going to happen. Oh and if you guys are doing whip its with helium together to get high, then I think things are going to go down hill pretty fast for him, because it sounds like he is always going to need something like that in his life.

Alena Alena July 30, 2014, 10:38 am

There is so much missing from this post, I think any responses are going to be vague and unable to give solid input on how to convince your parents, because we don’t know what the objections really are! “You’re young, you don’t know what love is” and “fuck love, you’ll just get hurt” aren’t the real objections here, and everyone knows it. Plus, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people have hesitations on this subject. Addiction is an area that brings out skepticism in a lot of people.

There aren’t enough details here, in my opinion.

And seriously, a family “mostly known for drugs, RAPE, etc.”? A family known for rape, that’s kind of a terrifying descriptor. Not that there was a rape accusation at one member, but the family is known for rape? Wtf?

An observation I couldn’t help but make: You start the post on a defensive note, defending your love justifying it. I find it a little interesting. The only time I had to defend my love or relationships to anyone (or felt the need to) was when there were issues in the relationships. I dated one guy (constantly changing troll-doll-colored hair, covered in tattoos, did a lot of his own tattoos, several piercings, gauged ears, etc. whereas I would never do any of those things) for several months when I was 18 and I had a number of fairly conservative 40-something women referring to his mom as my “future-mother-in-law,” when I had only met her once. For the most part it was a happy, healthy relationship, and people saw that we did that for each other, despite being dramatically different people. Not once did I feel the need to defend that relationship to anyone, friends, family, or myself. But relationships that I knew had some problems, I remember justifying those a number of times (perhaps as much for my sake as anyone else’s).

True, I think it’s rude for people to tell you that you’re not capable of knowing what love is because of your age, but is there a chance what you’re taking as insults against your ability to love are really concerns about the speed of how serious you have become? You don’t give much of a timeline here, beyond you’ve been seeing each other for a few months. You’re planning your life together long-term when you’ve only been dating this time around for a few months? That might be something making people concerned for you. But what about the timeline for his addiction and rehab? If that was all in the past, when he was 16-17 and then went to rehab at 18 and has been sober since, that shows some commitment. If it was something like issues from 16 until a couple months ago, went to rehab, and has been out for 2 months, I can see where skepticism would be coming from.

I’m confused. And I should be at work. Oops.

Alena Alena July 30, 2014, 10:38 am

Ahhh! Where did all my line breaks go!?

avatar LS July 30, 2014, 10:46 am

As a fellow long-winded, multi-paragraph commenter, I realized you have to put at least one character in your line breaks to create separation.
Like that with a period!
Or an asterisk!

Alena Alena July 30, 2014, 6:40 pm

Thank you, you’re amazing!

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 11:01 am

Oh shit I read over that. How/why is the family known for rape?! LW, I like you, so can you come back and fill in the blanks? Also be careful.

avatar LW July 30, 2014, 7:18 pm

I don’t know how to reply! Or where to apply to to be exact. Okay, hopefully y’all will see this. Okay, so yes we’ve been talking about our future together for a while… We dated when I was 18 but broke things off due to personal issues we were both facing. We have kept in contact and discussed our lives together since then. It is only a couple months ago we decided to officially go back out. He went to rehab when he was 17 and has been recovering ever since. Our community, or well reservation, fully supports those who wish to recover and has weeky meetings and workshops which he has attended for ages. He’s in a good place. He is not in contact with those who have been convicted and found guilty for rape…. I know a family known for rape and such is awful, but that’s life here. More than his family is known for such a thing in my community. Yes, I know I’m young. Yes I know kids are a handful and blah blah blah. I know this. In my culture, we start families young. It’s normal. Yes we’ve discussed his family’s issues. We agreed to keep children, IF we have any. We are not trying or planning to have any right now, we’re just dreaming about our future together, away from that lifestyle and those family members who are found guilty.

And that helium thing? No, we were not getting high. I work in the recreation department at a rest home and we have a helium tank. We had a birthday party with balloons for decorations and a coworker and myself decided to have fun when we were taking down decorations. We both felt sick afterwards and wanted to know if that was for sure the case.

I am not getting high for those of you who commented that. I’m completely sober.

Fabelle Fabelle July 30, 2014, 11:06 am

“A family known for rape, that’s kind of a terrifying descriptor. Not that there was a rape accusation at one member, but the family is known for rape? Wtf?”
haha, right?? What does that even mean??? I think I need some clarity on that. LW!! Where you at?

avatar Ali July 30, 2014, 10:41 am

I’m going to say the unpopular thing here and mention that your parents have a real point in their disapproval. Nobody hopes for their kid to end up with the child of the town miscreants. Believe me when I say that when you marry someone, you marry their family (and all of their family issues, including reputation) too. Your boyfriend may have pulled himself out of a bad situation and gotten his life on track, and he may very well stay on track for the rest of his life. But you need to realize and accept the consequences of your actions, as does he. I’m sure he knows that he will be judged by his past actions because statistically, they are the best predictor of his future behavior. If he is a mature adult, he will accept that instead of whining about how unfair it is. He made choices that have a lasting affect on his life. The same is true for you–you have chosen to date a former addict, and now you need to accept the consequences: your parents are not going to approve of him and may always look at him with a wary eye. It really sounds to me as though you aren’t yet mature enough to grasp that there is no injustice in their judgement of him or of your choices, and that there is nothing you can do to change their minds. It also sounds as though you are still in the honeymoon phase (note: I am NOT saying that you don’t really love him, just that you may still be overlooking a lot of flaws and potential deal breakers because of all the warm and fuzzies in the first year or two of the relationship), and beyond that, several years too young to be discussing an immediate future that includes marriage and children. If you truly believe that you and this guy are meant to be, that he will not revert to using, and that his family will not pose a threat to your future happiness, do the adult thing and wait. Let the relationship unfold organically without rushing anything or putting the pressure of “forever” on it right away, and find out if your relationship (and his sobriety) will truly prove to stand the test of time. If it does, you may find that you family warms up to him–my family did not like my then-boyfriend when we started dating when I was 21 (with good reason–past behavior, family background, never quite said or did the right thing around them) and it took them a long time to understand and appreciate him. We got married when I was 25 and now, two years later, they more or less treat him as a part of the family. However, his family is still a major issue and they are never invited to our home or to events that my family holds for me (bridal or baby showers, birthday parties, etc) because they act like animals. The major thing you need to realize is, as harsh and unfeeling as it sounds, you are attaching yourself to damaged goods, and you are not going to get the fairytale treatment you might (I say “might” because your parents may be the type who are protective and won’t like anyone you date, but it doesn’t sound like it) have gotten if you were dating someone with a clean past and a decent family. You are always going to have to explain or defend your choices if you want others to have a hope of understanding or accepting them–maybe you’ll find you get tired of doing that one day and decide you don’t care what others think anymore. But clearly, right now, you do care. You’ve said you won’t move forward with any plans unless your parents give their blessing, and that in itself may be a blessing. It shows you love and respect your parents and value their opinions, so wait and see if they do come to know and like your boyfriend and see a change in him over the next few years. If they do, so much the better for you. If they don’t, that should be a red flag and you should consider it while making decisions about your future.

othy othy July 30, 2014, 10:47 am

When you dated 2 years ago, was he using then? How long has he been sober? Is he still surrounded by the drug users/rapists in his family? If he’s around users, will he be likely to relapse? What kinds of drugs was he using? Has he tried to sober up before and then failed? Will my daughter be drawn into that world if she dates him? These are probably the questions your parents are asking, which is why they are are concerned.
You should be aware of the warning signs of drug use. If he does start using again, it’s a very hard road to go down. A couple of my good friends had marriages end because of their husband’s drug use (even though they were ‘clean’ when they got married). And their divorces turned very ugly, very quickly. You should know what *you* want to do if he does start using again. Just because it is a possible outcome (although one that hopefully won’t happen!)
Like others have said, time is one of the biggest ways to win them over. You’ve only been dating him a couple of months, so don’t worry about it yet. Have fun with him, make sure he is treating you the way you ought to be treated, make sure you’re in a happy and healthy relationship with him. If he’s treating you well, your parents will see that. Actions speak much louder than words. Encourage him to continue with school, and you should focus on your future too (college? a strong career path? pursuing what makes you happy?. You’re young, in love, so just have fun with it, as long as it stays fun.

bittergaymark Bittergaymark July 30, 2014, 10:53 am

Go for it! The number of clueless twentysomethings who foolishly RUSH headlong into having kids with a recovering addict — only to then live happily ever after is simply NEVER discussed by polite society. Why? Duh! Because if the truth got out there, well… soon EVERYBODY would do this!! Oh, and don’t listen to the naysayers! Nothing SCREAMS grandpa material more than being a drug dealing rapist!! Hopefully he can maybe provide daycare as you and your love both find career success at Mickey Dees!

avatar Scooze July 30, 2014, 2:14 pm


avatar Laura Hope July 30, 2014, 10:55 am

A family history of drug addiction and rape is a genetic nightmare for your future children. Read up on all the recent genetic studies using twins. Even if they’re inaccurate, you’re playing with fire.

avatar Muffy July 30, 2014, 11:10 am

We’re you googling helium highs because you and your no longer addicted to getting high off drugs boyfriend were trying to get high?

You’re not going to listen to anyone on the Internet but the only real way to convince your parents is for HIM to show them that he has changed his life around and that means demonstrating he’s no longer doing drugs, has a steady job, is different from his family of rapists etc. Only good behaviour over time will change their minds. Meanwhile if you’re getting high with him they probably won’t change their minds. Just saying.

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 11:48 am

But she’s resourceful at least, they were DYI high! I don’t know why but I really like this LW. She seems sweet? Honest? I mean, at least she admitted how she found Wendy’s site. “Oh hi hi hi before I try to convince you my boyfriend is a reformed drug addict, let me admit that we went to town on a bunch of left-over birthday balloons at Chuck E. Cheese’s.”

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 11:54 am


avatar LW July 30, 2014, 7:54 pm

Addie, I like you! But no I was not getting high.

avatar Muffy July 30, 2014, 9:14 pm

Only time will change their minds unfortunately. Meanwhile keep offering support, recovery is a long road for your boyfriend and might be a life long one. I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions regarding the helium thing – i assumed it was related to chasing a high.

There is a lot of crime on reservations unfortunately and I can see how members of his extended family were caught up in it. If he keeps demonstrating that himself and his parents and siblings are not like that then your parents may come around.

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 10:51 pm

I dunno, the lady doth protest too much, methinks… kidding, LW! I say just keep on, keep on. Make a rule: “we cannot make any life altering (or creating) decisions for two whole years”and then reassess then. Problem solved?

kare kare July 30, 2014, 11:24 am

Slow down. How long has he been sober? Most recovery programs recommend a year of sobriety before beginning a relationship. Honestly, you sound like every girl my brother has dated. None of these relationships have ended well because he’s never managed to stay sober. I’m not saying everyone relapses, but please take your time and be careful.

Amybelle Amybelle July 30, 2014, 11:48 am

You’re not too young to know what love is, but you’re too young to know that it isn’t always enough. Please listen to the many people on here advising you to slow your roll.

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 11:51 am

all you need is love, they say.

avatar Zanderbomb84 July 30, 2014, 11:50 am

1- There’s probably not a whole lot you can do to change your parents’ minds. He will have to do that through his own actions.

2-Half-joking, but if you’re 20 years old, dating for a “few months” and googling about the side effects of inhaling helium, its probably a little early to be talking about kids.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy July 30, 2014, 12:26 pm

I usually edit out the intros on letters I post where people are addressing me or talking about the site, etc., but I had to leave this LW’s first couple of lines simply because of your point #2.

avatar SasLinna July 30, 2014, 12:23 pm

To be honest I have a negative reaction to a 20-year-old discussing kids with her boyfriend after dating for just few months. Even without taking into account any of the drug abuse history. I’m not against young parents, but you have to at least let the relationship grow a few years before kids enter the picture. Plus, you’re just not in a position to know that this is your forever partner. By stating that you know you’ve found your forever partner after so little time, you are proving your parents right – it’s simply a naive statement, typical for a 20-year-old in love.
If you want your parents’ approval, listen to their concerns and be understanding, even if you don’t agree with them. Slow down and stop expressing ultimate certainty that this guy is your future. “Things are going well and I’m happy” is absolutely enough at this stage. Date your boyfriend for 2-3 years and see where you stand then. If he stays sober, you have a good relationship and if your parents are reasonable, they will come to accept him.
Lastly, I have to ask: Who in your bf’s family is known for rape? I really hope it’s not him.