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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.

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{ 69 comments… add one }

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.
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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

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

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

Seconded!

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

Approved!!
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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

Lol

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.
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Like that with a period!
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Or an asterisk!

Alena Alena July 30, 2014, 6:40 pm

Thank you, you’re amazing!
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:)

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?”
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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.
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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!)
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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

LOL!!!

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

*DIY

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.

avatar Sunshine Brite July 30, 2014, 12:25 pm

Woah, slow down, it’s only been a matter of months. I think that your parent’s approval may come with time and may never come. That’s not the most important although it is important to you, you can still see where this leads without having to “do” something about it just yet. They could be basing their opinion on his family, your previous dating experience with him, or his reputation/place in life. There is no convincing, just living the way that makes you feel authentic.

You were dating 2 years ago and started dating again. You’re both still young, when did he become sober? My husband was a drinker, not into heavy drugs, but we didn’t start dating until he was nearly 5 years sober. He’s 8 years sober now and recognizes this will always be part of him. It sounds like you and he want to put this behind you but it has to be right there in your minds as you develop coping skills and plan life together. I don’t know if I would’ve considered dating him if he had much less time than that in his sobriety. The alcoholic dynamic can be devastating in both family and couple relationships.

Prior to any children, you both need to focus on the educations you want for yourselves as well as develop roles for each of your families in your lives. A family know for rape etc, how does your boyfriend include them in his life now? All of these things can take time, sometimes years and that’s okay. You have time on your side. If he is truly right for you as you feel now, you don’t have to rush any of this because you two will grow together as a couple.

avatar HmC July 30, 2014, 12:25 pm

How is a family “known for drugs, rape etc.”?? Wtf is etc.?? Wtf.

If he is only 24 he cannot have been in recovery for very long. Why don’t you give his recovery more time and get to know him better in a relationship before you seriously consider children? At 20, you biologically have a lot of time to have kids. There’s no downside to giving this some time to pan out naturally, and many potentially negative repurcussions to moving too quickly.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 30, 2014, 12:29 pm

If you love this guy as much as you say you do you won’t be getting high. Not with him and not without him and if you are getting high with him then you can’t call him a recovering addict, it’s just plain addict.

Part of the trouble with growing up in an addicted home is that you learn how to live life by being addicted. In general, addiction is the response to everything. Get stressed, get high. Hang out with friends, get high. Have an argument, get high. Nervous about something, get high. Your boyfriend has to learn how to do all of these things without getting high. He has to learn how to communicate effectively in a relationship without getting high. He has to learn how to deal with stress without getting high. He has to learn how to socialize without getting high. He has probably had no good role models for any of these things so he has a steep learning curve. If you love him you’ll try and help with these things. You can suggest going for a walk or give him a massage when he’s stressed. You can introduce him to people who socialize without getting high. You help him learn to talk through tough situations when the two of you don’t agree. The one thing you can’t do is get high with him because that is just walking him back over the cliff into addiction and if you love him you won’t do that.

avatar jbk80 July 30, 2014, 12:37 pm

A few thoughts:
-People grow and change a lot in their early 20s. It’s when you figure out what is important to you, what you’re looking for out of life, and determine your career. You’ve seen how that process has changed your boyfriend in important and positive ways. Give yourself several years to do the same before getting married (or moving in together) and starting a family. People who get married at age 24 or later are much more likely to have a successful, happy, long-term marriage because they have had the chance to mature as individuals before making the commitment.
-Addiction is a life-long struggle driven by personality characteristics and whatever it was that the person was trying to get away from with the original addiction. People who have addictive personalities often transfer their behavior to new practices or substances – for instance, switch from one drug to another, overeat, watch porn compulsively, become obsessive runners, etc. I grew up with a Dad who was an alcoholic who was always switching his compulsive behaviors around. I love him, but it was really difficult. When a person is in compulsive mode, the people in their lives come in second place to the behavior or substance. The rejection and the lies that come with that are really, really painful and could affect how your children think they should be treated by their future spouses. For the sake of your own happiness and the happiness of any future children you have, give yourself more time to make sure that your boyfriend won’t do that to you.

avatar AKchic July 30, 2014, 12:43 pm

Slow the fuck down.

Okay, now that that’s off my chest – (phew, it felt good!) let’s discuss some of the issues I see.

1) How long has your boyfriend been clean/sober? If it’s been a year or less – please, please, please wait a long time before you have children. Relapses are common in the first 1-5 years of sobriety.

2) How long ago was your boyfried in rehab, and how long was he there? Was it inpatient or outpatient? Many rehabilitation facilities agree, you need to work on YOU for the first year, and if you weren’t in a relationship, you should be single in order to learn to be happy without a partner (otherwise you may slide back in to old habits, thus increasing the chances for a relapse). Many facilities also agree that you shouldn’t start a relationship for a year after rehab, for the same reasons. Especially when it was inpatient treatment because if you were there for any real length of time (6 months or more), you need to work on reintegrating with society, family, and use your tools for coping with substance-using family/friends, find sober supports and generally re-learn how to live your life without using.

Just because you’ve known someone and have dated them previously doesn’t mean you get to rush the relationship steps. Slow down, you have plenty of time to make babies. I married my second husband when I was 20. Believe me, we didn’t last (I’m on the 3rd husband now, many years AFTER my separation/divorce of the second husband). You’ve only been dating this guy for a “couple of months”. A relationship isn’t an accumulative accounting of your on-again, off again status, or even taking into account your previous attempt at dating. No, your relationship starts when you start the newest relationship attempt. Being friends, lovers, or a couple – they are all different things, and have different relationship expectations.

I’m not saying don’t date this guy. I’m just saying be cautious. Both for yourself and for his recovery. You would hate to be a single mom to two kids in 2-3 years while their father is too stoned/high/drunk to actually be a safe person for them to see. That is the risk you run here. And it is a very common problem.

findingtheearth findingtheearth July 30, 2014, 12:45 pm

What is his support group for recovery? How much will you be around his family? Do you want your children around his family? Is he willing to stay away from ALL bad influences, including his family to build a safe life for you and any children? Do you understand relapse and recidivism? Are you prepared to constantly have to be available for him and possibly help him avoid drugs and alcohol so he doesn’t relapse and the warning signs of his straying back to that? If you have children, will you put them through all of that? Are you strong enough to remove your children from an unsafe person, including if it’s their father? Do you love yourself enough to remove yourself from his life if he relapses and endangers you?

I remember being 20 and thinking I could be a savior for someone. It doesn’t really work, LW, unless you are much mature than your letter sounds.

avatar MsMisery July 30, 2014, 1:11 pm

Helium! Rape, etc!! I actually made like a croaking sound in my cubicle while reading this. LW, I don’t know what you are feeling and I don’t think you are either (another side effect of helium, perchance?) but I think no good can come from the relationship. Maybe you’re infatuated with new romance or you think you can save this guy (and his possibly horrible family) but you can’t. Run away. Run screaming.

KKZ KKZ July 30, 2014, 1:45 pm

As someone who got engaged at 18, married at 21 and is now getting divorced at 26, I wish I’d listened to my parents’ misgivings 7 years ago. And we didn’t even have problems as serious as addiction and shady family legacies.
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It’s a really, really hard thing to grasp when you’re 20, but when oldsters object to our decisions, it’s proooobably because they can see things that we can’t. It’s much easier to just play the “I’m an adult now and can make my own decisions” card to justify ignoring or downplaying “over-protective” parents who “just don’t understand.”
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This guy has plenty of red flags to make any parent worried and not 100% supportive. You seem to place all of those red flags *outside* of him – oh, it’s his family, oh, it’s his past, it’s irrelevant because right now everything is great! Wrong. One change in the breeze and those red flags will be whipping around to smack you in the ass.
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You say you don’t want to move forward without your parents’ full support. Instead of asking yourself what tricks you can pull off to get said support, take a closer look at *why* you don’t have it in the first place. I’ll give you a hint: it’s because of things you can’t change, like his past and his family. As long as those factors remain, winning your parents over is going to be an uphill battle. Any trust or respect he may gain would be immediately wiped out by a relapse, a mistake, an altercation, pretty much any drama that would make ripples in your life. They don’t trust him, because trust isn’t given, it’s earned. You sound entirely *too* trusting of him and of the idea that those red flags don’t matter. Slow the fuck down and consider the possibility that maybe you don’t know better than your parents. They’re not looking through the rose-colored beer goggles of young love. Use your head and pay attention to their perspective, even if your heart says they’re wrong.

avatar Lucy July 30, 2014, 2:47 pm

LW, whatever else you do, DO NOT HAVE KIDS. Not anytime soon. Addicts relapse. Fucked up families cause drama and disrespect boundaries. It’s one thing to have to extricate yourself from a messed up situation, and quite another to have to do so with kids. This guy might have gotten his shit together, and he might be able to set healthy boundaries with his family, but only time will tell. Time as in years.

Cassie Cassie July 30, 2014, 3:34 pm

“Now, we’ve been dating for the past couple months…” “…and are starting to discuss kids.” “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?”

Yes. Yes there is. Try dating for longer than a ‘couple of months’ before you start talking about bringing a baby into this world (or actually doing so). It seems your boyfriend is on a good path right now in life. He’s sobered up, is back in school, etc. Congrats to him, addiction is not an easy thing to turn away from. I’m not one who believes that people can’t change, and I don’t believe that a person’s past mistakes should be held over their heads indefinitely. But, you two need to give your relationship time. That will go a long way in having your parents get to know him, see that he’s changed, and come to accept him. Also, it will give him time to get his education and a few years of sobriety under his belt. I’m talking about 3 to 4 years before taking serious steps like marriage or a baby. You’re only 20, there’s no need to rush into that.

avatar Sue Jones July 30, 2014, 6:21 pm

As a parent of a twenty-something myself, I say “listen to your parents”. They know more than you think they do. I hope your boyfriend continues on the right path, but addiction is tough to beat and it will always be there in the background. So if you are certain you want to be with this guy, I would say to have a verrrrrrrrrry long dating period before you even think of going further. Like years. Like 10 years. That should let you know if he really broke that negative family karma pattern. And then if you should have children with this guy, there is a higher chance of them inheriting the addiction gene. That can be heartbreaking for a parent and while it seems very far off at this point, please keep it in mind.

avatar LW July 30, 2014, 7:32 pm

Helllo! Okay… where to begin? For one thing, for those who jumped to a conclusion on this one… I am not getting high. Not on helium. Not on anything. And NOT with my boyfriend, who isn’t getting high either. To explain the helium, I work in a recreation department in a rest home and we had a birthday party with balloons for some of the decorations… while taking them down me and a couple co-workers decided to have a little fun. So what?

He went to rehab when he was 17 and has been recovering ever since. My community fully supports those who wish to recover. We have weekly meetings and workshops left and right for those who are recovering and are trying to. He attends these regularly. His family supports him, the ones with her minds still attached. As well as my own family, my siblings, my aunts, my uncles all support him, his recovery and us together as a couple. It’s just my parents that are disagreeing.

Now… we dated when I was 18 but broke up due to personal issues… not his recovering. They were with me. I wasn’t ready for a relationship at the time. I was going through too much and he supported me through it. Just because we broke up then doesn’t mean we didn’t keep in touch. We stayed in contact, hung out, blah. We’ve been talking about our life together since then and only a couple months ago have agreed to go out again.

I know that kids are a big deal. I know I’m young. In my culture it’s normal for young couples to have families… that’s just how it is. Not that we are trying or planning for them in the near future… we’re just dreaming about our life together.

Speaking of this kids issue and his family… To start off, yes his family is known for such things… As is another handful in my community. I live in a bad place, what can I say? He isn’t in contact with the family members which have been found guilty for such an act, and we have agreed to keep children, if we have any, away from that lifestyle and those family members. We talked about all that and the issues surrounding it. We aren’t that stupid.

Is there anything I didn’t mention?

avatar LW July 30, 2014, 7:44 pm

Oh, and as for the googling… Did y’all read the “lost your common sense”. So, we googled it. We had fun, felt sick, googled it. Afterwards, we laughed at how stupid we were for googling it as we just discussed that we shouldn’t have done that because it would make us sick. Which it did. Like I said… we lost our common sense for a few months. Like none of you hasn’t had those moments?

Addie Pray Addie Pray July 30, 2014, 7:51 pm

Sometimes even to this day if I get my hands on play-dough I’ll give it a big long hard sniff – that stuff is good.

avatar LW July 30, 2014, 7:57 pm

I have to agree, it does sniff some good!

avatar Suzanne C July 30, 2014, 11:30 pm

LW- So let me get this straight:
1. You are in love with a recovering addict with a horrible family history.
2. You’ve been dating 2 months and you’re talking about bringing children into the world because that’s what “everyone on the reservation is doing.”
3. Your parents disapprove of the relationship because the boyfriend’s family is littered with addicts and convicted rapists.
Have I got this right?

Gee — this sounds like a catch!

Advise: don’t walk, run.

Get an education, get off the reservation, make something of yourself. You have a very short window of opportunity and it’s closing fast — and YOU are the one slamming the door shut on your life.

avatar LW July 31, 2014, 11:36 am

Did I say we were talking about it because that’s what everyone else is doing here? No. I said it’s normal for young couples to have children. Did I say we’re were talking about it? Yes, we were. We’re day dreaming about our life together. We aren’t trying to have kids or planning it for the near future either. I’m finishing school and getting my act together before I have kids.
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I am not leaving my community. Yes, I’ll go away for school and do what I wanna do but I’m always going to come back and help better my community. It’s where I grew up and it’s where I plan to raise my family.

bittergaymark bittergaymark July 31, 2014, 11:43 am

Then — for now — do go AWAY to school and cool things off with this guy. I think you are moving too fast. Never mind that he is in recovery. Even if he was the most upstanding citizen in your community — I’d still say you were moving too fast as you are both so young… Look, I’ve seen many other move too fast — more often than not? It ends badly….

avatar Ryanne August 4, 2014, 1:28 pm

Ok so to start off, I will tell you this sounds vaguely familiar to me. I will be 21 this month and I have been with my boyfriend, who just turned 24, since I was 18. When we met, he was an alcoholic and he spent the first year of our relationship only getting worse and worse. We broke up for six months during which his alcoholism almost destroyed his life and mine. He did make a remarkable turn-around, got sober, we got back together officially, he went back to work and will soon be going back to college. I will say this though, it has been a journey, and a very hard one at that. Addiction is not something you just overcome, it’s something you manage and hopefully learn not to turn back to. We have worked very hard on this and it has been tiring and stressful at times. Please DO NOT take his past with addiction lightly. You need to educate yourself and you need to grow in who you are as well if you’re going to lead a life with him. In my case, my family has accepted my boyfriend back into their hearts because they see how much he has grown and changed, and how happy he makes me. That said, there is nothing your boyfriend can do to prove himself except to let time pass and show himself for who he truly is. I can tell you your parents feel the way they do because they care about their daughter’s safety and well-being. You cannot persuade or convince them to believe anything, they will have to see it for themselves. And even then, they may not change their opinion. To me, his family sounds terrifying if they have a history with drugs, rape, etc. You should not take those things lightly at all. They destroy lives. I think you and your boyfriend need to grow and to learn about yourselves and each other, about the world and about relationships, especially with someone who suffers or has suffered from addiction. You guys might come out for the best and live happily ever after, or you might crash and burn in the worst ways. It is up to you individually and together. Please, figure out who you are as a person and as a couple before you start jumping in with both feet.

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