Addiction takes away our joy and even our lives sometimes. Addiction affects not only the addict, but those who are related to him or her- whether it be a family member, spouse, significant other, child or friend. It strips away any chance of a life of joy, peace, calm and awareness. There are disagreements, broken trust, confusion, health risks, emotional and/or physical abuse, lies, secrets, lost time, money wasted on drugs and on and on.
My relationship with a drug addict
I was in an eight year relationship with a drug addict. When we met, he had been clean and sober for three years. He had been in the recovery community for 15 years, but had one relapse.
I had been separated from my husband for two months when I met Carl (not his real name). He seemed completely different from my emotionally abusive husband. I thought he was your basic all American guy: he had three kids who he absolutely adored, he was kind, funny, loyal and ran a small business. He volunteered for his kids’ school and sports events, small business functions and recovery events. Everyone seemed to like him.
We had a wonderful relationship. We loved spending time together, went on trips and were just really enjoying life. We had the occasional argument, but we were always able to talk things out. I introduced him to my family who instantly liked him, (although it took my kids sometime to come around). I thought I had finally met my “soul mate.”
Spoiler alert: Even though the relationship seemed wonderful it wasn’t likely that I would have the great fortune to encounter the “perfect guy” after coming out of 25 years of an emotionally abusive marriage.
When his recovery started to slip away
Carl seemed completely different from my husband – at first. However, as more time passed, Carl ‘s recovery began to slip away. He became controlling, manipulative, accusatory, and uninvolved with both me and his life in general. He spent massive amounts of time watching TV. He did a stellar job of keeping his addiction hidden – he frequently accused me of causing all the problems in the relationship.
When you’re in a relationship with an addict, he or she will use many tools to manipulate you, and that’s what was happening to me. Sometimes I would get a glimpse of the old him: the funny, charming, attentive guy I’d met, but it wouldn’t last long. All of that great energy started to dwindle, consumed by his drug use.
Every once in a while during our eight years together, he admitted he had been using drugs, would apologize profusely, came clean and swear he’d never use again. I believed him – and I read somewhere that we trust addicts, even when they lie, because there was a time when they were trustworthy.
Even though he said he had “cleaned up” the relationship got more and more dysfunctional. Our arguments got worse and worse. Our breakups were more frequent and lasted longer. I continued to blame myself for our problems as his erratic, addictive behaviors escalated. That wonderful, fun relationship had turned into one of resentment, fear, isolation, rejection and boredom.
The end of our relationship
After one of our breakups I hadn’t heard from him in a while so I called him. He informed me he had found a new girlfriend – one he could “be himself” with, someone who didn’t mind his drug use. I certainly wasn’t going to be able to compete with that – I was adamantly opposed to him taking drugs. It changed him, and destroyed the relationship, as I had experienced for the last six to seven years.
I didn’t want a relationship with a “drug” anyway. It’s just sentencing yourself to a life of being stuck in their addictive cycle. He claimed he was “the same guy” even though he used drugs, but he wasn’t. He was in denial – fooling himself and leaving wreckage everywhere -especially in our relationship. He used to brag about how great it was he hadn’t drank for 20 years. He still attended AA meetings. I started to see him as a world class hypocrite.
Although I was devastated about the breakup. I was addicted to the relationship and believed he wasn’t using. I decided to move forward and get on with my life. Carl called me once because he heard I was sick, but after that there was no communication between us and I hadn’t seen or heard from him in over five years
The breakup turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I developed better relationships with my kids; started going out with old friends, cared for my aging parents, hired a professional life coach, travelled, picked up playing the piano again and started this blog. I did (and am doing) all the things I love to do and that I had formerly sacrificed to dysfunctional relationships. I became grateful that he had ended the relationship – I felt free for the first time in my life and was able to focus on myself and my own personal growth.
The unexpected phone call
On July 4, I received an unexpected phone call from someone I knew when Carl and I were dating. She told me Carl had been murdered. He was robbed, brutally assaulted, drug into a vacant house and his body was set on fire. I was so stunned. He certainly didn’t deserve such a horrific death. I am overwhelmed with pain and grief when I think of how he must have suffered and how all this will devastate his kids, family, friends and business associates.
I live in a pretty decent neighborhood, but the shocker was the murder happened within a mile of my house, on a pretty sketchy street. My question is, what was he doing 10 miles from his own home, at 9 or 10 at night, in a somewhat risky part of my neighborhood? And the brutality of it all? During his “recovery periods” he would tell me he was buying hard drugs off the street. I’m 100% sure his murder was drug related.
I don’t know what kind of trouble Carl had gotten into, but it seems his addiction put him in a dangerous situation that resulted in his brutal death.
Addiction robs us of awareness, healing and growth
I refer to in a prior blog to the importance of awareness and paying attention. Being addicted to anything robs you of that beautiful opportunity to pause, step back, view your life and start to heal and grow. Addiction causes us to do crazy like things when we’re high, submitting ourselves to grave health risks and even death from overdose. It also causes us to put ourselves in dangerous situations, dealing with dangerous drug dealers, that put us in the wrong place, at the wrong time with the wrong people.
My heart grieves for him – he was only in his mid-fifties. He will never see his kids’ futures: graduations, marriages, maybe even grandchildren. He will never get to enjoy his retirement – his dream was to buy an RV and travel the world. He will never get to see how life evolves for his siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. His life was blotted out most likely by drug addiction and all that is inherent in that life choice. I’m angry with him as well. So many people, his ex-wife, me, his family, and his friends told him to stay clean, but he choose not to.
If you read this and are suffering from life with an addict, or if you’re an addict yourself, please get some help.
If you read this and are suffering from life with an addict, or if you’re an addict yourself, please get some help. First talk to a doctor so they can assess your best medical/recovery options. Most insurance plans cover all or a partial amount for recovery programs. You can also talk to a pastor, priest or therapist. You can visit a local Alcoholic Anonymous Meeting, Smart Recovery, and/or check out the CDC’s Alcohol Program. Additionally, the internet has many online programs, facebook communities and books.
This was a very upsetting situation for me despite the difficulties of the relationship, In my next blog, I will share what I’m doing to heal and grow after this tragedy.
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