I wanna get a little heavy with ya’ll for the one time. I try to keep an air of humor when I write for anopensecret, but sometimes, we gotta get real. I wanna talk a bit about addiction, and how that can affect relationships. Addiction is defined as follows:
Addiction is a primary, chronic, neurobiologic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors that influence its development and manifestations. It is characterized by behaviours that include one or more of the following:
- loss of control over drug use
- continued use despite harm
- compulsive use and craving.
I think when we were young and in college, some of these behaviors were deemed ‘normal’ or ‘part of the college experience.’ But now that we’re approaching 30, it’s important to realize what’s important, and what’s not. Sometimes, what seems like an outlet for stress, is actually addiction/dependence. Adrianne, a homegirl of mine, knows firsthand what it’s like to date someone with an addiction.
‘I dated “C” for about a year and three months before ending our relationship. We had gone to the same high school but never really knew each other. We met 2 years ago at a mutual friends Christmas party. I was definitely head over heels for him once we actually started dating. We were inseparable. He was attractive, so attentive, polite, and family oriented. We shared a lot of the same interests and things between us just felt natural. I still consider him to be my first real love despite everything we’ve gone through.
In the early stages of our relationship he disclosed little tidbits about his drinking and drug use. He told me that he started smoking weed in 8th grade and how he and his brother were notorious for throwing parties in high school. He told me that he had 4 underage citations in high school and probably another 4 in college but he always laughed it off as a great story. I found out that his father was a recovering alcoholic and ‘C’ and his siblings would smoke weed together everyday before school.’ C’ smoked weed before football practice and drank after his youth group basketball games with his mentors. I couldn’t believe it! Is that what everyone was doing in middle/high school?! I was sitting home watching TV with my mom and was more worried about getting my braces off and what boy I was going to slow dance with! I always shrugged it off because I knew ‘C’ and his brother were in the “popular” crowd in high school. ‘C’ was a regular smoker. He smoked weed probably every other day with his roommate and co-workers. He once admitted smoking on his lunch break at work. I was definitely concerned about the whole weed thing because at the time, I was in graduate school to be a school counselor and was always worried if we got pulled over by a cop, and ‘C’ had weed on him, I’d somehow get in trouble too.
There were two events that made me realize the seriousness of ‘C’s substance dependence. Two months into our relationship I had planned on meeting up with ‘C’ for a date after having lunch with my dad. While at lunch, I received several drunk calls from ‘C’, who was having Sunday Funday with his roommate. I could hardly understand what he was saying, and I was furious. Why would he get hammered when he knew we had a date later on? Soon after his call, I got one from his mother. She was out of town and had gotten news that ‘C’ was extremely drunk, lost, and his cell phone had died. He left the bar and was no where to be found. C’s dad, who I mentioned was a recovering alcoholic, was in town but had the mindset that, “C was not his problem and that C needed to learn the hard way.” I was reluctant to help find ‘C’ at first but knew I had to. We had to drive through different parts of the city, looking up and down the street, for a 24-year-old drunk guy. Ridiculous. About two hours later we decided to check his apartment, where he was nonchalantly, taking a shower as if nothing ever happened. I was definitely worried.
The next incident occurred when ‘C’ and I had our first vacation/trip together three months into our relationship. The trip started off great. We went to his alma matter’s homecoming. He gave me a tour of campus, introduced me to some of his college buddies, and had lunch downtown. Everything was great. The second day of our trip was the actual homecoming festivities; a day long of drinking. I was a bit worried but made sure to have a talk with him before hand about controlling both of our drinking so we wouldn’t end up fighting; but of course, that’s exactly what happened. Long story short, we ended up fighting and separating at the tailgate. I was scared and angry, especially being in an unknown city. All of his friends were leaving the tailgate and ‘C’ was no where to be found. So, I went with his friends. About five hours later I ran into him on the street. We began fighting and I knew it was time for me to go back to the hotel. He didn’t come with me. In fact, he didn’t come back until about 3:30am. Where the hell did he go and was he even worried about me? Who was he with? I was worried and angry and I couldn’t sleep. In the morning, we didn’t speak. Once we got the airport, I thought maybe we would hash things out but once we got to the gate he saw some people he knew and decided that drinking bloody mary’s at the bar was a better idea. He asked me to join. I asked him to stay with me. But, of course, he didn’t. So I sat alone at the gate, crying, wanting to be home and as far away from him as possible. At that moment he was the ugliest person in the world. I hated him. I had my mother pick me up as soon as we landed and he went home alone.
You would think at that moment I would have ended the relationship, but I didn’t. I wanted him to change. I knew this was not what I wanted in a relationship because both my grandfather and father abused substances. I loved ‘C’ and if he loved me, he would change. In fact, he promised me he would change. He went to a few AA meetings with his dad, stopped going out as much, started going to church again, applied for a manager position at work, etc, etc… I really thought he had made some positive changes. I was convinced he was going to change. Everything was great for the next few months. We hit a few bumps in the road (like a drunken fight on my birthday, ‘C’ getting visibly angry with me– while drunk– at a family function, and ‘C’ staying out late again for happy hours) but overall, things were good. Or so I thought… ‘C’ had gotten the manager position at work, we planned another trip together – this time to Europe –and I was almost done with my master’s degree. Then, one night before one of my major exams – a month before graduation –I got a weird text from C. Then, he called me hysterically crying. He went on to tell me that he had a problem with gambling and spending his money. He admitted to going to the casino late at night and during his lunch breaks. He admitted to losing a lot of money and that he began stealing from his family; and that they had caught him. The counselor in me stayed calm, asked a few questions, and told him we would get through this. I was in complete shock. He stole from his family? He lied to me about where he was? Who is this person?! I knew he needed help, professional help, ASAP.
The next day I bombed my exam and cried the entire day. Reality finally hit me. I told him I loved him but didn’t have the energy to process his issues during one of the most stressful times in my life. After an argument I told him I needed a break; that we needed a break. I needed to focus on me and thought that he should do the same. I felt awful but I knew it was the right thing to do. I helped him find an addictions counselor but stayed away. Even though I was surprised about his new gambling issue, I wasn’t surprised. He had such an addictive personality, I was mad at myself for not expecting this; for not paying attention to the signs earlier. He had seemed different the past few months; distant. How didn’t I catch this? I started going to counseling regularly to help me process everything. One of the first things that my therapist said to that really stuck with me was, “a drink is a drug, is a bet, is a cookie, is a flirt.” C might not be a full blown drug addict but he clearly has issues with addictions. So, what was next? Overeating? Sex addiction? Well, I found out that ‘C’ had been graphically sexting girls he met on instagram and facebook while we were on our break, which he conveniently blamed me for even though we spoke everyday. As I read the messages and his predetermined plan to actually meet a girl at a hotel to fuck, he sat there, calm as a clam. I was enraged. And he just sat there, shrugging his shoulder when I asked him, “what the fuck were you thinking??” I was crushed. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I felt so betrayed; cheated on. Although he never met the girl, he had every intention on doing so. Lies just spewed from his mouth, whatever he could do to cover his ass. I hate liars.
I apologize if this sounds like a rant or a male-bashing story but it’s my story. I don’t hate men and deep down I don’t hate’ C’ (even though some days I do). What I hate is addiction. I really hate addiction. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Why do some of the most important people in my life suffer from addiction? I’m trying to understand it and counseling has definitely helped. I also realize that you can’t change someone, no matter how hard you try. They have to want to change themselves. I’m also reading about codependency and setting boundaries. That would be my advice for anyone in a relationship with an addict or substance abuser. Set boundaries and be consistent. Focus on your needs. Addiction is all about the addict and you get sucked in without even knowing it. Also, trust your instincts. There were so many red flags that I ignored out of love.
So now I’m trying to focus on me. “Focus on you,” that’s what everyone keeps telling me to do. “Adrianne, just focus on you!” My mom tells me to work out, my friends tell me to travel, and my therapist tells me to do things that make me happy. What makes me happy? A lot of things make me happy…but it’s also really hard for me to figure out what truly makes me happy because I’m always looking for others to make me happy. That probably sounds crazy. But here I am: a 26-year old with a master’s degree (that I’m extremely proud of!), who has traveled the world, and who has great friends and a great family. And now, all I need to do is to love my self and make myself happy.’
I thank Adrianne for sharing her story with us. It’s important, it’s valuable, and it happens more often than you think. I myself, have dated guys who have been dependent on weed or alcohol, and at the time brushed it off as ‘normal.’ It’s not. We’re getting too old to use substances as a crutch to deal with life. Now I’m not judging anyone who smokes or drinks. We all work hard, and cope with the stressed of adulthood differently. But there’s a difference between blowing off steam and dependence.