Drugs. Most of us have some kind of substance in our life that makes our little world go round. The short black to start the day. The excellent glass or 3 of red with a delicious meal. A shared joint with a friend. Oh and all those other ‘nasty’ substances we are told will take us directly to the road to addiction. But all of the above, plus that wonderfully English tradition of punctuating the day with pots of tea and of course the dreaded fags are commonplace and largely acceptable.
While too much caffeine might turn us into a nervous wreck or debilitate with the foulest headache if the daily ritual is missed – it is considered socially benign. Alcohol is hailed as an elixir of health if imbibed “in moderation” and alcoholics are mistakenly characterised as those who pass out on the street or noisily beat their spouses. Smokers, we all know, are social pariahs who are trying to kill the innocent with their passive poison.
But dope smokers – those who love a bong or a joint, they can’t be addicts?
I am not here to demonise drugs, just tell you my story.
Hello, my name is Another Outspoken Female and briefly I was in a co-dependent relationship with an addict. No needles, no hanging around street corners waiting for his dealer, just his favourite bong and a bag of green stuff.
What characterised him as an addict.Lying
: While dating he casually asked one day, “Do you ever smoke?” “Oh, maybe once or twice a year, if that these days. I actually can’t remember the last time,” I answered. “Me too!” he replied emphatically. Perhaps that wasn’t a huge lie at the time. For he had moved off the land and supplies were low. In reality it was only a few days into the New Year and maybe he’d only smoked a few times.
Once he moved in and he did that far too quickly I have to admit (see ‘manipulation’), the lies started to cascade. He needed to smoke, just once, before bed as medicine for his insomnia. He had a new job (his wife had previously supported him) and he “deserved” a little smoke after work to relax. Within a week, the first smoke was before 7am, when he got up to go on the early shift.
“I’m going through a difficult time at the moment with work/divorce/excuse 3 /excuse 4. I’ll stop as soon as it’s over. Just another month”. He promised.
Each month the lies got bigger.Manipulation
: When you are in love with an addict, you are their life support system. Everything they do is based on keeping the status quo – their habit and the person who supports them. Their enabler.
I don’t usually characterise myself as a sucker. I’m a strong, independent woman. I don’t need a man to complete me. This guy was smart. Actually he did dumb things, but he is the most intelligent being I’ve ever gone out with and I know a lot of smart cookies. He sniffed out the one thing I didn’t have in my life and used it for leverage from the first date. It was as if someone had found the key to my psyche and told me everything I had ever needed to be affirmed about myself. It was extraordinary.
So it was, while in those early days of lying in bed he’d mentioned his lease was running out and we discussed how perhaps we could live together later in the year. Just a few weeks he told me he hadn't re-signed his lease and he moved in lock, stock and barrel. I hadn’t exactly said yes. But when I tried to say no, my love for him was questioned.
The questioning of my love became a strong theme. Any little doubts I voiced turned into an out and out war. I hadn’t realised I was his life raft yet. If he didn’t get his way he stormed out, shouting and howling on the way. This was followed with endless days of icy silence.
It was extraordinary behaviour. One that I hadn’t encountered in a lover before. Later, after the silent treatment thawed, I would be showered with excuses.
The skilled manipulator knows your weak points. He (or she) can push all your buttons. Even when you know you are right, they will show you just how wrong you are.The habit comes before you do
: There are the lies, the manipulation and declarations of love. But he’d still smoke from morning to night. Not wanting to go out. Wanting to stay home all weekend. So I’d go to see friends on my own and he’d sulk. The fall out was horrendous. It was like being under house arrest. When I went away to see my family for a few days (he refused to come but thought that I should not go without him) he fell to pieces. It was horrendous. The life support system had left the building and I’d be punished for it dearly. I hadn’t figured out at that point that he was an addict. That he couldn’t get on a plane and leave his drug behind for a few days. That he’d make lots of excuses why he couldn’t go, anything but admit to the truth.You start to feel guilty all the time
: Whatever I do is never quite right. Not a powerful enough declaration of love. There is no room for doubt. I am either with him or against him. I always have to prove that I really love him.
But inside, there is a nagging doubt that begins to grow.You walk on eggshells all the time
: This is because I am now living with Jekyll and Hyde. The lover I fell for and this alien creature that inhabits the dark side. The fear of a 5 day sulk or a storm out starts to modify what I say and do. “This is just temporary”, he promises. “I can change”…”You just have to believe in me”, he counters. It’s his problem but it all comes back to me.The line is crossed
: One day there is a confrontation. “I can’t take this anymore, you have to leave”, I finally say. I’m torn in many directions but I know this is not my pattern and this is his stuff, not mine. The response crosses the line, the foulest name calling I have ever experienced and a whisper of violence. I feel violated and I am not prepared to endanger my mental and physical wellbeing. I have never felt afraid in a relationship before.
I am lucky because I am strong. I have a strong sense of self. I am also fortunate to be financially independent and not have a child with this man.
I ignore the lies and manipulation, I stand resolute. He leaves but I agree to go to counselling with him. Perhaps I think that we could work it out after all? His reaction to therapy is up there with some of the worst behaviour I have experienced. All doubts that maybe I had got it wrong are erased. The monster appears before a witness, something has cracked and I feel shattered but incredibly grateful that another person can validate all that I have experienced.
There are months of untangling. Many tears, mostly my own. At one point a gem lands on my lap. A hand written journal detailing how he will get me back. It outlines the lies he will tell and the justifications for them. It is incredibly lucid. A manifesto of manipulation.
Why do I write this? Blog as confessional? No, it’s more than that.
I read some other blogs, where women are in co-dependent relationships. Are wavering about taking their man back again. It doesn’t have to be so called benign drugs like this, it can be a manipulative depressive or a gambler. It doesn’t matter. The patterns are the same.
I tell my story because I am lucky. This journey from start to true completion borrowed less than a year of my life. It was an extraordinary experience. But still, I was left feeling REALLY STUPID AND ASHAMED. I had declared this to be the love of my life. I felt like I had made a fool of myself.
I have good friends. They are there for me. I believe in myself. I am resourced. I am intelligent. I am lucky. And yet, someone found the gap and squirreled past the early warning switches. I was flattered and feted. I was vulnerable. I changed the locks.
But at the end of the day, being vulnerable is not a crime. Just a human weakness. The worst thing that could have come out of this, other than not leaving, would be never loving someone again. Or worse, repeating the pattern with someone else.
Why do I write this? I am purging the past.
After a courtship that has lasted for years (not weeks like last time) a man who I love is moving in. As I clear closet space I can feel an echo of the last time I did this, in the same house, the same closet. It’s time to exorcise any last glimmer of a ghost.
When there have been so many positive relationships in my past, homes together ended with minimal trauma and keeping in touch with exes who I am happy to see - it’s annoying to have one raw patch that over shadows the others.
This is a happy week. Not one of trepidation. I purge my past with my story. A very small chapter out of a largely fortunate life. A blip on the radar, not to be repeated.
I’m not expecting a life through rose coloured glasses, but one of shared honesty and good communication. Where laughter far outnumbers the tears.
Call me a fool, but I’ve risked finding it again.