Living with an Addict

To find out how one person’s addiction can impact the life of those living with them, I spoke to Rose. She is now 30 and lived with a cannabis addict. Until today, Rose’s ex-boyfriend didn’t get treatment. Read below what she told me about addiction and how their relationship was affected by it:

The Secrecy

I came to realise slowly that he had a problem. I always thought he just liked to be a bit wild, or that he was impressionable, until I caught him snorting coke alone in the bathroom at one of our house parties. I didn’t know he bought that coke. His secrecy rang alarm bells. I’ve taken things myself but I hated the exclusivity; it can distance people and split parties in half.

I also found out he was taking stuff at 8am, before starting work. That made me furious – he was jeopardising half of our income.

The Neglect

He had bizarre sleeping patterns and needed to sleep more. Buying food wasn’t a priority to him. I was on my own a lot during the day and ended up being responsible for the household. He became increasingly apathetic about day-to-day things, and about life in general. He had an addictive personality. I don’t know if that’s innate, or it signifies general weakness of character – when I was most frustrated I believed the latter.

I felt excluded from his life and it was as if we were living separate lives. It felt like I wasn’t enough and was upset that our relationship was something he needed to escape from. Ultimately I grew resentful and felt that I had to take care of everything myself. I’d moved 200 miles to be with this man, and he couldn’t take care of the simplest things, to contribute to us building a secure, happy home.

Our house was a depressing mess. I used to cry when I walked in the front door. I could never invite people round and grew more isolated and I hated him for that. I lost my libido and started to comfort eat. Sometimes, I locked myself in the bathroom just to have some space to myself without having to worry about life.

Addiction means “trying to make up for something lacking in your life”

Some addictions are more socially acceptable and go unnoticed. It might take a while to spot an alcoholic in the midst of our binge drinking culture.

I overeat sometimes, and can’t say no to food. I believe there are elements of addiction in this but I don’t think that affects others to the same degree. Food, for me, means being comforted. Maybe drugs are about relinquishing responsibility? I personally like drinking and used to love Es. I suffered from social anxiety and I liked breaking free and feeling like a different person.

“I would have never persuaded him to seek help”

I don’t know a lot about treatment. My experience is limited to anecdotal evidence of AA meetings, and the detox scene from Trainspotting. I never considered rehab for my partner. He didn’t think it was a problem and it wasn’t ‘as bad’ as others I’d known. I also knew I would have never persuaded him to seek help. We went to see a relationship counsellor, and that was hard enough. He went, but hated it, and I ended up in tears on the way home after every session.

I know he suffers from depression these days. He doesn’t believe there’s much point in anything that people generally strive for: a family, a career, security, love.

Alexandria Barley, Specialist Therapist at Castle Craig comments:

Rose’s story is very common in addiction. It must first be understood that addiction is a disease; no addict chooses or wishes to become addicted. However, that does not mean to say that their behaviours are acceptable because they have a disease. There is treatment, but no cure. I would like to clarify that for an addict, the cure would be to take drugs or drink socially; however, once diagnosed with addiction/alcoholism there needs to be total abstinence plus a change in behaviours, which is part of the treatment process. The addict needs to start to take responsibility for their addiction, and if they choose to get well, there is treatment available.

Rose’s ex-boyfriend was powerless once he had taken the first mood or mind altering chemical. This means that no matter what he had planned for his future, it would not come to fruition. His sole purpose would be to use drugs, and harsh as it sounds, he would not have cared about Rose, her well-being, their finances, sustenance, employment, friends and family. He would have isolated and pushed Rose away in order to be able to use cocaine. He would have lost his own moral compass. Coming down from cocaine requires sleep, as one can be up for days snorting cocaine. He may also have become depressed in the come down.

Like the addict, the non-addict develops similar symptoms to that of the addict in isolating themselves as they are embarrassed about their partner, and they become pre-occupied with the addict’s behaviour similar to the addict becoming pre-occupied with the drug. They lose their own confidence and sometimes feel they are doing something wrong or indeed they are going insane due to the addict’s control. The addict is deceitful, lies, manipulates and is self-centred. This has an impact on their relationships as the only thing they love is the drug, but do not recognise that they are not in control and are being taken prisoner by the drug.

In my opinion, seeing a relationship counsellor would have been too early as the addict needs to face their addiction and work on this in the first instance. The addict needs to want to get well for themselves and through this, their relationships can only benefit. It is often the case that an addict comes to Castle Craig because of a relationship, often to ‘get the family off their back’ or to prove they are not that bad. This is not problematic as it is called ‘rolling with resistance’ until the addict can see that they are worthwhile and find that they would like to change their lives to be free of the imprisonment of drugs and to find freedom.

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