I’m in Love With An Addict And I Don’t Want Him To Break Up With Me. Help! [Ask A Dude]

Dear Dude,

I’ve been in a relationship for 5 years. It started off great…he’s five years older than me, looked like he had it all together, was about to graduate with a degree in Psychology, had a huge family that took us all on vacations…it seemed too good to be true. Then slowly but surely a past drug addiction of his crept into our life as he started to spiral out of control. Being the person I am, I stayed with him. It was hard, and I got my feelings hurt a lot. I was working full-time, going to school full-time and it was an overload of “just get through this” moments that went on for years.

He finally went to a great rehab, and for a year we lived together after he got out sober and all seemed to be going well…not great, but well. I thought, “This is it, he’s working, getting his life back in order. By Christmas I’ll have a ring and we will be on our merry way to getting the past behind us,” at this point he’s 33 after all, it’s time, I thought.

Instead, he broke up with me right before Thanksgiving. Told me that he couldn’t be the man I needed him to be, that’s this was all his fault and that someone else out there was for me. But he wasn’t the guy. Now two months later, we have hooked up numerous times, he calls on his breaks just to talk and on the past two weekends he has called to go to the movies and stayed with me over the weekend (even though those past few times we weren’t hooking up). He changes the oil in my car, always calls to see if I need anything…even watched a movie with my family that was out of town over the holidays.

All the while, I’m not saying anything. I don’t act like we’re back together, we don’t argue, we don’t talk about past stuff, I don’t call him to see what he’s doing, we don’t talk about family stuff. It’s really weird. Then last night he called after he got off work at 12:30am and came over to watch a movie. I touched him and he removed my hand and said that he just wanted to watch the movie. And that this was probably the last time he was going to come over. I said, “Okay, that’s cool” and rolled over. Then he asked if I was mad, to which I replied, “No of course not goodnight.” I try to keep it light and not take anything seriously around him, because I feel like at any point he might take advantage of a second time to break up with me as if we just shouldn’t be hanging out.

My question is, why is he doing this? What should I do? I want to be with him; we were together for 5 years! And it’s only been 2 months since the break up, so from you to me — what should I do? Ignore his calls? Because when I’ve tried that before he makes remarks like I’m on a date and to tell the guy whoever he is that he says hi…like jealous? I’m trying to be as dignified as possible about all of this. Again, I miss him, but I don’t miss the roller coaster he’s put me through over these past few years just to dismiss me right in time for the holidays and then play games afterwards. I don’t know what he wants, I don’t know what to do.

Sincerely,

Patiently Waiting

Dear Patiently Waiting,

Let me see if I’ve got the order straight: 5 years together, you worked through his addictions, his stints in rehab, and then when he seems to finally get himself sober, he says “see ya lata.” Except that instead of making a clean break, it’s been 2 months and he’s acting like y’all are still Mr. and Mrs. Smith, until the other night when he says that he isn’t going to come over anymore. Meanwhile, you pretend not to take anything too seriously because you’re scared that if you do, he’ll up and walk away again. Making it break up numero 2. And you want to know what he wants and what to do? WOW! Migraine, sorry, just, does anybody else feel like a fried egg? Honey, let’s start by asking this question: WHAT DO YOU WANT?

First of all, I cannot speak enough to your bravery. It’s incredibly difficult to stay with someone working out the magnitude of inner demons and addictions that it sounds like you have. What you stayed with him through is testament to the amount you cared for him and your ability to care for another human being. I cannot imagine the fear you went through. I cannot speak from a place of knowing, when it comes to the amount of frustration, shame, or anger that you’ve probably dealt with. It shows you are an incredibly strong person. You invested so much in him, sacrificed so much of your own needs for his, and swallowed so much of your own pain in order to put his first. That’s an extraordinary amount of oneself to give and take that as a sign that you are strong enough to live without him in your life.

What should you do? You should listen and let go. Listen to the needs and wants you’ve sacrificed these last few years and let go of him. Let go of his needing you. Let go of swallowing the anger. Let go of the fear of expressing what you want. Just, let go of everything. From the sound of it, you haven’t gotten to live your own life in a long time. And how can you? Because, believe it or not, we don’t all just become addicted to substances, we become addicted to people and to experiences. Think of what you’re going through in terms of being an addict.

He’s your habit. At first, like any drug, it was mostly pleasure and very little pain. As things went on it became very little pleasure and mostly pain. You’ve given up control of your own needs as a person to your habit. You’ve neglected yourself for your habit. You’ve cheated yourself for it, because he, and his issues, and dealing with them, have been what you’ve been defining “life” as for the last few years. You have to let go. You have to get help. You have to first admit that the problem isn’t just him, it’s you not being willing to let go of him.

The dreams of the beginning are gone. I’m sorry. They’ll never be what you imagined they would be. You’ve gone through too much together. You’re too afraid of his moods and his reactions to experience that kind of contentment, even if you did get a ring. Let go of what could have been and be present in what is.

Next you have to let go of what there is. Which is a relationship starving you of love, attention, fulfillment, and instead is filled with fear. Fear is not something you move forward from. Recognizing fear and moving beyond it is. Can you cut ties? Could you accept if he walked away and left things forever? I hope so. Letting go of someone you’ve given so much of yourself to is probably going to be the hardest thing you ever do. Period.

Except that’s the best thing you can do because this relationship is toxic. For both of you. Yet you’re stuck letting him dictate what kind of relationship it is and haven’t given yourself the right to consider leaving it.

Leaving it will be incredibly difficult. You’ll miss him. You’ll miss the familiarity. You’ll hate the loneliness. You’ll probably get mad at him for how he treated you and even madder at yourself for how you let him treat you. You’ll try to talk yourself into the idea that you can handle seeing him after the break up. That you can’t get hurt anymore and think you’ve kicked the habit. You might relapse and end up feeling even worse for a little while. However, you have a lot of reason to hope. You’re strong. You’re stronger than you’ve ever given yourself credit for. You were strong enough to survive what’s come before which means you’re strong enough to endure what would come of letting him go. You just have to believe that you deserve to be happy. You have to allow yourself to want to be treated like an equal partner in a relationship. You have to give yourself permission to need and want, and that those needs and wants can come first sometimes. You have to be able to look at the situation and ask: “Am I getting this from being with him?” And be able to give yourself the honest answer: you have a problem, and you need help, and that help is going to lead to separating yourself from the man who you are basing your entire life around.

You deserve it. Deep breaths. Look at what feels safe to say and do, and then reach out to someone to talk this through. Make your plan to leave him. And do it. If he threatens you or himself, that’s his way of trying to take back what you’d be taking up for yourself: control of your life, a life that doesn’t revolve around him and your relationship with him.

I wish you the very, very, best. I hope you can take the first steps to taking care of yourself. It’s time. He’s giving you the chance to break away. So take that chance to listen to the parts of yourself you’ve starved and, just, let go.

With much hope for you,

The Dude

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