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Dating a recovering addict and need advice

Old 09-04-2012, 07:17 PM
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Dating a recovering addict and need advice

Hello all!

I am brand new to this site (and the idea of online forums all together) and have spent a lot of time reading posts from different forums over the past week. I finally worked up the courage to create an account and share my recent experiences in the hopes of gaining some insight and advice. Thank you in advance to anyone who reads this and comments on it!!

So I have been dating my boyfriend for about 3 months now. He is related to my best friend so we have known each other for about 8 years but were never really that close and we just started hanging out and becoming romantic recently. He has amazing qualities that I want in a partner- smart, funny, gentleman, hardworking, close to his family, good with kids, good looking, etc. We get along great, have fun together, I can 100% be myself with him, and he supports all I do (new job, grad school, future plans, etc.) He claims he has never met anyone like me before, has never had this good of a relationship, and is the happiest he's ever been. He even went to far recently to say he thinks he's falling in love with me and he sees a real future with me (which I agree with).

So why am I posting here if it's this great, right? Well he's a recovering addict and some things are very very difficult. Like I said earlier, I'm hoping to get some advice on how to cope with some issues we've been having.

A little background on his addiction-- he started smoking pot and dabbling with Ecstasy when he was a teenager (16/17 yrs old I think). That eventually turned into trying coke, then being hardcore addicted to pain killers for about 4 years to eventually heroin for a little bit. I know he's tried pretty much everything, but snorting the pills was his drug of choice. He has been arrested over 10 times, stole thousands and thousands of dollars from his parents, went to jail for 4 months about 5 years ago, and has been to rehab twice. The good news is that the 2nd time in rehab was successful and come February he will be sober for 4 years! Yayy!! (He has also 100% quit smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and drinking alcohol) He goes to a few meetings a week and talks to me openly about his past. He told me everything less than 1 month into dating and is very honest about it all- never tried to hide a thing.

Now I knew him during his rough years, but we were not that close. And when we started dating he was (as I mentioned) already sober, has a great new job, new apartment and truck, new friends, rebuilt the relationships with his family (along with paying them back little by little) and overall looks and acts so much happier than the skinny, punk teenager I knew years ago. However, as our relationship progresses I see a lot of unresolved issues that concern me, especially if we want to have a future together...

The first is all the guilt and regret he has from his past and what he put his family (and his ex-girlfriend) through. He refuses to forgive himself and claim he never will. He literally down right hates himself and has become an expert at self-loathing. I feel like when he looks in the mirror he still sees that junkie from years ago and not the amazing guy he has become. I remind him all the time that the fact that he even shows remorse for his past proves that he's a good person. I also tell him that (in my opinion) he won't be able to truly love me until he can love (or at least be able to stand the sight of) himself. He just has so much unresolved pain. He often claims that he doesn't deserve good things and will never be happy with life. That scares me because if he's never truly happy, I'm going to feel like it's my fault and like I'm doing something wrong if I can't make him happy. It also kills me to see such an awesome person that I care about so much say those awful things about himself. I would feel that way even if we weren't dating. It just makes me sad. When I do nice things for him (buy him something little, bring him dinner, clean up his place a little because he's busy working 60 hours a week) he doesn't respond how you would think a grateful boyfriend would. Instead he says things like "Why would you do that? I don't deserve it. I'm a piece of **** and you shouldn't waste your time on me. You're too good to me." What do I do with that?

The next issue is his daily stress and anxiety. I'm not sure if this is related to his past addiction (maybe it's what got him to use in the first place) or if it's common in recovery or what, but he is often times on edge and tense, and it can lead to him being very negative and impatient. I want to put it out there that he is not abusive in anyway, and is very good to me. Yes, we fight, but he doesn't yell at me for no reason or any nonsense like that. None the less, these erratic mood swings and unpredictable highs and lows are really frustrating and hard to deal with. We'll be doing something or on our way somewhere and some little thing happens that pisses him off and BOOM! He's done, night is ruined. Often times he doesn't want to go places or meet new people because he feels on edge and nervous. He also really self-conscious, so when we are out he shuts down and people often assume he's bored or not interested. If only they could see what I see when we're alone! He's so awesome and funny, just not always comfortable showing it. It then puts me on edge and limits our social life as a couple.

I've talked with him about needing to develop better coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress, but he doesn't know how. He says he'll try, and I know he means it, but when we try to toss ideas around we can't come up with anything except counseling, and he REALLY doesn't want to do that. I'd also like him to improve his communication skills. He's good at talking about events ("I went to jail" "I went to rehab") but not feelings ("I'm frustrated" "I'm scared") He sees that as a sign of weakness. Even when he opens about how he feels about me, it's few and far between and usually when we're laying in bed because he's more comfortable showing physical affection and being intimate than he is actually talking about feelings.

I just want us to have a happy, healthy relationship. I'm not even as worried about relapse as I am his mental and emotional health. He carries so much pain and gets so down on himself. I try to help the best I can, but there is only so much I can do. He rejects a lot of my ideas, but doesn't come up with his own. Yet claims he cares about me and will do whatever it takes to not lose me. I really really want this to work, but do not want to become a codependent (I've been reading a lot about that lately and fear I already sound like one...) and I also don't want to put my life on hold trying to fix someone else. I'm not trying to be selfish, but I'm a young adult and that's the honest truth. I'll work for this, but it can't always be this hard. I don't want to lose myself in the process. But, as of now, the good outweighs the bad with him and I want to give him a chance.

So I apologize for this long winded post, but man it felt good to get that all out! I would appreciate any advice or insight on this matter. What can I do to support him? What can we do as a couple to be healthy and successful? I look forward to getting to know you all through this site and wish you all the best of luck with your journeys as well. Thanks again everyone!!
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Old 09-04-2012, 07:52 PM
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welocme!! now, this is gonna come from someone in recovery, so take it for what its worth. you mention he goes to meetings, which i will assume are either NA or AA and has been clean for 4 years. what i read is either someone who hasnt worked the steps and isnt practicing the principles of the steps, doesnt have a sponsor and is only goin to meetings and not puttin in the footwork, which goin to meetings and not drinking/using doesnt treat alcoholism/addiction.
or
he may have a chemical imbalance. mass quantities of drugs/alcohol can mess up chemical crap in the brain.

you can work for it and i can read he has great qualities, but know that you cant fix him if he doesnt want to be fixed.
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:14 PM
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It sounds like you are becoming his psychiatrist rather than his gf. You have figured out ways that he needs to be fixed, and want to help him. Is he who you want him to be today? I see red flags, too. You seem to be looking at his potential rather than the present.
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:39 PM
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I'm pretty new here myself and I have been separated from my bf for over three months. In that time, since I left NYC and have come to another state, we have kept in contact and as it stands are devoted to one another, but we have not seen each other in person in all that time. He had pretty much hit rock bottom since I left, living on the streets, quitting his job, committing crime and attempted suicide, being hospitalized and in rehab since.

He was not recovering when we were together- he was the nightmare itself and I was living with him going through it all. Like yours, my bf has so many amazing qualities that I tried to nurture, but I ended up losing.

My first post talks about how I still believe in our love and his recovery, but I know there is no guarantee for anything.

I'm currently recovering from many of my own issues, as well as a traumatic year with a serious drug addict whom I allowed myself to be manipulated by, and thus ended up being an enabler in a co-dependent relationship.

I am also trying to quit drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, so that I can live a clean healthy life once and for all.

It's a pretty tough road to walk on, and once you are involved, it's difficult to leave, so I hope you can find your peace.
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Old 09-04-2012, 11:04 PM
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Wow guys thanks for responding so quickly. I really appreciate it!

What I meant in regards to the fighting and yelling is that although we fight about normal stuff, and he can get angry and frustrated quickly, he is not one to be nasty to me for no reason. Not to justify his behavior, just being honest that although his bad moods and negativity are difficult, he's not verbally abusive toward me. It's more of an annoyance, really, because I never know when he's going to be in a bad mood or what will set him off. And I've never been the type of person to walk on egg shells and I'm not going to start now! I pick and choose my battles, and I'm pretty patient and reasonable, but I don't like to sugar coat things and I'm always honest about how I feel. Hence these things coming up after only 3 months.

Not going to lie, the fast moving part has scared me as well, but I feel I'm partially to blame. I've known him for a while and felt very comfortable with him, and just got out of a 3 year relationship myself only 6 months before we started hanging out (and I lived with my ex for over a year). So I think I also may have rushed things because being committed is more comfortable for me than the initial dating phase. None the less, I wish we would have started slower and worked on some of these things before getting in so deep. I'm not sure if that has something to do with where we are now. I don't want him to go from one addiction to the next (me). I also want to make sure he's with me because he cares about me as a person, not just the idea of having me around. (But no, he has not used the "angel" line haha).

I am VERY disappointed that he is so against counseling right now. I think it could really help and he claims he will do anything to make this better and to prevent losing me. We'll see. And he does go to meetings a couple times a week, but I was just thinking today (after reading some other forums) "Is he just going to go, or because he thinks that's enough, or does he actually use the tools he's being taught?" Maybe he thinks 4 years sober is good enough and he doesn't need to try anymore?? I'd like to bring this up to him soon. I was also going to suggest going to a meeting myself to learn more about what he's gone/going through. It's easy for me to say "change this, fix that" but I don't know what it's like and I could stand to gain some more insight on the issue.

At the end of it all, maybe I am trying too hard. Maybe I am looking at his potential or what I want him to be. Maybe I need to focus on being a gf and not a therapist (which I am not trained to do). I also don't want to lose myself in the process; that's one of my biggest fears. I just really care about him and, although it may sound foolish and I may risk getting hurt, I don't want to give up yet. I want to see what this relationship could be if he tries a little harder. I guess I need to take it day by day for now and see what happens. I'm not ready to make any decisions right now, and he knows I'm struggling with this, so we've taken some space from each other since last week to think and clear our heads a bit.

Thanks again for the comments everyone and please keep them coming
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Old 09-04-2012, 11:28 PM
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Originally Posted by cynical one View Post
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3]But, as fast they get attached, they can detach with a flip of a switch.

Soooo true. It amazes me at how fast they can push you away!!
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Old 09-05-2012, 04:50 AM
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acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.when i am disturbed, it is because i find some person, place,thing, or situation- some fact of my life, unacceptable to me and i can find no serenity until i accept that person,place,thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. nothing, absolutely nothing happens in Gods world by mistake. i need to concetrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world and others as i what needs to be changed in my and my attitudes.
shakespeare said,"all the worlds a stage and we are merely players." he forgot to mention that i was the chief critic. i was always able to see the flaw in every person, every situation and i was always glad to point it out because i knew you wanted perfection as i did. acceptance has taught me there is a bit of the good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best; that we are all children of God and have a right to be here. when i complain about me or you, i am complaining about Gods handiwork. i am saying i know better than God.
if i dont know whats good for me, then i dont know whats good for anyone else.

the more i focus on anyones defects, the more they grow, and rather quick! when i focus on qualities, i see then grow and the defects shrink.
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Old 09-05-2012, 06:31 AM
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I like TomSteve am a recovering alcoholic. I also did my fair share of drugs. I have to agree that he might not have worked the steps. Working the steps completely changed my life.

On another note, my BF, who is a recovering drug addict worked the steps and still was negative about everything. I didn't see when we first started dating. I had known him for 9 years before we started dating. He talked to his sponsor, who suggested counseling. He wasn't really happy, but went. He found out he had a chemical inbalance in his head. After talking to his counselor, his sponsor, and many prayers he started taking medication for it. By him living what he learned through the steps and taking his medication he is not negative.

All people, in recovery and not, have moments of negativity. It is how we handle them that matters.

You need to make the decision if you can live with him the way he is or not.
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Old 09-05-2012, 06:45 AM
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so at three months of "dating" this is where you are at...

"I'm not even as worried about relapse as I am his mental and emotional health. He carries so much pain and gets so down on himself. I try to help the best I can, but there is only so much I can do. He rejects a lot of my ideas, but doesn't come up with his own. Yet claims he cares about me and will do whatever it takes to not lose me. I really really want this to work, but do not want to become a codependent (I've been reading a lot about that lately and fear I already sound like one...) and I also don't want to put my life on hold trying to fix someone else"

wow...

I believe that relationships grow out of the seeds that are planted in the beginning...they evolve out of their origins. this relationship started too fast, started within six months of your last long term relationship (rebound?) and is full of self pity and loathing, it's too hard, too much work and already has built in limitations...

this is the seed that you have to work with, to grow out of

have you ever considered that relationships are easiest at their start?
as cynical said, we all put on our best face forward in the beginning...
that it "should be" fun and light hearted in the beginning and then work on the harder stuff as you move forward and make the decision to commit???

it sounds like a big load of chemistry got released..."love" the endorphins that get released in the chemistry of it...can be one of the most powerful drugs around, and you are already hooked on your unhappy, self hating, guilt ridden dealer...and you don't want to let go of the source

someone who is really in recovery deals with their self pity/guilt/loathing...that IS what recovery is all about!

only three months into it and you are already spending your days thinking about his problems and trying to solve them...finding online resources to help HIS problems...

I am being bold and blunt...and it's not even judgement...it's just what we do!
welcome to SR
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Hailey13 View Post

So I have been dating my boyfriend for about 3 months now.


The first is all the guilt and regret he has from his past ...
He literally down right hates himself and has become an expert at self-loathing.
He often claims that he doesn't deserve good things and will never be happy with life. That scares me because if he's never truly happy, I'm going to feel like it's my fault and like I'm doing something wrong if I can't make him happy.
The next issue is his daily stress and anxiety.
it can lead to him being very negative and impatient.
None the less, these erratic mood swings and unpredictable highs and lows are really frustrating and hard to deal with.
Often times he doesn't want to go places or meet new people because he feels on edge and nervous.
He also really self-conscious,

I just want us to have a happy, healthy relationship.
What you want is not what you have and you can't turn him into the hopeful fantasy of the guy you know he could be, if only....if only....
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:44 AM
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Thank you all so much. All the stuff I've been thinking and contemplating lately has been confirmed and validated by your responses. It's nice to know I'm not alone. It's difficult to hear the truth, but I came here because I wanted to get advice from outside people looking in.

To answer a question that seems to be arising a lot (and at the risk of sounding like a selfish b****) No, I cannot accept him and take him 100% for what he is now. I am not a perfectionist, but the negative attributes (although there are a lot of positive ones too) are too much for me to handle. We've been fighting a lot lately about this stuff and I do not want a future with someone who possesses some of the qualities (self-loathing, negativity, lack of communication skills) that he can't seem to let go of. It's almost like a cycle he can't (or won't) break. He acts this way because it's all he knows, and staying in the same bad habits is easier than dealing with his issues. I'm just confused because he worked so hard to get and stay sober, why wouldn't he try to work on these other things too? He has a second chance at life and isn't even embracing it or living it to the fullest. Again, easy for me to say because I have never been in this situation.

I now see (even clearer) that we did move too fast. I am partially to blame and might always regret that. But these issues would have come up eventually either way. I do think we both put our best feet forward and, even though he was honest about his past right away, I didn't realize how much baggage came with it. And what's bothering me most now is wondering if he even wants to change or if he would be doing it just for me, and if he's even capable at all. Maybe I'm asking too much and he needs someone who won't have such high demands.

He does have a chemical imbalance and takes medicine for it, so I think that he needs to utilize the steps he's learning at his meetings more, get a sponsor again, and talk to a counselor. But, again, I don't know if he's willing, and he doubts if he's capable. I will always care about him (especially since he's my best friend's cousin and I am very close with their whole family) but I don't think this relationship is the best for either of us. At least not right now.

I feel like it's a lose lose either way. If I leave I'm going to miss him like crazy and feel like I gave up or wasn't willing to try hard enough. I'm always going to worry about him. But if I stay I might be setting myself up for disappointment and always get let down. I also risk putting my life on hold and losing myself while trying to fix him. Now I have to find a way to tell him all this...

Thanks again everyone. I'm really happy I came here, although I am feeling really sad and lost right now. Any further advice as to where to go from here would be great.
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Old 09-09-2012, 06:32 PM
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Just a little update- he has been going to tons of meetings lately and he does have a sponsor that I had the pleasure of meeting the other night. He still wants to work on things (as do I) and we've gone on some fun dates to relieve some stress and communicate more and just be ourselves. But we are going to put some space between us and only hang out here and there so we can really think about what we want and try to slow this thing down a little. I'm also going to do some research on co-dependency, and he's going to get more involved at his meetings.

I know this isn't going to be easy, but as of now it's worth it for me. We'll see....
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Old 09-09-2012, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Hailey13 View Post

To answer a question that seems to be arising a lot (and at the risk of sounding like a selfish b****) No, I cannot accept him and take him 100% for what he is now. I am not a perfectionist, but the negative attributes (although there are a lot of positive ones too) are too much for me to handle.
Drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable demonstrates emotional maturity. There is nothing selfish about this.
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