Avatar universal

please help my husband relapsed on heroin after being off it 5 years

I need help here. My husband has been a recovering addict just under 5 years. Last month he relapsed on heroin. I found his spoon qtip and 3 empty bags when I got super paranoid yesterday morning. I went so far as to flat out show it to him and he still tried to deny it. I've confiscated his cell phone and deleted all his social network accounts. I have been around addicts my whole life but have never tried any drugs, not even weed, myself. He has since fessed up, with the old stand by that he didn't do that much, but he's been using again for over a month so you can do the math. His excuse is he couldn't handle the suboxone/subutex withdrawal, but he would've been off that stuff about a month when he relapsed. I am at a complete and utter loss. With no idea how to handle this. He's been off heroin as long as I've know him. My biggest problem is he knew falling off the wagon was a deal bearer and he did it anyways. I love my husband. I take "for better or worse" incredibly seriously. Please help me! I need guidance.
29 Responses
82861 tn?1333453911
There's no real difference in detoxing except maybe the Sub symptoms last longer.  My husband has detoxed from both heroin and Sub and said the Sub was the absolute worst.  It just didn't want to loosen it's grip particularly where the emotional angle is concerned.

Your husband seems to be stuck in the same denial that my husband was in for so long.  He really believes that he can maintain his sobriety by himself with willpower alone.  He can't.  Period.  Until he finally realizes that fact and gets help through AA or something similar, you can expect this constant round of relapse and detox.  That's just the nature of addiction.  They want to go it alone because the most important thing is to protect the guilty, shameful secret of their addiction.  As if nobody else has noticed there's something badly wrong!

Seriously, I can see your life being ruled by your husband's addiction based on what I'm reading here.  Not trying to be harsh, just honest.  We've all been there and know how difficult it is to change the focus to ourselves.  You're assuming responsibility for your husband's actions by believing you have the power to prevent him from using.  You don't have any more control over him than he does right now.  It's all too easy to fall into that DEA cop role and fool ourselves into thinking that we're "helping" our loved addict by busting them every time they use.  All that does is get us even more angry when we find out we've been bald-faced lied to again.

So what to do?  It would be wrong of me to tell you what to do.  It's your life.  You have to make your own decisions.  That's where Al-anon can help.  Right now you're angry, confused, betrayed and that's not exactly conducive to making good, rational decisions.  Did you know the Al-anon program is the exact same 12-step program as AA and NA?  If you actually work the steps with a sponsor you'll find yourself more clearheaded and able to make sound decisions.

I guess I can tell you what I finally did and if you take some hope from it, then great.  For years I watched my husband fall into the pit of drug abuse and alcoholism.  He nearly died trying to home detox off Sub when he overdosed on the "comfort" meds and mixed them with mass quantities of alcohol in a vain attempt to escape the symptoms.  I backed away from life during those years and watching him overdose left me in a pit of revulsion and disgust for the both of us.

He finally got off the drugs but his drinking was completely out of control.  By then I refused to ever be seen with him in public.  Even his drinking buddies wanted nothing to do with him.  I was completely isolated because of my husband's addiction.  That's what happens to us if we let another's addiction take over our lives.

After a week-long binge, the scales fell from my eyes and I finally blew a gasket.  He hadn't worked in over 2 years and we were living on an inheritance from my mother who died in March.  Had I allowed it to continue, he would would have partied his way through every last penny.  I think that hurt me more than anything else.  I changed all the passwords on the bank accounts and notified our financial advisor that I was rescinding his access to my money.  That left him with a pittance of a 401-K to blow.  

I gave him a choice of going to rehab or packing his bags because I was done. with. him.  I was enabling his addiction by simply paying the household bills and keeping him fed and housed.  No more.  I'd been watching him kill himself for years and I frankly didn't care whether he lived or died or where he did it at that point as long as I didn't have to see it.  I just wasn't going to to live in this insanity for one more minute.

Funny how things have changed since that day in June.  My husband always sneered at AA and 12-step programs and was adamant he would never participate in one.  I was fully prepared for this 25-year relationship to be over and done with.  Well, he shocked the crap out of me by choosing rehab and fully embracing the 12-step program.  He works on his recovery; I work on mine; and our relationship is probably the most sound it's ever been.  You just never know what can happen but the first thing that has to happen is that you both admit that going it alone isn't working and get help.  It's out there if you're ready for it.
495284 tn?1333894042
Hi and welcome~~

Right now there is nothing you can do for your husband.  He has to be the one to make the choice of getting clean.  You can say all you want to him but if he isnt ready to get clean for himself he will just get sneakier as that is what we do.  As for you, get involved with Alanon or seek out a therapist.  You dont need to live in his addiction.  You need to take care of you.  The family members take the brunt of our addiction and it can take you to the depths of he!! if you dont take care of you.  Surround yourself with others who are or have gone thru this.  They will give you some really good advice on how not to enable him as that is the worst thing you can do for an addict.  I know this is hard, very hurtful and so many questions arise.  Keep talking with us as we do care.  There are some members on here who have loved ones who are addicts and they have some great advice.  Keep checking back as it is late now so some may be in bed but will be around tomorrow~~~sara
1831920 tn?1320857757
As sarah said Alanon is a great resource.  I am sorry you are going thru this.  Addicts seem to hurt the ones they love the most.  It is just a symptom of the addiction.
Avatar universal
Thank you. I totally forgot to add that he's bipolar and on clonapin and lamictal and ritalin just for that. Like I said I've been around addicts my whole life. And I'm still totally blindsided. He said he's not going to do it again but I have serious concerns about replacement addictions. I know he's hasn't taken any since yesterday since I have been with him. He just sneaked 150 mgs of seroquel at 6 am though. His reason? So he could sleep. So I'm about to start trashing stuff. I know he has to want this and I'm certainly not going to enable him. Any tips for not enabling a devoting heroine addict?
Thanks Cassie.
82861 tn?1333453911
Tips?  "Let go and let God."  Your reaction to discovering your husband's relapse was not the reaction of an adult life partner and spouse but that of a parent trying to discipline a child.  Do you really want to turn into a DEA cop too?  My intent is not to be critical but to open your eyes to what usually happens to a marital relationship where addiction is concerned.  We become parents and caretakers and that's not what marriage is supposed to be.

The hardest thing for us to do is to stand aside and allow our loved addicts to experience the consequences of their own actions and not try to save them from themselves.  That doesn't mean we do nothing at all.  Our job is to establish clear boundaries to protect our physical health, mental health and financial health from the addict's actions.  You're the only one who can determine what those boundaries may be.  Apparently you had already set a boundary that if your husband relapsed it was a marital dealbreaker.  Since you didn't act on that boundary, he already knows you didn't mean it and there were no consequences when you busted him.  

Al-Anon has so much to offer and you have much to learn from them.  We don't sit in there and tell war stories about our addicted and alcoholic loved ones.  We examine our own behavior and make changes to improve our own lives while dealing with the insanity that loving an addict brings to us.  You have no more power over your husband's addiction than he does.  You do have the power to improve and protect your own life and sanity.
Avatar universal
Thank you jaybay, While your initial approach was a little harsh I understand what you're trying to say. What you didn't say though is what you think I should do. Alanon won't do anything to get us through his detoxing. Which by the way is what I'm currently dealing with.  He told me he really wants to get clean but who knows if I believe him. And the only reason I'm even dealing with it instead of parking his detoxing butt in rehab is to protect his mom who doesn't deserve to have this on her shoulders AGAIN.  And as far as consequences go, what do you suggest? Trust me when I say him facing his consequences is not a problem for me. You're absolutely right I have no desire to be his warden, but I really don't know what to do beside sit here and make sure he can't get any drugs right now. Once that's done, maybe Alanon will be my next step. And frankly I can't honestly say I won't leave him. I don't know if I'll ever be able to trust him again. Which is why I said I need guidance.
1235186 tn?1549257619
Is he prescribed 150mg of seroquel?
Does he abuse his bipolar meds?
Did he taper the suboxone with the help of a doctor?  The suboxone withdrawals can last for a month or more.
Does he attend support groups such as na or aa?
To maintain his sobriety takes work.
During his detox He needs to stay hydrated,eat small amounts of food,soups,crackers. It is best if he moves around.take walks. Has he been to the doctor who prescribes his bipolar meds and confessed to his heroin use?
Avatar universal
You know its times like these I find the ironic blessing in the fact that I've been around alcoholics and addicts all my life. If I'd had a normal childhood I probably wouldn't have had any clue he was using again. Yes he is prescribed the sequel. The extent of his abuse of his bipolar meds is trading them for subs. He's never been in a sub program but yes we did wean him off them, just not with the help of a doctor. I have, unfortunately been through suboxone and subutex withdrawal with him in the past. My problem with it has always been that he got it on the street and not through a legitimate program. Thank you for you're advise on detoxing, I am already doing those things but can't get him to exercise to save my life. Although he did help me carry in the groceries. I think he's just so depressed that I caught him and he's not getting to do things his way... Which obviously didn't work for him so IDK. As far as him working on his sobriety remember I'm in the process of hating myself for not seeing him slipping months ago so he probably hasn't been working at it very hard. Yes he admitted to doing heroine. He won't tell me when he did it last. So I'm baseing it on the last time he was away from me which was Saturday.
Avatar universal
I just thought of something. What is the difference between suboxone withdrawal SYMPTOMS and heroine withdrawal symptoms? What if he's been using all this time and I thought these detoxing sessions were from subs but they were really him withdrawing from heroine because he couldn't get it?!?! Yeah I'm completely Freaking out here. I have to tell someone so I can get out of this house and to a group! I am so lost here!
82861 tn?1333453911
Forgot to add that in my opinion, I don't think you should protect your husband's mom from what's going on.  You're actually protecting The Secret rather than protecting her.  Sure, she's going to be angry and disappointed, but your husband needs to hear it.  He needs to hear and see what his behavior is doing to the people he supposedly loves.  Depriving him of that is just one more way of enabling his addiction.  You can help her by making sure that she understands that her son's addiction is not her fault.  It is NOT on her shoulders.  It is HIS burden and HIS responsibility to repair.

For years we treated my husband's mom the same way - like she was a fragile piece of antique china.  Well, she didn't reach 90 years of age without seeing the bad side of life.  She's a lot tougher than we gave her credit for.  She already endured my husband's first round of addiction and even jail time when he was a teenager so it's not like the news would be anything new.  I was shocked out of my shoes when he took the bull by the horns and told her himself.  She didn't flip out or anything of the sort.  She knew something was badly wrong and was actually glad to finally have it out in the open.  A whole lot of anxiety was wiped on my husband's slate with that confession and others that followed.  The Big Bad Secret was out and it wasn't as big and bad as he believed it was.
Avatar universal
I am so sorry for everything you've had to endure.
495284 tn?1333894042
As soon as you quit protecting the addict you will be able to start focusing on your own well being.  Secrets keep us sick~~sara
Avatar universal
I typed this big long update TWICE but its not on here so in the interest of keeping my sanity and not throwing my computer across the room Ill try again later.
495284 tn?1333894042
Dont throw your computer!!!
82861 tn?1333453911
Oh no!!  I can't tell you how many times that's happened to me on this site.  You think everything is fine when you hit that Post button and then POOF.  All gone.  I've started highlighting and hitting the copy button every so often when I'm typing a long response - just in case!  Instead of throwing the computer, try punching a pile of pillows.  It helps sometimes.   :-)
Avatar universal
I was actually asking what the signs of suboxone/subutex use versus the signs of heroin use were. But alas maybe I'll never know or be able to tell the differencce. Today was a good day but at the end of it as I sit typing this and doing my homework for this self-help type program I'm doing I find myself second guessing every minute of the day and previous days since my husband and I have gone back to work. He's doing exceptionally well. Too well I fear and I'm loosing my mind over it. To use an example he and I have been intimate only a few times over the last few weeks. Now that in and of itself is not an issue I mean hey married people dont have sex, not with each other at least...(that was a joke) But when we were not working and together all the time while he detoxed and the subsequent week, he had the stamina of a pubecent boy and I was frustrated. Suddenly now he's a stud and I can't help thinking he must be on something again. I find myself checking his eyes everytime I look at him. And it's not as if I can keep him from using, I just want to know if he is so I can let go. But what if he isn't? Then if I let go I loose everything I've worked for all these years. I found out he has been using something or other the entire time I've know him. At first this was a huge relief. I mean HUGE. I felt justified, elated, vindicated, and an odd sense of ease around him I haven't felt in ages. It was like FINALLY I am learning the REAL man, no decet, no manipulation, no masks, nothing. ( In case your wondering how I am reading his journals from the last 15 years.) All those times I felt so weird around him weren't just me being crazy. They weren't paranoia. They were real bon- a - fide instincts and intuition! And suddenly I had a explanation of how he could fall off the wagon without a figuritive "push" after nearly 5 years sober, He haden't been sober more than 6 months at any point in those 5 years!!!!!! I was soooooo at ease because of this new understanding! I couldn't believe it!
I trully feel better about the lies these last months because I now know he's been lying to me the entire time! How twisted is that?!?!?! I feel exhilerated at the prospect of getting to know the man that is my husband FOR REAL this time.
But is it real? Is he sober? Is he clean? How can I know? These new questions sprung up after the moment I let go of not understanding what doing this to him.
Jaybay, when your husband got clean how did you know without a shadow of a doubt that he really was doing it? How did you rebuild any trust? How did you not go crazy every time he walked out of the room without you? I mean I KNOW I can't help him be clean, I KNOW I can't make him stay sober. But how can I KNOW I'll know if he messes up if I missed it all this time? I know they're master liars and sneaks and all that other stuff but I need to KNOW with all certainty that he is clean to begin the next step of getting to know him all over. I feel as though by not being certain I am wasting my time trying to get to know this person, I don't even know who it is I love because I don't know who he really is! This is an incredably frustrating way to feel! Today will be 17 days if it's true that he's clean and I can't tell you how much I feel it's just been too easy. You know...  It hasn't been easy at all.
Avatar universal
WELL, I didn't throw my computer. That's at least one thing I can say! I just wanted to let you know We've told everyone in his life. His whole family knows, except his dad who might get himself thrown in jail if he did find out, and my parents, who are just not worth the serious threat to my sanity. I gave him back his pills and bank card. And well I have no idea if he's doing the right things. And I'm not gonna know. It's making me nucking futs.
Avatar universal
By the way I used your words in a talk with him. I told him Im not his parent, I'm his partner and I wasn't going to be DEA that he had to show he was going to do it himself so I could let go. I let go but God only knows if he's doing it himself. He says he's trying.
82861 tn?1333453911
Yeah, it's a crazy time when everything you thought you knew about your husband turned out to be wrong.  :-/

First, on the suboxone/subutex issue.  It's a narcotic.  Period.  The difference is that it's a very long-lasting narcotic so you won't see the extreme highs and lows that happen with heroin.  The idea behind sub and other long-acting narcotics like methadone is to get the dose to where the addict doesn't feel withdrawal but also doesn't get buzzed.  Without the distraction of constant cravings and the pursuit of a buzz, he can turn his mind to getting his shite together.  That's the way it's supposed to work anyway.  Many people just look at sub as a magic pill that will allow them to skip the detox process and they completely ignore the mental issues that got them to this place to begin with.  That's relapse waiting to pounce.

Sub (buprenorphine) is an odd molecule.  It's called a partial agonist opioid.  All that means is that it sits on the same receptors in the brain as other narcotics but it doesn't fit quite as well.  It also stays there longer than other opiates.  If your husband is taking it appropriately, you won't notice symptoms of him being high.  If he stops taking it or starts to wean off it, he will go through the same withdrawal symptoms (if not worse) than any other opiate.  Sub needs to be weaned VERY slowly.

If your husband is taking Subutex rather than Suboxone, I would be suspicious.  Without the naloxone component of Suboxone, he can still add other opiates like heroin and get high.  Most addicts can't be trusted with it.  Their brains always tell them that more is better.  It's an uncontrollable reaction while they're using.

On the sex issue, what you're seeing is completely normal.  While a person is using, sex drive is pretty much nonexistent.  When a person detoxes, the urge is unbelievably strong.  It's the brain trying to manufacture feel-good chemicals again.  Narcotics render that function unneccessary so the brain goes into overdrive for a while until those chemicals stabilize.  

Brain chemistry is why addicts have such a horrible time emotionally when they quit or even taper down to the point where they can feel the effects.  It's a frightening time for them.  After having their emotions medicated into oblivion for so long they get bombarded with emotions and they have no idea and no skills to deal with them.  Think of people who became addicted as teenagers.  Their emotional development is frozen at that age.  All at once their brains wake up to no chemicals and they're overwhelmed with things they've never had to deal with in years.  They have no idea how o deal with anger, anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, even love and emotions that are supposed to be pleasant.  Every time they felt a strong emotion, there was a pill or an injection that would calm it down.  That's all they know.  It takes time and dedication and work to get through those first weeks and months without their drug of choice as a soothing mechanism.  That's why seriously working a recovery program like AA/ NA WITH a sponsor is so important.  They've been there and done that and have the tools to help keep their sponsees on track.  We don't.  

I can't tell you how much stress and anxiety is off my shoulders knowing my husband has a hard-core sponsor.  It's not my place and it's not my job to help him through cravings.  It's his resonsibility to call his sponsor and work it through with him.  As long as he keeps picking up the phone, I'm happy.

One of the hardest things for me to accept about addiction is that relapse happens.  It's a relapsing condition.  Of course, my mind rebelled against that.  "What happened to 'just say no' and all that stuff?"  It's not that simple.  Addicts have to learn from their mistakes just like anyone else.  If they're in a recovery program, those relapses are more likely to be short "slips" rather than a free-fall slide back to where they started - or worse.  If we don't allow them to make those mistakes, they don't learn.

Your husband is still in the denial stage.  He's still trying to protect the Secret by insisting that he can control his use without working a recovery program.  Yes, it's delusional but it's a stage most addicts have to go through before they learn that they really can't do it alone.  It's great that you've stepped back from the DEA cop routine, but I really hope you'll hit some Al-Anon meetings so you'll learn how, and what, boundaries you need to set for yourself to minimize the damage while your husband hopefully reaches that epiphany.  I did so much harm to myself by stepping aside but doing nothing to help myself.  Isolation is its own form of death.

After all these years I know the symptoms when my husband is using.  The pinned pupils, chatterbox nonsensical talking, sleep-talking, sleep-fighting, hiding out in front of the computer doing things I'd probably rather not know about.  I have no problem busting him - proof or not - and throwing his arse out if that happens, and he knows it.  (That's my boundary.  It may not be yours.)  

I have to take each day as it comes, be grateful for it, and try not to project into the future.  I don't want to be that angry, suspicious person ever again.  Even if you aren't ready to try some meetings, pop into one and see what literature they have available.  There are tons of books you can purchase that will help you understand this life with addiction so much better than I can do here.
Avatar universal
Yea I hate the whole suboxone bs I already knew all that you told me and have hated it since I found out about it. HE SWORE it was just keeping him off the H but never got himself into a legit Sub program so you know it's a crap excuse.  And since he was using Subs and H until I caught him 3 weeks ago its obviously just him lying to himself.  And speaking of lying to yourself I'm pretty sure I am. Im fairly certain he's still using I don't think its heroin I think its the suboxone again. He back to no sex drive unless he's sleeping, i.e. he wakes up in the middle of the night and rolls over to "do it" I keep finding weird numbers on the phone usage details, both texts and calls. Number from parts of town he swears he doesnt know anyone. Wierd shi* is showing up in my data usage and He's not writing in his journal nor has he gotten himself a sponser yet. And I can't stand being in a marriage like this. I'm sick with the stress of it. I hate myself for being so paranoid, but my paranoia is totally justified. Perfect example: he's crushing his ridalin. Says he does that then drinks it so he doesn't have to swallow a pill. Funny thing is he never has a drink when I catch him crushing the s**t. I keep telling him to stop crushing it if he wants me to start working on trusting him and he says he will then I catch him doing it again. I'm pretty sure he's snorting it for the rush. and I'm pretty sure he's using it to cover up the symptoms of the suboxone. I just think I'm gonna give up even though he told me if he looses me over this, he'd do something bad. I just can't live like this. And he knew from the getgo I couldn't. Who cares if I havent been married long enough to even get my name changed. I feel so broken. Jaybay how did you do it all those years? You must be super-human. I don't know what to do with myself. I'm so lost and so broken.
82861 tn?1333453911
I'm not at all super human and I was just as broken as anyone else in a situation like this.  Just ask dominosara!  If she didn't live hundreds of miles away from me I know she would have cheerfully bashed me over the head with a cudgel on a daily basis.  LOL!  :-D

Healing didn't happen for me until I got in a recovery program of my own through my husband's rehab facility and Al-Anon.  It's up to you to stop the insanity in your life even if your husband continues to use.  

My marriage wasn't a marriage.  We were roommates who didn't even particularly like one another.  I sat there and allowed him to ruin us financially and I did nothing but hide in my depression and misery.  I look back on those times and I'm appalled at my actions.  Everyone kept saying "Al-Anon!" and I never went until I finally had enough of both his life and mine.  Just as the addict has to be ready to get help, so do we who are affected by the addict.

Everything you've written tells me that you are just as sick as I was.  You're living your life for your husband.  Everything you do revolves around what he may or may not do at any given moment of every day.  That's not a marriage and that's not living.  

Whether you stay or leave the marriage is entirely up to you, but at least give Al-anon a shot and learn some coping skills before you make any big decisions.  Everything you learn at Al-anon can be applied to the rest of your life and help you avoid getting into harmful relationships in the future.  There are tons of books available through AA/Al-Anon that can help you if you're not ready to jump in whole hog yet.  

You don't have to be this sad, broken person for one more minute.  Forums like this one are great, but nothing beats personal one-on-one contact.  You can't change your husband but you can learn to live your life for YOU.  Your life is important.  You've given up enough of it for your husband's addiction.  :-)
495284 tn?1333894042
Jaybay was SUPER STUBBORN!!!  I talked with her for a LONG time about taking care of her but it fell on deaf ears for quite some time.  When she had had enough she finally did something about it, just as you will.  Right now your husband is giving you every excuse in the book of why and how he is using.  Until he makes the decision to stop this will continue.  His comment to you about doing something bad if you left is his sick way of holding on to you and playing on your emotions.  His addiction is not your fault, his excuses are just that.  Your trust is broken with him now and that is okay to feel this way, it is justified.  Trust takes along time to get back and he is doing nothing about it.  All you can do now is take care of you.  Alanon will help that.  Those people have been thru what you are going thru now.  They will be a great support for you and friendships will develop.  This doesnt mean you dont love your husband, you just love yourself more.  Dont continue to live in his addiction Cassie, you are worth so much more~~~sara
82861 tn?1333453911
See, I told you so!  LOL!

Emotional blackmail is just a part of living with an addict.  My husband did the same thing and I fell for it too.  When I finally figured out he was already killing himself with his multiple addictions, his threats had no more power.
Avatar universal
Cassiet!! I am in the same boat. Mine fiance was clean when I met him. I believe about 3-4 years.

I don't do drugs either. Never have and been around it my whole life. Mine will emotionally black mail me at times, threaten to kick me out, tell me things like "I did this for you or that, I got you the puppy you wanted, nothing I do matters to you" ....

I tried Alanon meetings it was not for me. I don't know if I was expecting some magical advice or not but it was not for me what so ever.

Right now I basically just sort of separated myself from him and our relationship is pretty much a fail at this point. BUT a very small piece of me is hoping we can fix our relationship. The first step to that is him being sober. As time goes on I get less and less hopeful. I know in my head the only way is me leaving, but my heart keeps me here.
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