Addiction: Substance Abuse Community
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Personality Quirks/Signs/Stress

I am living with a 46 year old man for 16 months who has been clean for two years from extensive cocaine and crank use for over 20 years.  He did attend a drug class (required by the Courts) but does not feel any additional counseling is needed.

He is now an alcoholic and probably has been for a long time in addition to the drug use.   I am trying to learn how all this has affected his personality, his dealing with issues on a daily basis.  We are having problems obviously, he will only clean up his drinking on a short term basis if I threaten him with breaking up.  I would like to learn the changes in personality, and all the issues that affect him and for how long from the drug abuse.  I have never dealt with a person suffering from an addictive personality/behavior, and would like to learn how I can handle it and how I can help him, without enabling him.

Thank you.
71 Responses
Avatar universal
I don't know whether you can help him much at this point but you can get a lot of support from the people in ALANON.  They probably have more experience than anybody with these matters and it's free.  J.B.
Avatar universal
I'd agree with J.B. about Al-Anon.  Believe me, as an addict myself I know that there is no changing us until and if we want to change ourselves.  Threatening to leave and other ultimatums will only work for so long and then no longer.  When we decide that we want our drug of choice more than we want you (the Other in the relationship) to stay, or, to be brutally honest, when we decide that you are no longer useful to us, we will leave without a second thought oftentimes.  Not to be rude, but you most definitely cannot help this person with their issues of addiction and abuse, no matter how much you may want to do so.  You can only help yourself by relating to others in your situation to see how they cope.  In NA, we are taught that we need to be selfish about our recovery to the exclusion of *everything and everyone else* if we truly want to stay clean and recover our lives.  Although I am not a member of Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, I would imagine that their organizations would suggest a similar regimen for people in relationships with active addicts or alcoholics.  Hope I have helped a bit.  Good luck on your journey to healing.

Avatar universal
20 years of coke use? And now alcoholism at 47. This might sound cruel, but get out until he seeks recovery on his own accord. Save yourself. For one thing, chronic coke use (and 20 years certainly qualifies as chronic) permanently damages the reward center in your brain, virtually preventing you from ever really feeling "good" again. This is probably what brought him to booze. The person to explain this best is spook. Hope he's still around to respond.

Want to see profoundly damaged people? Go to a CA meeting. The human wreckage you see there is heartbreaking. Nothing else comes close to cocaine when it comes to permanently destroying one's capacity to live a worthwhile life. Oh, and if you get a hankering to buy some coke, don't worry, it will be for sale just outside the door as soon as the meeting ends. I say this to try to get across to you how hopeless MOST long-term coke heads are. I don't know your significant other, but going by the odds, I repeat, get out - save yourself.
Avatar universal
Patrick is right on the money. You can't change him, but he can change you. You are about to get a lesson in manipulation and deceit from a master.

A word here about the romantic fallacy is in order. Romantic love is a hoax deriving from the era of troubadors and poetry and moonlight and roses and idealism. Ego barriers disintegrate during this period, but after this insane stage passes, the ego snaps back into place and the impossible mental and emotional state you've been in disappears. You get back to being you in other words. And he will get back to being himself. And it ain't gonna be pretty.

Did you grow up in an abusive, dysfunctional family? Do think you can, and should, "fix" this guy? You really can't, you know. Ask yourself why you would even consider sacrificing yourself on this particular alter. You sound like an othewise normal, intelligent person. Better to ask your self why? right now, than to be asking yourself why?, why?, why? later on.

Sounds cruel maybe, but if you don't take care of yourself who else is gonna do it? Him? Not a chance.


Avatar universal
All of these responses are so accurate, and all words of people with first hand experience with addiction. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I feel it is so necessary to reinforce the fact the YOU cannot change him,  I have been on both sides of the barrel, trying to change a person I thought needed changing and having someone try like hell to change me,  and I had everyone telling me just what everyone here is telling you I chose not to listen to a word from anyone and had to face the music on my own...I was lied to, used, and then as Pelle mentioned, left in the dust when I was no longer useful, The addict wanted drugs more than me, but, on the other hand, before I chose recovery, I was the one lying, using and leaving people in the dust when THEY were no longer of any use to me...I chose the drugs.  If he is not ready to change, you will be lied to , cheated,taken advantage of and everything else that we addicts do best, and if that is not enough, to top it off you will be totally exhausted, drained of all your energy, beating yourself up over your own guilt because you were unable to help him.  Addiction (when I use the word "addiction" I am referring to any type of Chemical dependency which also includes alochol)takes hostages, it takes us and makes us into prisoners in our own bodies and we in turn take our own hostages in those we love and care about.  Please, just take into consideration what all of us on this forum have told you.  It is truly admirable that you want to help someone you care so much about, I think it is just our basic human instict, but you have to keep in mind that the only person you are responsible for is youself and your own happiness and for you to think otherwise I feel would only be putting yourself in the way of sadness, emptiness and a heartful of loneliness....God truly does help those that help themselves.   God bless you and good luck,    Cindi
Avatar universal
If nothing else, obtain a copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and start reading.  You will learn a lot about how we addicts think and live.  You can replace the word alcohol with cocaine,crack,heroine,Xanax or whatever.  I don't have the book in front of me right now but there is a chapter(7?) called "Working With Others".  That reading may give you some insight on what you are dealing with today.  

I was actively involved with AA for several years and actually worked all twelve steps.  Though I am no longer active in AA and have had some rather bad relapses in the last few years, what I learned in the program has probably been the best education I've ever had.  Too bad that I never quite grasped the idea of being honest with myself in life.  That has probably been my greatest shortcoming.  But I am working on it!  J.B.
Avatar universal
I don't know if I am looking at addiction or depression. If it is simply depression, I will respond differently than if it is addiction. If it is heroin addiction, I know I have to step back and let him decide when he is ready to deal with it. I don't want to make the wrong assumption. He says drugs are no longer an issue. How do I know? Casey
Avatar universal
is he always down? or does he get down, then sweaty an agitated, then finds an excuse to "run an errand," then returns home in a completly tranquil, relaxed or even sleepy mood, and suddenly thinks the world isn't such a bad place after all? And then, does the cycle start all over again the next morning? Might be a clue.
Avatar universal
dear nuge,

sometimes i get so frustrated i want to punch a wall as hard as i  can. my boyfriend is a recovering addict and it has been one of the hardest things i have ever had to deal with.

since we met, he had been going to a methadone clinic for a little over a year. he didn't have a job. he didn't have money. the more we hung out the more i liked him despite the baggage that came with him. our personalities got along so well that i was able to say 'it doesn't matter' whatever his situation was, only that i understand it now and hopefully can work through it with him.

for the most part, it has worked that way. granted, he is 26 and i am 24. he was a heroin addict for 3 years, on methadone for 2. and he REALLY wants to get his life back on track. he WANTS to get and stay clean. I have no doubts about this. so maybe his 'chances' of making it seem a little more hopeful than your man's. but i don't know your man like you do.

anyway, i wanted to write because it really put a downer on me in readng the other responses. i DO BELIEVE in my boyfriend. i DO BELIEVE he can make it.

i have been lied to in ways that tear me apart inside. sometimes i just can't fathom how someone who could love me so much could do such things to me. but then i step back. this isn't him that's stealing from me. it's his addiction.

the lying stemmed from his relapsing back on methadone and being too ashamed to tell me. he'd borrow money for 'cold medicine' and go and get a pill. but i know him well and can see when he's lying. i confronted him time and time again that it was a problem. in a relationship trust is one of the most important things. that was my biggest threat, because it has never crossed my mind to leave him.

once he dealt with the shame and i hammered it in that i NEEDED the truth, he began sharing it all with me. now i feel we are partners in his recovery (as far as that can go anyway), even if he doesn't have anything to give. and the trust is developing. and it feels good.

so let me ask you a fundamental question.. Is your boyfriend worth it?

I struggled for a while because i hadn't made that decision. I was trying to look the other way about his addiction, but realized i couldn't and the denial was only clouding my view of him. When I looked at him for who he is, and when he began to detox off of methadone because he wanted to, i found my answer. i found my support: his desire to get clean.

It is a very selfless act if you are willing to stay with this man. But you also have to know where to draw the line. You can't let yourself get sucked up in his addictive life. You have to be an example.

If you want your boyfriend to get clean and his drinking bothers you. And if HE doesn't care or doesn't REALLY want to get clean..

ask yourself that question.

take care of yourself. know you are not responsible for him. know it is not your job. be a light at the end of the tunnel, but you can't go in the tunnel yourself. Or your light will go out.

Avatar universal
I didn't know how to thank everyone to date for their comments "I'm Nuge", so "thank you".  Reading these comments, this is directed to Cat--hearing her story and her compassion for me--I have to direct this to you.

I "know" "know" "know" what you are going through, and you are still very young as is your boyfriend.  It frightens and angers me that you are willing to make his desire to get clean your support.  I have read these comments these people have made to me and I have to just get to the point when I kick him out, to realize I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE for what he does or what "drug of choice" he may or may not go back to.  I am involved in Al-anon and every one of these comments these people have written to me are right...I know it, I have been choosing to ignore it...more pain for me I guess.  I have let him manipulate my thinking for so long, I can't even find my own thoughts at times anymore.

Your battle will be never ending, self-sacrificing, and you will lose a part of yourself.  I promise you that.  Addicts "still" are addicts even when they are not actively using.  It is not your responsibility to be an example for him; you must understand that you are setting yourself up to fail.

Your love and your willingness to support him is how I have felt; I love my boyfriend to the point where almost more than I love myself...but you know what?  I believe he can get clean, but he has to believe it....and the behavior will always manifest itself.  I don't have the words to tell you.....you sound like a heartfelt beautiful person....but your light is dimming, because you are lighting up someone else.  Who gives you that right?

Listen to me....this is the hardest thing I have ever done....because he has me believing the only thing that is important to him is me....that is not healthy nor right.  I am not the basis for him staying clean.  He is.  You sound like a beautiful person....don't let that wonderful quality be chipped at.  You are "so young" and you need an equal, for all kinds of support....your worth it....and you are not getting it.  Don't do it....Nuge
Avatar universal
Re: the pessimism of my last post on this thread, my attitude and advice to Nudge is based on her significant other's twenty years of cocaine use. I'm not a medical professional and have never claimed to be an expert. But I know what I read by experts. Chronic cocaine use simply burns out the pleasure center in the human brain -- permanently. We all have these pleasure/reward systems in our brains, but one reason people become instantly and hopelessly hooked on that vile poison is that one hit can cause the pleasure/reward center to release 10 to even 100 times the normal amount of dopamine a healthy brain would be releasing as the result of some normal pleasure-giving activity. Take a look at a tomographic (heat) photo of a normal brain's pleasure center next to a photo of the brain of a chronic coke user. One picture is worth a thousand words.
I don't believe narcotic addiction is nearly as hopeless, simply because, as Doc Dan has told us, opiate use by itself does not damage the body or mind. Cat's boyfriend has every chance of recovery and sobriety, followed by a normal life. But I'm not so optimistic about Nudge's. But don't take my word for all of this. I'm an amateur. Consult the experts.

Avatar universal
thanks for writing. it seems the tables have turned and you  have a better grasp of this now.. and maybe my head is the one that needs clearing up. i hope not.

I have never been one to 'need' a boyfriend or another in life. i've always been kind of a loner. in this way i have been able put our relationship to the side and understand i am not getting all i deserve, nor can i expect to at this point. he has to clean himself up first, then we can get to 'us'.

i am a very picky person when it comes to liking someone. the fact that i would willingly stick by this one tells me something.

sure, i could say 'he is not in any shape for a relationship right now' which in some regards is totally true. i understand a relationship needs to be a two-way street.. but he is my best friend. he gives me what he can. he listens to me. he supports me (in my work, my life). the only thing that comes between us are the effing drugs. and this we are working together on.

what i am hearing mostly is that if the person isn't ready to change, they never will. true.

but my bo is ready to change. that's what he is constantly thinking/talking about - that he wants to better his life. and he's taking the steps to prove it... he got a job, is down to a low dose of methadone/day..

so, what am i missing?  it sounds like you don't believe that an addict (whether recovering, active) can ever be in a relationship.

that makes me sad.  :(

but you are right.. this has been a weight on me. it feels good to talk about it with him (and you all) and when i need to escape, i escape. like you, it has taken it's place in the forefront of my mind, which is very distracting (away from myself).. it's only when i think positively about it that i feel good.

nobody ever said it would be easy.


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