Relationships with addicts [discuss]

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Relationships with addicts [discuss]

Post by Prajnaparamita on Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:03 pm

So… I posted about this once before, but my ex boyfriend (who was my first and so far only boyfriend) who I dated for about six months, was a bipolar alcoholic who refused to seek any kind of treatment. Like many alcoholics, he was also very good at hiding it—sure his first reaction whenever something bad happened, or he was anxious, or he was bored was to drink (pretty much always to the point of hung over drunk), and he’d sometimes have 8, 9, 10 drinks a night, but he was also a top student in college, worked nearly full time and had an active social life with plenty of friends. On the outside, it probably seemed like he was fine.

So because of that, I never saw the red flags. All I knew was that one day my boyfriend would be the happy, charming, witty fun person I loved being around, and the next day he might be cold, reserved, mean and snide, picking fights and acting resentful towards me. And at the time it seemed totally random, I had no idea what triggered this change in him, so I figured the problem must be me, that I was doing something wrong to set him off. Eventually our relationship ended because I became too terrified to be around him anymore, I was constantly walking on eggshells never knowing when I was going to mess it up again. We had an amicable breakup though, and remained friends (and eventually friends with benefits) for months afterwards, and I thought that everything was fine, until one day he left me waiting for over two hours at an agreed upon time because he’d gotten drunk the night before again and was hung over and couldn’t get up. And when I expressed my frustration to him gently at having been left waiting for over two hours even though we’d agreed upon the time previously and I hadn’t heard anything from him, he did the thing again where he lashed out at me claiming that I was lying and making things up and imagining things again (even though I could have read him the text message right there where he said what time he’d meet me) which previously I would have believed and started blaming myself. But this time something clicked, maybe it was because the claims he was making were just so preposterously untrue, maybe it was because I’d gotten some distance from him his ability to gaslight me just wasn’t as strong, but I realized that what I had initially thought was random wasn’t random at all—there was a very strong correlation between when he’d been drinking and when my nasty, mean boyfriend would emerge. I told him I wasn’t interested in fighting him over this, hung up, and I haven’t heard from him since.

(Other notes, so it doesn’t sound like I’m just playing couch therapist here—he told me in the past that alcoholism runs in his family, that he started drinking at a very young age, like 11, that in the past he’d tried going cold turkey on alcohol because he felt like it was dangerous for him, and other people in his life, specifically his roommates had mentioned that they think he has a problem with alcohol but he didn’t seem to take their claims very seriously as he told it to me as evidence that his roommates were trying to control him.)

So… I guess right now I’ve been trying to mentally undo some of the damage that was done by my ex. Certainly he left me with a lot of messages about how I’m a bad person and a horrible girlfriend due to how I’d blame myself whenever he would lash out at me. But I think more damaging is the aftermath of the gaslighting—one of his most common responses when I would attempt to call him on his erratic, unstable behavior is to tell me that what I was experiencing was all in my head and it was a result of my anxiety disorder (which I do have and which affects my life in many ways.) Given that I’m used to using the people around me as reality checks to figure out what is real and what is my anxiety and depression, this was particularly powerful in getting me to shut down and start blaming myself instead.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s a lot more I’ll be working through as time goes on and I gain more distance from the relationship—I mostly posted this to get it out, but also because I doubt I’m the only one here who’s been in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) with an addict who was using, and I figured sharing stories and seeing the patterns might be helpful.

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Re: Relationships with addicts [discuss]

Post by Dan_Brodribb on Mon Sep 14, 2015 1:03 pm

Well, if this is the first and only addict you've dated, it might be just a lack of experience.

I'm attracted to addicts. They're unpredictable and often a roller-coaster of emotions and the bad makes the good times feel more exciting. I also think trying to figure them out or the fact that their issues always seem the most important were a way to distract me from looking at myself.

Over the years, I've started to realize that when it comes to relationships, attraction alone isn't enough. Being attracted to someone does not mean I need to pursue them, no matter how strong the feeling may be.

I also attend 12 step groups regularly. A lot of folk are put off by the "God stuff" and talk of powerlessness, and you'd think as a Buddhist agnostic I'd be the same, but I've found it helpful. It seems to work whether I believe in it or not.

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Re: Relationships with addicts [discuss]

Post by Prajnaparamita on Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:53 am

My ex was the first addict I ever dated, and also my first romantic relationship ever, so the red flags were even harder to see. I don't think I'm attracted to addicts at all--I know I am attracted to people with mental health struggles, just in that I don't know how I could relate to someone who had zero experience struggling with it, as its so much a part of my life (also swapping psych ward horror stories is a great way to bond)--but that's different. I guess one of the biggest draws to me about my ex was he was a "reformed bad boy", that I didn't have to reform myself. He could have this sexy and dangerous past but still want to spend his days with me going on bike rides and cuddling in bed and being boring and quiet and introverted with me, and I could do the good girlfriend things of baking him apple pie and looking forward to meeting his mother.

So yeah, I'm not super afraid of dating an addict again because I don't think I'm attracted to the hot-cold dynamic (in fact it's a real turn-off for me--every time I picked up the phone I had no idea which version of him, kind, cruel or out of control I would be speaking to, and it scared the shit out of me) it's just that as a first relationship I'm still trying to unpack what unhelpful lessons he taught me and try to figure out an accurate assessment of how I am in relationships and if I can be in a place to date again.

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