My feelings for my partner of 10 years have shifted from love to compassionate detachment. He is a methamphetamine addict—and was before we met—but he is increasingly unstable. He takes pain medication for a degenerative disc disease, but meth gives the most relief. I do not use drugs. He wants to quit and did nine years ago for about four months. He is verbally abusive when coming down from a high. We’ve had major physical fights. He says I am an arrogant ass who gets what I give. I have asked him to move out, but he refuses. Although we have an open relationship, he resents me having sex with other men and accuses me of lying about it. I do have sex with others, but I don’t talk about it. I am uncomfortable at home because he is upset so often, but moving is a financial strain. Is there a fair solution? We respect your opinions and insights.
The fair solution is for both of you to receive the help you need. When we talked by phone, you said your partner didn’t like the spiritual emphasis of Narcotics Anonymous. When he quit meth for four months, he did it on his own. To me, the spiritual focus of 12-step recovery programs is designed to help addicts shift out of the self-centeredness that allows them to justify the choices necessary to feed their addiction. To understand that there is something greater than oneself (“God as I understand God”) engenders the humility required for transformation. This is vital because chemical addiction is a symptom of a deeper suffering that remains unchanged until the chemical addiction is addressed. In combination with individual psychotherapy or spiritual direction, the 12-step structure (groups, steps and sponsors) is especially powerful because while the addict is reminded that he is not alone, he also is supported in chiseling away the neurotic thoughts and behaviors that foster addiction. Of course, it is also possible to be addicted to volatile relationships. Al-Anon is for anyone who has a relationship with an addict.
Obviously, meth is not a painkiller. Is the prescribing physician aware that your partner is self-medicating? Are you self-medicating, too? Perhaps you’re using sex as a stress release or as an intimacy placebo.
Finally, name-calling is unkind, but you can take away a bully’s power by agreeing: “I guess I am an arrogant ass sometimes.” All of us are jerks occasionally. If an ego can’t accept that, it’s stuck in self-deception.
I just filed for divorce. My husband used marijuana throughout our 18-year marriage. Recently, I began noticing alcohol on his breath and empty bottles beneath his car seat. I told him I did not want him driving our kids around. He said he’s not perfect, but he has never been arrested for drunk driving or drug possession, so there is no problem. My boys found porn, pot and empty liquor bottles at his new apartment and want nothing to do with him. I agree. Am I wrong to feel this way?
No feeling is wrong. Problems arise when we use out-of-control emotions to fuel our neurotic egos. Focus instead on your strength. Love—for yourself, your sons and your ex-husband—inspired you to set healthy boundaries. Now, love your family (and the rest of us on Sacramento’s roads) enough to maintain boundaries. Your guilt will ease as your confidence grows in making new choices. Al-Anon (see my response to the previous question) or therapy can help.