Addiction and Hope, Why I Keep Coming Back for More

Last week, we had a chat about how it was important for us to have more conversations about the hard parts of relationships: about divorce, calling off a wedding, infidelity, rough patches, and loss. I think it’s important to have these conversations without judgment, because we learn something when we hear about other women’s experiences, and because sharing experiences shields us a bit from isolation and shame. So today’s anonymous post is about loving and marrying an addict, and it’s wise and wonderful.

I married an addict.

My husband and I have been together since high school. We’ve been together for over a decade, and married for about a year. My husband has been an addict for all of this. And I married him anyway.

When we were younger, there were always signs (aren’t there always?). Everyone helping someone fight addiction has their own stories, but they sound so similar. For years, we experienced the warning signs, the forced ignorance, the repetitive fights. Our fighting and stress wasn’t always out in the open, but it wasn’t completely invisible. Our close friends knew how his addiction strained our relationship. How it wore on me– my frustration, tears, ultimatums.

My husband has dealt with this issue for years. Initially his response was to give in, to ignore problems, to gloss over it all. We were in college, young and impetuous and as long as we kept moving, we thought it wouldn’t be a problem. As long as he didn’t drink and drive, as long as it never got “out of hand,” it would be okay. After we were engaged, he began thinking of our forthcoming marriage, and he chose to confront his addiction head on. His struggle isn’t easy, of course. The addiction, while a problem on its own, was a symptom of harder problems, more personal issues. Depression, anger, frustration, self-doubt. So he struggles. He’s been sober, he’s fallen off the wagon, and gotten back on again. He fights every day.

And I’m here, through it all. Because he’s not just fighting, he’s fighting for us.

It’s not pretty, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it. But it’s hard for me. It’s hard for him, of course—but sometimes I am upset because it’s hard for ME. It can be a selfish emotion, but I am frustrated with this struggle and the pain. I think of how unfair it is to be “saddled” with this. How other people have it easy, how their partners may be difficult but they don’t have this burden constantly hindering their relationship, and how I need to deal with it.

But I don’t have to deal with it. I could leave, walk away from our relationship, and find a “better man.” In the darkest moments of our relationship, in the times when he was most consumed by the addiction, I thought about it, wept over it, threatened to leave.

But I can’t leave, and I won’t, because I love him.

He is fighting his addiction, seeking help, and making himself a better person. That’s part of our vows—we promised to support one another and challenge each other to be the best person we can be. My selfish frustration is nothing compared to what he goes through, and as long as we are both fighting together, then it isn’t quite so bad. He is, without question, worth whatever struggle I endure. He is working to create the future we envision together, and I admire his strength, his discipline, his self awareness. I have loved this man for over a decade. Who would I be if I abandoned him when he needed me most?

Don’t get me wrong– There are people you need to leave and relationships that wear out their ultimatums; I would never doubt those who have left a relationship because of addiction. This is about the truly singular nature of relationships— no one can understand a relationship unless they are experiencing it, knowing what is intensely hard or truly wonderful. Addiction is a mighty and fearful force that is horrible to deal with. We each find a path that is right for us– leaving because of the addiction, staying in spite of it.

It is a tough road for both my husband and I. We each need to throw off our insecurities, our fears, our self-doubt. So we fight for our future. We do what we need to – therapy for us together, therapy for each of us on our own. We share goals and hopes. We turn to each other for strength and for love. Our baby family is what we turn to in our hardest moments. Lao Tse says that “being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” We give that to one another. We are both fighting for our future.

I knew what I was getting myself into, and I married him anyway.

And, because her writing so often speaks to the fears and hopes and beatings of my heart, the words of Mary Oliver (“Wild Geese”):

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Because we are not on our knees repenting anymore. We turn to one another instead and tell each other that you are the thing I love. We tell each other our despairs, and listen closely. If we have each other, we can get through anything. His addiction is not the end of our relationship, or what defines him the most. We are stronger than that. Through the pain and frustration of addiction, we realize exactly where we fit in the family of things, and it is side by side, with each other.

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  • Rachel

    You are a very strong woman. My dad battled alcohol addiction for 15 years. To this day he credits having a strong woman at his side, loving him, supporting him, and refusing to give up on him, as the reason he was finally able to overcome his addiction. Everytime he tried to get sober and fell back off the wagon, she was there, saying I love you, now lets try this again. Ultimately he checked himself into an intensive rehab facility. She never judged him, she visited him everyday, always reminding him that she loved him. He’s been sober for a decade now. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Beth

    For a long time I judged my mother for staying with my father (an addict for many, many years) – how could she keep letting him do this to her and to us? I thought the fact that she stayed with him, by his side through it all made her weak.

    Now, with a husband of my own, I can see that her choices showed her strength. She was strong enough to stick by him and honor her vows, as well as single-handedly raise two kids when he wasn’t able to help. Because of her love and strength, he’s been sober for over 10 years.

    I’m in awe of people like my mom – and people like this anonymous woman.

  • Erin

    Such wise, loving words. Thanks for being so generous and sharing them with us.

    I found and memorized this poem this week, but couldn’t figure out why exactly it resonated so deeply with me. Reading it in the context of your story, I understood a little better the forgiveness, the generosity of spirit, the love it expresses, and why I want these words to live in my own memories, too.

  • Anon for now

    I too, married an addict. The difference was that he was in a later stage of recovery. A little less than a year before he met me, he had gone through a rehab program. So I knew him as a sober, abstaining addict. And throughout the entire time I’ve known him (dating & married) he always treats me so wonderfully, and is great to be around. Except for the one time when he went off on a bender. But after that we both went into counseling (which his friends said he’d adamantly always refused, but did this time because he wanted to save our relationship), and he’s been on the wagon ever since.

    So I don’t have any horror stories, but sometimes I still get nervous. He admits that he has an addictive personality, so when we were on our honeymoon cruise and he expressed an interest in learning to gamble, I was petrified. (He didn’t end up gambling…but historically he has a tendency to want to screw up his life when everything’s going really well…which was what happened the one time he got drunk since I’ve known him). We’ve been looking for life insurance, and because he was in rehab 3 years ago, most companies consider him uninsurable.

    Most days (or heck, weeks), the addiction issues don’t even register as a blip in my thoughts, much less an issue that causes me serious consternation. But it’s still there floating around somewhere in the back of my mind. But I’m really looking forward to the other comments to see what other APWers experiences have been. Because usually whenever I read about relationships and the addiction word come up, they said to end it. But I don’t want to end this relationship. It’s great, and I’ve now said the vows linking us forever. Yet I’d love to hear about how others have dealt/are dealing with this.

  • I thank you for sharing your story and that amazing poem. I am frequently reminded how much words give me both strength and courage.

  • Angela

    Oh wow, so thoughtful and honest. I’ll spend the rest of the day rolling this one around in my head. I think what strikes me is that my slightly younger self would have immediately responded, “Girl, leave him!” But life and love are so much more complex than that, aren’t they? So much more.

    • KMA(C)

      I want to “exactly” this comment 11 times over. And the depth of love, wisdom, and strength in this post? They resonate so much it almost hurts. Thank you for this!

  • Jen M

    I wish you strength. Thank you for sharing.

  • Edelweiss

    It’s so rare to have a source that promotes marriage through the hard stuff. Most woman’s media and advice columns leap onto the “you deserve x” bandwagon. I’m so appreciative of APW for the reminders of what marriage vows really mean. And to the anonymmous writer, thank you for bravely and honestly recounting your journey so far. Best of luck to both of you.

  • ElfPuddle

    Thank you. For your strength, your courage, and your wisdom. We needed this today.

  • anonymeg

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. I am another one of the group in this community who likewise is choosing to stay with (and marry) my addict. It has been a very, very tough struggle to figure out what to do, but my answer, like yours, ends up being simple: I love him. I have the courage to stay with him, and it rewards me in small ways practically every day. At each really hard turn in our story, when I’ve privately (or vocally) thought about leaving, I can’t come to the point. Not because I’m weak (though of course I’ve worried that), but because I’m not ready to give up the wonderful relationship that we have, and the promise of our life together.

    My story is like another commenter’s in that my fiance was already sober when I met him, so I’ve known him as a recovering addict for the entire time I’ve known him (6 years now.) He’s struggled with his addictions, but again, like the writer of this post, the addictions are not his main problems. I frankly see them as a symptom of, as she says “harder problems, more personal issues. Depression, anger, frustration, self-doubt.” Amen to that!! Sure, it may be a symptom that manifests itself because of a genetic predisposition, but the addiction itself is not the problem. The depression, the low self-esteem. Those are the real problems. And as a good Al-anon member, I know that I didn’t cause, can’t cure, and can’t control the alcoholism. But I CAN help him as he works to combat his depression and build strength in himself. And I can support him through the low points.

    I also really identified with this: “I could leave, walk away from our relationship, and find a “better man.” In the darkest moments of our relationship, in the times when he was most consumed by the addiction, I thought about it, wept over it, threatened to leave.” Yes. double yes. Exactly. I’ve been down that road, most specifically when he relapsed about a year ago, for the first time since I’d known him. It was an awful, awful month. I cried a lot, I screamed (and I am not a screamer), and I withdrew from my own life, trying to figure out what to do. In the end, I let him figure it out on his own. I didn’t threaten to leave if he didn’t get sober. I didn’t have to. And eventually, he did get sober. And has been for a year now. And more importantly, he’s figuring himself out in this year in a way he hasn’t before. It’s heartening to watch, and makes me so proud, and happy. I won’t say that I never have doubts anymore, but I still know that I am making the right decision for me, right now, by staying in this relationship.

    Last but not least (and sorry for the novel here, but this is obviously something I spend a lot of time thinking about!), I have to admit and talk about the fact that this whole thing is still terrifying. The threat of relapse: sometimes vague and sometimes all too close and real. The worry about our kids, if we have them: will they struggle too with addiction? will they end up having awful stories of growing up with an addicted father? It’s terrifying. Because before the marriage, regardless of the complications of breaking up a relationship, it is still just a break up. And once we say our vows, things change. We both take the idea of marriage very seriously. But being part of this community and getting to hear about other people’s relationships (warts and all) and the struggles they go through both internally and with their partners — that makes me feel validated and more sure of myself and my path. So thanks for this post today. So much.

    • I’m in a similar situation. I’m not married or engaged to my alcoholic in recovery, but we have been together for a long time. And I agree so so so so so much with the comment about it being so closely tied with low self-esteem, depression and extreme anxiety. While he’s been sober for 5 years, his addiction and his recovery colors so much of what he does and how he acts–because he’s not just fighting the urge to drink, he’s also facing all of the things that make him want to drink.

      Also, pause for a second about how many ignorant people ask if he’s still doing the whole “not drinking” thing. I truly thought everyone was familiar with the culture of AA and addiction being a lifelong struggle until this relationship. Even some of my most intelligent, most educated friends can be really condescending about it. Whatevs, I tell them but it rattles me.

      I have a lot of concerns about his addiction, too. I worry a lot about children–like how to discuss the possibility of them having the same struggles in a way that’s not a scare tactic but is also serious. We talk abut what would happen if he relapsed, which is scary. But I love him and want to support him. Every relationship needs work and sacrifice. This is work and sacrifice with another support group.

      • clampers

        Ugh I totally hear you with the condescending comments! It really irritates me when I hear (especially from intelligent people, as you noted) those little cutting comments. I can’t even give examples because it’s the kind of thing where it’s so small that you can’t remember what exactly they said, but you know it’s coming from a place of condescension. Chalk it up to ignorance, I guess.

  • I love how you said you’d never doubt people who couldn’t stay in a relationship because of an addiction, and similarly I do not doubt that knowingly marrying and continuing to be with an addict is the right choice for you. You’re strong and brave, and I really appreciate you sharing your story.

  • Powerful stuff, this.

  • SpaceElephant

    Thank you for this. My fiance and I both had fathers with addiction problems (drugs and alcohol) who have passed away. We have had multiple conversations about the ramifications of this, the studies that indicate that addiction may be genetic, and so we work hard to watch ourselves, and to watch each other. It’s not a constant worry, just a sort of higher level of alertness in the backs of our minds.
    Your post gives me hope that one of us sinking into addicition is not a dealbreaker, that our vows can carry us through. Thank you.

    • Caroline

      We do too. My mom is an alcoholic in recovery, and he has a lot of alcoholics in his extended family, as
      well as both struggling with a lot of the stuff “behind” alcoholism (depression, anger, self esteem issues, traumatic childhood issues). I also know I have an addictive personality. I get easily addicted to even non chemically addictive things (computer games, tv, etc. As an escape). So we watch out for eachother, and imbibe with care. We never drink because we’re sad, or lonely, or something bad happens. We drink in more moderation than most. We work on our behind the scenes issues, and support eachother in growing through them. And we watch eachother very carefully, so that if one of us started to become an alcoholic, we could give a loving figurative asskicking to a rehab center, support group, therapist or whatever was needed.
      And honestly for us one of the most important elements is working ourselves and our relationsips so that we do not pass on the traumatic family of most children of alcoholics which can continue down generations even without addiction. Our families histories in that manner will stop with us, and we will do what it takes to change that for our children.

  • Benny

    First, thank you so much for your reflection. It is so honest and so appreciated. Second, that Mary Oliver poem brought me so much strength when I was in the process of coming out. It’s interesting to me that it could be so beloved to people in all different kinds of mindsets and life stages. I’m going to throw it out there: honorary apw theme poem? Just saying.

  • You are so strong, and you’re totally allowed to be upset from time to time over how hard it is for you. Because it IS hard, and sometimes you feel alone while you’re facing the hard parts.

    I was in a five-year relationship with a guy who appeared to be on the verge of becoming an addict. He definitely had some of the deeper problems that are often the source of addition like depression and self doubt. We had talked marriage, and there were definitely times I thought I couldn’t handle the stress. He definitely never chose to seek help — despite my encouragement to do so — before he ultimately broke up with me. Two years later, I still wonder if he’s ever sought help.

  • Class of 1980

    This is an issue I have no answers for. It’s thought-provoking to the point of frustration. I always wonder about addicts – are they more likely to prevail if there’s someone by their side who loves them?

    I know someone who is an alcoholic – one of those that tells them self that as long as they don’t drive drunk and still get up in the morning for work, they don’t have a real problem. If anything, they think that sometimes they “drink too much”. Except it’s every day of their life.

    I have learned to stop talking to this person by a certain time of night, because they are so tipsy that no conversation will make a damn bit of sense. And they are prone to stupid arguments then. I have learned not to expect them to remember much of anything they have said the next day. I have learned that if they get a wild idea of culinary genius while they’re drunk, their oven will stay on until the next morning. I have learned that once they fall asleep in a drunken stupor, they can’t even hear a telephone ringing. You wouldn’t want to call them in an emergency.

    I am not in a love relationship with this person, so there is only so much effect they have on me. They are currently single and I wonder how their addiction will play out if they become involved with someone in the future.

    We don’t have a lot of examples of how people with addictions stay married and end up successful at it. Perhaps because people don’t talk about it? I did know a girl years ago whose father had an addiction for years. Her mother was determined to stay with him and he finally did kick it for good. He is so thankful that she stuck with him and their family is intact.

    The poster is probably right in that there is no right or wrong answer to this. Addicted people don’t all act exactly the same way.

    I found out after I was grown up, that my own grandfather became an alcoholic for ONE YEAR of his life, when my mother was six-years-old. During that time, he gambled his paychecks away. To say this information was a shock, was an understatement. He never had an addiction prior. After the one year of hell, he quit and never looked back. Before and after his addiction, he was a fabulous father and grandfather later on. I am forever grateful to have had him in my life.

    My mother at six-years-old knew that something was horribly wrong, but she didn’t know what it was. She asked God to help her father and says it was her first answered prayer.

    If anything, this shows addiction is a real mystery. Beware of pat answers. I sure don’t have any.

  • Thank you for sharing your powerful story. I wish you both continued strength & courage on your journey~

  • another anon for now

    Thank you for sharing your story, a million times over.

    A few months before getting married I was on a wedding forum and someone asked, “what would make you leave?” As I responded, I noticed how different my answers were as a 29-yo woman about to marry my partner of several years than they would have been at a younger (more innocent? more idealistic?) stage in my life. What struck me most was how many responders said they would leave if their partner developed an addiction. After thinking about it for a while, I responded that I would indeed leave my husband if he developed an addiction – but only if he repeatedly made it obvious that he had no desire to seek help or fight his addiction. As long he as was willing to fight – for his life, for our relationship, for our family – then so was I. This is part of my promise as a wife – I will be there for you in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, in good times and bad.

    And this has been relevant to my life. While I am not married to an addict, my husband has a drinking problem. And I have known this the whole time I have known him. The best I can explain it is that he doesn’t have an alcohol off button. He doesn’t have that little voice inside his head that says, okay, last beer. That’s enough. He’s having fun, he’s having one more, and there’s no voice. 99% of the time this leads to him falling asleep on the couch and regretting that last drink the next morning. But sometimes he’s a mean drunk. And while I can’t tolerate either of these situations, I used to turn a blind eye to the easier one because, hey, it’s our early 20’s, everyone drinks too much. Me too. But I fought the mean, and now I fight both. It’s a battle, but years into our relationship I see the hard work he puts into this battle and the drinking problem rears its ugly head once or twice a year instead of once or twice a month, so I continue to fight. This is a fight I know I will have to have for the rest of my life – I have to be that little voice because he doesn’t have it on his own – but it’s worth it. Because, as you said, I love him and as long as he continues to fight, so will I.

    My battle is nothing compared to yours and my heart goes out to you when I think of how hard this must be for you – every day, every year. I share my story not to compare scars, but to let other people in my situation – where there’s a problem, but it’s so easy to hide and so difficult to name that it’s easier to ignore… – know that they are not alone.

    • Ashley

      Thank you for sharing. I would say I’m in virtually the same shoes as you and its always nice to know there are others out there. Sometimes I think I’m crazy for sticking by him. I think a lot of people are quick to say they’d leave, but it is tougher to make that call when you love your partner and you know that there is so much more to him that his drinking. You can love the person and hate their disease or addiction. Unfortunately, you can’t leave just the disease, you’d have to leave the person too.

  • Beth

    This is such a timely post for me. I am astounded by the amount of strength you show–and the strength your partner is showing by admitting to a problem and making steps, however stumbling, towards recovery.

    My parents are going through a divorce right now in the wake of my dad’s alcoholism. He checked himself into rehab twice. The first time he did it to “save his marriage,” unfortunately he still didn’t think he had a problem. The second, I’m not sure what did it. He was living out of his car. Not long after getting out, he was checked into the hospital with high brain ammonia levels (a common sign of cirrhosis).

    In the midst of all this, I’ve been building a life of my own more than 300 miles away (but in a place that feels worlds different than my hometown) with my boyfriend of 3 years (that’s a whole post about being pre-engaged that I should maybe write, if only just for myself). But it’s cozy here and I dread the family dramas. The phone calls from my dad full of fantastical stories (all lies). The calls full of guilt from my mother (“I need you here.”)

    Hold strong. Fight your problems, whatever they might be, head on. I’m pulling for you. All the best.

    • clampers

      I feel for you. I hope your dad gets the help he needs. It’s excruciating seeing a family member in trouble and knowing that it’s ultimately up to them to help themselves.

    • J9Funk

      Thanks to the courageous woman who wrote the message above.

      Beth, big hugs headed your way. I’ve been considering writing a post as a pre-engaged gal, developing a baby family with my partner, as my parents recently went through a divorce and I’m feeling the subsequent aftermath. Thanks for commenting…I know I’m not alone in this! Maybe we should swap stories, at least? :)

      Long-time reader, first time commenter, but honestly: SO much stronger because of this amazing APW community. Thank you ladies for sharing your experiences, and thanks to Meg for sharing this love.

      Wild Geese have never called so harshly; I know things are changing for the better.

      • Beth

        J9Funk- I struggle so much with trying to know how to balance the support I feel that I owe my parents (both of them) in their individual struggles/how much energy to put into beginning to figure out how to negotiate my “family of origin” in much changed waters with wanting to put the emphasis on my baby family. My parents and extended family don’t necessarily want to consider F. and I a “family” and see my primary familial responsibility to them. I see more positive things for me with my new baby family we purchased a house, pooled our money, and talk about our problems (rather than hiding them), and dream big, yet I don’t want to be considered cruel to my parents when I take care of myself by hiding away in my small town paradise…

  • Thank you for sharing.I don’t know if you’ve tried Al-Anon but if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. I attended meetings for a few years to deal with the aftermath of an abusive relationship with an addict and my estrangement from my alcoholic father. It benefitted every aspect of my life and gave me a safe space to share and practical tools to use. Every meeting group has its own culture and feeling so I recommend trying a few before writing off the program. And, though much of the language is steeped in Judeo-Christian traditions, you can do 12 steps as an atheist (“take what you like and leave the rest”) Even though I don’t go to meetings anymore, I am forever changed. Al-anon made the good life I have now possible. And it’s not about leaving the addict or the addict at all. It’s about you.

    • anonymeg

      I’ll second this (as an agnostic questioner myself.) I found myself saying in a meeting recently that I was glad I was with a recovering alcoholic, because it led me to those meetings, which ARE all about me, and have made me much more self-perceptive. If that’s a word. But yes, try it out. And try different meetings out. I went to maybe 5 before I found a group that felt comfortable to me.

    • Al-Anonic

      So many people commenting here sound to me like they need to be 12th stepped into Al-Anon. Thank you Joselle for putting into words what I was struggling to think of as I read through the comments. I’ve been going to meetings for 8 years and it has saved my life, my sanity, and my serenity. 8 years ago, I was dating a newly sober alcoholic. I thank him for introducing me to Al-Anon, even though that was one of the darkest periods of my life. How I work Al-Anon is truly about me, not the potential alcoholic I’m dating now. Keep coming back!

  • clampers

    Thanks for this. No shame at all, there are so many people out there struggling with–and overcoming–addiction.

    My dad is a recovering alcoholic and quit drinking when I was seven because my mom gave him an ultimatum–get sober or she’s leaving and taking me with her. So he quit cold-turkey and has been sober for 20 years this June.

    Of course that is the short version of the story. There apparently were many, many arguments, some of which I remember witnessing but being so little, I had no idea what was happening. Now, looking back, I understand.

    My mom quit drinking with him, even though she wasn’t the one with the problem. I just think that’s such a huge vow of support there. They are both doing amazingly well; my mom is in her 60s and my dad’s in his 70s, and both of them are super sharp and active. They both say it’s because they quit drinking and they hope that I do too someday, not because I will necessarily develop a problem but just because it’s so much healthier. I have to admit, some days I wake up and think to myself, “I can’t wait until I quit drinking.” Does that sound bad?

    Alcoholism is in my mom’s family too, so I’ve got the whole addictive-personality thing comin’ at me from both sides. One positive thing that came of this is that I am super vigilant of my drinking (to the point where I’m almost paranoid, tottering on the edge of, “Am I an alcoholic?!”). Thanks for sharing your story. I hope your future children are vigilant too, but not paranoid like me!

  • anonymousforthispost

    Hi, I post here sometimes (and read all the time), and what a great topic for today!

    My heart goes out to the poster…

    My FH is an alcoholic… and so am I. We both met in recovery, and we have stayed together and been sober together for a while. We each have multiple years sober, and we both work hard to maintain our sobriety (both together and independently). For us, that means attending AA meetings regularly, and participating in various AA-related activities.

    And yes, I do that for my sobriety, and I had been doing that for a while before I met him. But I also do that for him and our life together, and I know he feels the same way. The cool thing is that we both have such an honest and open relationship about EVERYTHING. We share everything with each other — and part of that is so that we both stay sober.

    My addiction is something that I consider “baggage” that I’m bringing to the relationship. Everyone has their own baggage. My baggage might have negative consequences (more so than maybe other types of baggage), but just like other mental illnesses, if I do not take care of myself (for me, it’s going to AA meetings… for someone who is bipolar, it may be taking their medication, etc.), then it will negatively impact my relationships. So in someways, we each put our own mental health before our relationship with each other. AA meetings or prior commitments concerning our addictions will occasionally come before a date night.

    I really respect people who are in relationships with addicts and alcoholics. I was in another relationship with an addict who kept relapsing, and for a variety of reasons it didn’t work. Relationships with alcoholics and addicts can be very difficult.

    For those of you who are dating alcoholics/addicts, I can only tell you that it is possible that YOUR fears (of his/her relapsing, of your kids being addicts, etc.) are probably his/her fears too. My FH and I are both afraid of each other relapsing, we both worry what our life would be like if one of us goes back out there (it may mean the end of our relationship).

    All I can say about dating an alcoholic/addict is that it can be hard, but even when it is difficult, the most important thing that I try to remember is that my FH is mentally sick (just like me), but he is a sick person trying to get better.

    Sorry for rambling on, this was just an amazing post. Much love to the anonymous poster <3

  • Jess

    To the poster: thank you for sharing your story.

    & to the community: I am fairly new to this blog–have been following for a few weeks–& these posts on “the hard stuff” are definitely what I find most compelling, & are what have really kept me coming back (okay, & the “wedding graduate” posts have been super inspiring & thoughtful, too). So, thank you to APW for hosting & encouraging these important conversations.

  • Amazing post. And the clincher for me was – that poem was one of the readings at my wedding. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • I am not married to an addict, so I can’t really relate to what it would be like, but I appreciated this post – mostly because it helped me understand a little bit better about why a person would stay with someone who is an addict. I sometimes wonder how my husband can deal with my mental illness at times, but I suppose in a way they are similar. There are a lot of good days that outweigh the bad, and I imagine that must be the case with living with an addict as well. Thank you for a new perspective.

  • Thank you for writing and sharing this. This was my favorite part because it’s so incredibly true and a lesson I’ve had to learn over time: “This is about the truly singular nature of relationships— no one can understand a relationship unless they are experiencing it, knowing what is intensely hard or truly wonderful.”

    Reading this also stirred some complicated feelings for me about my dad – he has been an alcoholic for three decades, my entire life. His is not a story of redemption. My mom divorced him when I was very young because he was not just a drunk, he was a temperamental drunk. I still spent a decent amount of time with him as a child, but I never expected a lot from him, never really saw him as a father-figure – I think I knew from a very young age that he was broken. And that’s really it – he is broken and from what I can tell, really has never wanted to fix himself.

    When I was younger I might have lumped all addicts in with him, but I’ve since seen that it’s what’s underneath the addiction that really matters and determines your future.

    • Class of 1980

      Yeah, there are mean abusive drunks and falling asleep drunks. Neither is easy, but the first type is usually impossible. Hence the difference in decisions to stay or go.

      • nessuno

        Ah…except if you’re trying to leave one. The first one is easy to leave, the second, easy to forgive and make excuses for.

  • Shannon

    This is an intense and amazing post… Although my partner does not have a substance addiction, I have come to understand (with the help of a counsellor) that he does have a sort of psychological addiction to various negative and harmful emotional patterns, the same sorts of emotional patterns that addicts struggle with, i.e. self hatred, depression, anxiety… It’s really hard to be intimate with someone who struggles with these sorts of issues, but ultimately worth it if they are willing to go on a journey of recovery and open up their heart to support from a spouse. I am thankful that my partner is willing to take this journey with me. His willingness to examine and overcome his emotional struggles gives me the strength to do the same with my own emotional struggles.

    My heart is with everyone else who experiences these sorts of struggles in their relationship.

    • Good for your partner, and to you! I spent many years with a man who sounds similar, and in the end, his lack of desire to take any steps to work on getting better was a deal breaker. Anyone willing to do the (hard, hard) work deserves a ton of praise.

  • Marguerite

    Thank you so much for this post. I loved hearing your touching story. There are not enough people sharing stories like this. My partner has a (garden-variety) mood disorder, but it impacts our lives in ways that are similar to the ones described above by those living with addicts. I’ve had similar struggles (Should I leave and find someone “better”? Why don’t any of my friends understand and support me as I try to help him?) and I always felt weak for staying. Even though he is so brave and diligent about making a better life for himself and for us. Even though I learn so much by participating in this process. This relationship makes me a better human being, even though it’s hard sometimes. It’s so reassuring to hear that other people have similar experiences.

  • meredyth

    Thanks for sharing your very personal story. I can relate to parts of it, and I think we all can, where you talk specifically about working to build your future and becoming a better person. I think we all struggle with that in our relationships. I know I do. This crucible has been the hardest thing I’ve done, but one I find precious to me.

    My fiance isn’t an alcoholic, but he has gone through his own struggle with years of drug use because of deeper emotional issues. He began to get help for his emotional issues before I knew him and that curbed overindulging in drink or drugs but it is still a struggle for him and for me to face and deal with those things while heading towards a different future. Learning about his efforts is what made me really see him, and fall in love with him. A person who (although not ashamed of his past) is working that hard to build the future he envisions? It makes me proud to think about where he was and where he is now, and want to continue to see where we’re going.

    I love that poem, too. My fiance has given me about 3 Mary Oliver books of poetry. It’s beautiful.

  • Pippa

    First post for me, but I couldn’t not respond.

    Thankyou for sharing your story.

    I am also ‘engaged’ to someone with a substance abuse problem, and like your partner, it was just a symptom of bigger and darker problems that weren’t being dealt with. I entered a relationship thinking I was getting a mentally healthy partner, but I wasn’t, and even after several years and an engagement, it very nearly ended us (one year on and we’re still not engaged again yet, hence the quotations).

    Yes, it is very hard sometimes, and yes, sometimes I feel selfish for thinking why me? But all I have to do is love and support someone who has his issues. HE has to live through them, everyday. I’m grateful to be in the position I’m in.

    And while I’ve been put through a lot, I love this man too much, and know the good in him too well to give up the fight. We are worth every second of it.

    • anonymeg

      “I love this man too much, and know the good in him too well to give up the fight.”
      Exactly, exactly, exactly!

  • This post hit me hard. I’m fortunate in that my husband does not have an addiction, however my father is an alcoholic and my younger brother is a heroin addict. It’s been nothing short of painful. I give you so much credit for sticking it out with him, sticking with him because you love him.

    I’m finding things a bit difficult right now, particularly with my father, in that I thought he was done drinking (he’d gone through rehab years ago after losing his job and house), but I’m pretty sure he’s still struggling with it. I love my Dad more than anything; when he came out for my wedding and walked me down the aisle I couldn’t have been happier. When he would call me up, crying and drunk when I was in college, I would sit on the phone with him for hours upon hours, trying to get him to change, to stop drinking, to get help… But I finally got to a point where I realized I can’t force him to do anything. He has to want to make himself better. I can be there for support, but I can’t make him do something that he doesn’t want to do.

    Addiction is something that is terrible to deal with. You have this constant fear of getting a phone call that your own brother OD’ed and died, you have a fear of getting the drunk sobbing phone call from your own father… I just give you so much credit for having the strength to stay with your partner, because unless you’ve had to deal with a loved one having a serious addiction, you really don’t know how difficult it can be to be the support system, and it’s okay to have times where you just need to step back and breathe. It can take a toll on you, too.

    Sorry I went a little off-topic here (in that it’s my own family members with addictions) but this post just really hit a nerve for me and I just wanted you to know that you’re not alone in being that support for someone.

    • Beth

      Danielle, you’re not alone with bringing up your own family stories (I know because I shared some too). It’s just impossible not to. Hugs and love.
      Thanks so much for sharing. It was so wonderful to hear that your dad was still able to be a joyful part of your wedding day.

  • Lynn

    One of the men I love left me to deal with his addictions (multiple). I would have stayed with him, supported him, loved him through it all…if he would have let me. The hurt that I felt was the most broken I have ever been, all of my insecurities and weaknesses laid bare. After everything–the lies, the putting my health at risk, the cheating, the cruelty–he left me without a word.

    And now three years later, he wants to try again. But I can’t. Even if I hadn’t moved on, I don’t have the courage to face the possibility of being that hurt again even though I love him and I believe that he wants to be that “better man”, that he might in fact make it this time. I am not that strong.

    • clampers

      You are SO strong! Are you kidding me? That is strength right there–not putting yourself in the position to be hurt again.

  • Cuteychao

    I admire you, not only for staying and supporting your husband, but because you’re sticking to the vows you both have made. You knew the rules of the game when you accepted to play it, and you’re remaining strong throughout the process.

    When my parents got married, one of them wasn’t an alcoholic, but became one along the way. The other could’ve left (even I wanted to leave; when I was 7 I asked my grandmother if I could go live with her, and when she said I had to stay with my parents, I cried). But they didn’t separate, they remained together fought the disease. And it paid off. With this I’d just like to tell you there’s hope, that sometimes things do get better, if you fight for it. I wish the best of luck to you and your husband, together or alone.

  • Another Anon Today

    This post brings up a lot of things with me. My ex-boyfriend of three and a half years was a drug addict… and at the time, so was I. The differences between us at the time were that I knew eventually the abuse had to stop, while he believed he could live his whole life that way. Also, he took his abuse to the next level, lying to me about how much he was doing and how he was doing it (taking needles into the bathroom behind my back; what can I say – I was naive). He didn’t want help. He was abusive – both emotionally and physically. He could not hold down a job. He stole from me, even though I would have given him anything he asked for. He didn’t want to change.

    Six years after I left, he is still an addict. He has taken no steps toward change. He abuses his wife.

    I admire the OP for her strength. It sounds like her husband truly is worth fighting for. Some people have addictions, but they are worth the effort. They will eventually get better. They will lead good, fulfilling lives. I am one of those people. I’ve been clean for almost 6 years. I have a career, a home, a happy life, and a wonderful husband who knows about my past and doesn’t judge me for it.

    You just have to know who is worth fighting for and who isn’t. It took me a long time to figure out that my ex wasn’t worth fighting for anymore – and the abuse was a huge part of that.

    OP, I wish you and your husband all the best in your future. I am rooting for y’all. I’m sorry if this comment is kind of all over the place.

  • Coco

    I left my addict. We had other problems too, we just weren’t the right match in other ways.

    He didn’t name his addiction until he “hit bottom” and cheated on me. Even then he dealt with it in a very selfish, self-centered way (many addicts are self-centered). At that point I knew that continuing to be with this guy would just drain all my energy for other important things, including myself.

    My gut reaction was right; I know from mutual friends that he is still drinking.

    This is in no way a judgment on anyone else. It is simply my story.

  • Court

    Echoing the thanks for sharing your story! My husband is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict – and has been sober for over two years. He went to treatment and while we were in counseling sessions there together we made the decision not to decide to get married until he had been sober for a year.

    It is hard, because I do worry about relapse, and I know he does, too. But here’s the best part – when he went into recovery, he didn’t change into a new person. The parts about him that were the best became magnified, and I feel like everyone would benefit from following the 12 steps. It keeps him humble, mindful, intentional and in the present. That makes our relationship stronger, and he inspires me to face my own mental illness – depression (that would much rather I just go curl up in a dark corner).

  • Thank you for this. I, among many of you, married an addict. An addict of many mediums mind you.

    When we first started dating he had been off of cocaine for six months. It was a huge accomplishment for him and I could tell. We quickly fell in love during my last few months in college; but I partied a lot. He quickly took his addictive tendancies and applied them to drinking. Once I finished college we moved to a new city and started fresh; he once again beat his addiction.

    We spent two blissfull years as an addiction free couple. Yes, he occasionally has a drink or two, but nothing more than that; and never again has he touched cocaine since he quit four years ago next month. We flourished as a couple, in our careers and in our social life. We got engaged and then married when things got rough. He lost his job and started working out of town.

    Now we’ve been married for 8 months and another addiction has surfaced: gambling. This gambling has almost ruined our marriage. He hid it from me up until just days ago. As odd as it may seem this addiction seems to be the worst, that I’ve encoutered with him, so far. Over nine thousand dollars have been spent on his gambling addiction in the mere eight months since our wedding.

    I will not state that I will never leave him. Thank you for this post, it helps to have others out there on the other side of the addictions. Even though it’s never an easy fix, small things help. I am struggling to get through this right now; struggling to remember the person I love and not just the man who’s ruined our finances; not the man who’s been lying to me since the month of our wedding; struggling to grasp my mind around the concept that I’ve been supporting a gambling addict for eight months without knowing it.

    Any person in a relationship with an addict is a strong person, a brave person and a loving person. I am these things and these things will get us through. But he is not just an addict. He is my husband, my best friend, my shoulder to lean on, my everything; his faults include his addiction, but we can overcome it once again. We will flourish once again.

  • KA

    Many people get through their entire lives without being asked to carry a burden as heavy as the one you choose to carry daily. You are clearly an extraordinary woman–and a wonderful writer. Thanks for telling your story.

  • FY

    I wasn’t with an addict, but I was with someone who was self-mutilating and hinted at suicide more than once. I chose to leave, but reading your post made me feel better about having stayed for so long – something that my friends and family (though well-meaning) have made me self-conscious about. Thank you so much for sharing this, and thank you so very much for these words:

    “This is about the truly singular nature of relationships— no one can understand a relationship unless they are experiencing it, knowing what is intensely hard or truly wonderful.”

    I still sometimes wish I hadn’t left, but until this post, no one seemed to understand why I feel that way except me.

  • ellobie

    Thank you for this! What a strong, brave woman you are, I am in awe.

    My bestbestbest friend from childhood married a recovering addict. He has fallen off the wagon a few times since their marriage, refuses treatment and somehow manages to get to a place she is OK with on his own. He now smokes rather than drinks, which I guess is a step in the right direction? He also has been unemployed for nearly 2 years and isn’t really looking for work.

    As her friend, I see him as a drain on their marriage, a parasite on her life. I have lost all respect for him and could barely greet him at my own wedding this past summer. I have such a hard time being happy for her or even talking with her about life because his behaviors make me furious. This beautiful woman who has dedicated her career to working with and helping sick children will have none of her own until/unless they can become more financially stable, which will not happen until/unless he manages to find a job. I have had nothing in my heart but hatred and loathing for him and feelings nearing disgust toward her for staying.

    Until I read this. Thank you so much for giving me a new perspective.

    My personal situation with my friend has resulted in us falling apart. We barely speak anymore and that sucks. I’d like to repair our friendship, but how do I begin? I need to be more compassionate toward them both, I realize. For those of you who are addicts or are with addicts, how do we support you? What do you need? (My hate-filled heart adds, “besides another drink/hit?” OY.)

    • Meg

      Tell your friend that you love her. Just call her up and tell her. And from that point on, do it. Love her. You don’t need to love her choices or her relationship – you can’t understand them and you don’t need to. Let her know that she has someone who will listen, who will provide an outlet for fun and compassion or whatever she needs and you can offer.

      My guy is an addict and the love of my life. My friends are the support that help me keep loving and supporting him – which feels like the most important thing in the world to me.

    • Al-Anonic

      As Meg said, call her. Be there for her. It really is that simple. I’m dating someone who is likely an alcoholic. But as someone in Al-Anon, I know it’s not my job to decide that. What I do get to decide is whether his behavior towards me bothers me or not. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But I feel like I’ve been losing friends over this. That they either can’t honor my decisions, or don’t know how to handle this. But it isn’t there job to handle it. To be my friend, you simply need to be my friend. Your friend probably feels very isolated right now and reaching out to her would probably feel wonderful.

    • Another Anon Today

      Be there for her. Be another positive force in her life. You don’t have to be around all the time, but talk to her occasionally. Let her know you’re there for her. Tell her lovingly how you feel, but don’t preach on it (it doesn’t help — I wish it did). And be there to pick up the pieces when it’s all over. The greatest thing my friends ever did for me was let me come back to their world.

    • anonymousforthispost

      It sounds hard to hear, but some people never recover from their addictions. The best thing would be to be as supportive as possible for your friend, and realize that maybe she isn’t willing to let go yet.

      The founders of AA had supportive wives and families and they didn’t get sober right away — maybe he will get sober. Maybe he won’t.

      In any case, I’ve found that even if I don’t “approve” of my friend’s choices of partners, it’s not really for me to judge. I believe that God has a plan — for me it was to date some not-so-great men so that I could better appreciate my amazing FH. Maybe it will be the same for her. Or maybe he will change, and that support is what helps him change. I believe that only God can say. In AA, there is a passage from the big book that has one of my favorite quotes: “Love and tolerance of others is our code.” And for me, that means other people’s choices too… I have to be loving and tolerant of their personalities and their decisions.

      I also know this too. In a past relationship, I dated a guy who was trying to get sober and couldn’t. My leaving him gave him an excuse to use more — and he got stabbed copping heroin the night after I left. He ended up using a few more times, but I think that the stabbing was the catalyst for him being sober. He’s been sober for a while now, and although we weren’t right for each other, I believe that there is a reason why we were in each other’s life — a reason I couldn’t see at the time, but I can see now very clearly.

      I wish you lots of luck and love, and I will be praying for your friend and her baby family.

  • This is beautiful, and deep, and real. Thank you for sharing.

    I am glad that you’re able to acknowledge it’s a struggle for you, because the person dealing has to struggle, but you do as well. I applaud that you look at this with eyes wide open, that you make your decisions informed. I want to hug you for the wisdom.

    This poem touched me deeply as well.

  • AS

    Thank you so much for this post. I am engaged to an addict. He went through the process of getting sober almost two years ago now and I thank God everyday for that horrible time because it turned our world right-side up again. Through our engagement and his struggle with addiction I was given the “leave him” speech several times and seriously thought about it but your last line is why I didn’t we fit side by side, with each other.

    I know there will be tough times again and that his struggle is everyday but I love him and I know that he struggles for me and for our future and that I am strong enough to stay by his side.

  • Moz

    I wish you both nothing but happiness and continued success with his recovery.

  • Nina

    If I could wave a magic wand, I would erase the word “selfish” from this post.

    Because, oh honey, your needs and disappointments and internal struggles do not make you a lesser person. At ALL. In fact, by being honest enough with yourself to acknowledge when you’re hurting, you free yourself from unnecessary guilt. You are brave, and powerful, and having needs doesn’t make you selfish.

  • Al-Anonic

    Thank you. This post makes me feel so much less alone. I dated an alcoholic who got sober while we were dating. He introduced me to Al-Anon. Now many years later, I find myself dating another someone who is likely an alcoholic. The reason I read this site, and many of the marriage books suggested here, is because I don’t know how to make the decisions around if I want to marry this person or not. We’ve talked about it. He thinks I’m the one he wants to spend the rest of his life with. He admits he’s not ready to get married RIGHT NOW, but he will be. I’m not so sure. I left the first alcoholic because I realized one day that I could never accept him as he was. Alcoholic flaws and all. And I wonder in the depths of my heart if marrying this one will mean I’m settling. That I’m giving up trying to have the healthy life I envision for myself. But then I remember why I love him and why I’m still here. And all I’m left is confused.

  • Lil_Red81

    My two year anniversary with my boyfriend is in July, we went to high school together but I don’t remember him (he’s a year younger and was two grades behind me), but I was friends with his sister who was in my grade. She got married in May ’09 and he swept me off my feet. He was sober then, and stayed sober for 15 months. It’s been a roller coaster ever since and I feel like I’m drowning. This blog post put to words what I’ve been feeling but haven’t been able to express when my friends tell me I should move on, that this life isn’t fair to me. And part of me knows that (he isn’t exactly at the point where he is ready to seek help), but a larger part of me will not allow myself to abandon him. I’m 30 and while I’m not dying to walk down the aisle, I do want to get married someday.

    I wish I could speak to the woman who wrote this because I know she would get it, and perhaps she’d be able to tell me the one thing that could keep me going even though I feel like my world is slowly falling apart as the months go on. Sure I talk to my friends about it, but they don’t really know him… and I talk to his siblings but that gets messy.

    I am terrified every minute of every day worrying about if he’s drinking or not when I’m not around. But I feel like I am betraying him by worrying (even though he’ll readily admit in the past 6 months he’s done everything he could do to shatter my ability to trust him when it comes to alcohol). I wonder if I deserve better, but bottom line is I love him with all of my heart and as much as there are times I feel like I need to walk away, I find my feet firmly planted and I’m unable to say “move out” or “I’m leaving”.

    I am so thankful for this post and for what people have shared in the comments. You ladies have given me hope. Maybe he won’t get back on the wagon for good, but if I dig my heels in and wait out the storm, he just might and it will have all been worth it.

    • Amy March

      “I am terrified every minute of every day. . . . I wonder if I deserve better”

      This moved me to write my first ever comment. You deserve better. You just do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t date him because he is an addict, because I think the wonderful collection of stories above show that addiction can be part of a healthy marriage. But this guy leaves you terrified, and you deserve better than that.

    • Anonymouse OP

      Hi, Lil_Red81, I’m the original poster. I’ve been reading everything and resisting commenting, because the conversation has been so overwhelming, uplifting, and encouraging. I love watching this community interact and support one another, and I wasn’t ready to jump in again. But you asked, and so I’m here– if you want to post an email address, or email Meg, or ask here, I’m happy to talk to you about all this.

      First: HUGS. This isn’t easy, at all. You’ve very strong for all you’ve done so far. I will say that I have to agree with Amy– the fact that you’re “terrified” isn’t that great. If you’re really scared, that’s a red flag. Does your boyfriend know you’re scared? He might know you can’t trust him, or think you don’t like his actions… but does he know you’re SCARED? For my husband, seeing how his drinking messed with me really affected how he saw things. Is he trying to get better? Is he thinking about sobriety or AA or counseling? Or is his head firmly in the sand? Where HE is in his own life can make a big, big difference on your relationship.

      I can’t really do more to help here, but I just wanted to say– I’m here. We all are. Follow your heart, be true to yourself, and you’ll be okay.

      • Lil_Red81

        I’m not scared of him, or even his addiction really. I like a challenge (I want to work for accomplishments and rewards, not have them handed to me), and I’ve got a lot of emotional hangups from the hell my parents put me through growing up (my Dad’s a borderline alcoholic himself and has the Irish Catholic guilt that causes him to try and bring everyone around him down to his miserable, unhappy level – and to this day I will stand by my belief that on some levels, emotional abuse is far more damaging in the long run than physical abuse. My scars will never heal or fade, they will always be there, and no matter how much I work on getting a handle on things, no matter how many times I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I am beautiful, that I am smart, and that I am a good person… words, phrases, or situations will send me in to a spiral, triggering all those old emotions); so while I can’t understand what it’s like to be an alcoholic, I do know what it’s like to be “damaged”. What I am terrified of is that he will let the addiction define him, to let his past actions dictate who he is today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.

        When we met he was going to AA three times a week, sure he wanted a beer, but he was fine with not drinking, and actually liked being sober and saying “no thanks” when someone offered him a drink. He could go out in a group, go up to the bar alone, and order his brother a beer, and not steal a sip out of the cup on the way back. But then he started to think that he could handle drinking every once in awhile – and while I wanted to scream no, I told him I would let him make the decision himself since I only knew the sober version of him, I wasn’t someone who could tell him whether he should drink or not. What I did appreciate was that he made it OUR decision, not his. He wanted me to be a part of it. And for a few months it was fine, we’d stay in on a weekend and share a bottle of wine. I’ve never been a big drinker myself (I’m very much a lightweight) so it’s not like I was encouraging shots or intoxicated nights.

        Then it started to get out of hand, he’s a Marine combat vet and part of the first wave of soldiers who went to the Middle East after 9/11 (he completed two tours and saw a lot of horrific things). And he’s got a lot of PTSD symptoms because of it. I know that plays a HUGE roll in all of this. Also, his parents never drew the line, or told him he was wrong. He’s said it to me before drunk and sober, that I’m the first person in his life who has put their foot down and said no, that the behavior is unacceptable. It’s a lot of weight on my shoulders, but on some level I’m happy to play that role in his life, because SOMEONE needed to force him to self reflect on his actions and their impact on himself and those around him.

        Don’t get me wrong, when it’s bad, it’s really bad. But I can step back from the situation enough to realize that getting his parents involved will only make matters worse. That it’s not at an intervention needed stage yet – and that that’s a good thing.

        He knows I’m worried and that this all stresses me out too. I don’t think he knows what to do with that and that breaks my heart a little too, ya know? It’s sad – that he is used to not having those who love him concerned about him to the extent that they’ll try and fight the battle for him even if he gives up.

        While not ready to seek professional help (be it through a counselor or AA), he does acknowledge that he shouldn’t drink. Which is a big step from the Summer and Fall where he would tell me he doesn’t think he has a problem with alcohol.

        We’ve had A LOT of sh*t thrown our way this year, a lot of setbacks that have not helped with his addiction. Things that would test the strength of a “normal” couple. I do think there are plenty of red flags and that if I walked away no one would blame me for doing so. Even he wouldn’t. But that’s a guilt I can’t live with. There are many things that are absolute deal breakers with me. If I found out he had cheated on me, there wouldn’t even be a discussion, he would be out the door and I wouldn’t look back. That’s something I cannot make excuses for. But alcoholism? I can sign up to deal with that demon. I wish he were further along in the process of getting back on the wagon, but I know he’s trying to try to beat it (if that makes any sense at all), and because of that I know I need to stick around for now.

        Lately he has also started to apologize for putting me through hell and acknowledges that he’s got a lot to think about. And that helps me deal with this. But the times when he is upset, or drunk, I do feel like I’m drowning because I don’t know how to help him and it makes me feel powerless because I don’t know what to do or say. But I love him, and when I close my eyes, I can see our wedding day, see him as the father of my unborn children. And it’s a dream I am not ready to give up on just yet.

        I never thought I was alone with this struggle, I knew we weren’t the only couple going through it, but I didn’t have others telling me their story, or telling me it will be okay, so I felt utterly alone and helpless. Those who aren’t living with (or with someone who has) an addiction can empathize, but they can’t really understand what it’s like. Y’all get it, and I am eternally grateful for this post and every one’s comments. They are such deeply personal stories to share and I am thankful that each one have you has put finger to keyboard to add to the original post.

  • Anna

    I think the original poster put it well in saying that every relationship is unique. But I’m afraid women in an unhealthy relationship with an addict will justify their staying as a testament of their love. Sometimes love means walking away (I know the original poster didn’t infer this is not the case- but I just wanted to reiterate it). As someone who has left a relationship with an addict I know how easily confused the lines are between supporting a loved one and your own self care, between loving and enabling.

    Lil_Red81 – I obviously don’t know the details of your story but many of the words used to describe your situation: feeling like drowning, an inability to talk to loved ones about it, paralyzed with fear. To me these are red flags. Try and take some serious space before you make any big decisions. It’s hard to see things clearly when you are in the thick of it. Much love x

    • Anonymouse OP

      …women in an unhealthy relationship with an addict will justify their staying as a testament of their love.

      That absolutely, 110%, TERRIFIED me when he was still drinking. I was petrified that I was “sticking it out” because we’d been together so long, because we lived together, because we loved each other so much. I was afraid of being That Woman who stayed in an unhealthy relationship. But I followed my heart and paid attention– he wasn’t abusive, he wasn’t in denial, and he was repentant. When he took steps toward change, I dug in even more firmly to support him. I didn’t really talk to my friends or family about it because I was protective of him and of us; sometimes we simply choose not to share with our family and friends.

      There are red flags, and the person in the relationship is the one who knows what they are. Sure, talking about them here is a step, and yes, being afraid all the time and feeling like drowning are horrible feelings. But only the person dealing with it will know what is simply a really challenging time, and what is a dealbreaker.

    • Lil_Red81

      Thank you Anna!

      I think, for me and my situation, I’m hoping for that light bulb moment. Actually, I hope I never get it. But I have to believe that there will be a moment where I will realize that enough is enough and that I do need to walk away. And while in the midst of a fight part of my brain is starting a checklist of what we’ll need to do to end our lease and move apart; the rest of me isn’t ready to let go. And not in an unhealthy way.

      Kind of like when you were in school, and that math problem was just NOT getting solved, and you’ve been working on it for what feels like decades and you want to crumple the paper up, throw it in the trash, and move on with your life. But there is a part of you who knows if you try maybe just one more time, that you will solve it. So maybe you take a minute to stretch, go grab some chocolate, and then you sit back down with pencil in hand and try again. Maybe it takes five more tries, but you do solve it and the reward is all the sweeter because you kept at it.

  • Anonymouse OP

    I’m the original poster, and I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone for their wonderful, supportive, and amazing comments. Y’all are amazing.

    To everyone battling with addiction or supporting a partner with addiction: you can do it. Find your own path, trust your heart, and you’ll be okay. It’s not always easy (staying or leaving), but it’s worth it in the end.

    To everyone on the outside who supports addicts and their partners (including the APW community): THANK YOU. Your love and support for something you may not fully understand is amazing.

    Finally, to Meg: the community you have given all of us is amazing. To be able to share this story and feel validated and loved by people I’ve never met is the most amazing thing in the world.You and your team are rock stars.

    <3 <3 <3

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  • M

    My ex was addicted to cocaine when we first met. I was young & naive & thought I could help “fix him”. He lied to me about when he quit. Then he joined the military and HAD to detox – at least for a while. But he has an addictive personality. He went from drugs to alcohol to video games (sounds ridiculous – but it was his substitute) back to lots and lots of alcohol.

    I guess I didn’t love him enough. The atmosphere was too toxic for me. And then we had a baby – and there was no way on God’s green earth I was going to let her grow in that.

    I think sometimes there is a point where you must go – and sometimes you can stay and tough it out. I wish you the best.

  • Wow, this is so powerful for me and makes me think about so much. Our stories are so similar. I’m married to an addict, but I didn’t get into a relationship with an addict. I also married my high school sweetheart (together 16 years, married 7) who at the time we started dating didn’t drink or use drugs. I was the partier of the two of us. I fell in love with him because of his stability, his honesty, his love for life that was so pure. In college I was over my partying and my husband was just beginning his. I saw it as a right of passage for so many people our age. Over the years it went from fun to stress. He went into an industry where it was very common place for people to smoke pot. It nagged at me that he was doing something on a regular basis that I felt he should have gotten out of his system. I told myself it was just pot and for the most part turned a blind eye. We were living life to the fullest-had great jobs, a cute house, nice vehicles, 2 boats, wonderful family and friends, and were about to start a family. I put my foot down to the pot smoking when the struggle to get pregnant began. He quit, but somewhere along the way was introduced to pills. After our son was born our life became unrecognizable.

    In the past 3 years he has been in 3 rehabs, lost 4 jobs, every valuable item we owned was either sold or pawned multiple times, he wrecked 4 trucks, was arrested several times, and in general wreaked havoc on every person that ever cared about him. My blinders were on because of the love I felt for this man. I have great roll models for marriage in my parents and my in-laws. I never saw us as a couple that would get divorced. We had been through so much together in our short lives (cancer, infertility) and I felt we could get through anything as a couple. I believed together we could beat beat his addiction. Last January I came home from a weekend out of town, we got in a huge argument and decided it was best that he move out. Not because he didn’t love his family, but because his addiction had gotten so bad that it was not safe for him to be in our home with our son. I was devastated and held out hope he would get clean for good. Even though we were living apart I was always supportive and there with open arms. This March after a major downward spiral for him I realized it wasn’t going to change. I filed for custody and started meeting with lawyers. His family and I finally took back our own lives, made him accountable for his actions, and stopped picking up the pieces for him. It was only after that reaction from us that he was able to see what his life had become. He is in a 6 month rehab program and about to be 5 months clean. It is only the tip of the iceberg in a life-long battle for him, but it is a start. He graduates from his program in September and will not be coming back to our home. Our marriage as I knew it has been destroyed and if it is to succeed it needs to built on a new foundation. I’ve started Al-Anon and my perspective has changed greatly.

    In March I was ready to file for divorce. I had 3 different lawyers tell me I had to work out some things with our house before they could draw up papers. When one told me something I didn’t like I saw another. Maybe that was a sign that divorce wasn’t the right thing for me. In that time I’ve seen him become committed to recovery. He is also dedicated to our marriage and our family in a way he wasn’t before. I have decided I will not make any decision about my marriage for a year. We both need to get deeper into our individual recoveries before we can come back together as a couple. He is fighting for his life and our marriage now. I can see it and am hopeful that those 3 years are just the scariest chapter in our life together.

  • M

    Entirely late to the game with the commenting on this, but I can’t just pass this by without saying something.

    I have just discovered APW in the last week, and am happily devouring all the amazing posts and info. I am not yet engaged, but my other half and I are starting to have the conversations around the fact that yes we probably do want to get married, and to do so sometimes relatively soon in the grand scheme of our lives.

    I stumbled across APW because I was googling in the desperate hope that I wasn’t the only person in the world to worry that the desire to get married might in some way be unfeminist. So I stayed. But I am not the sort of person who likes to coo over weddings so I have mostly stayed to devour all the information about what it means to be married, because I am trying to get my head around why us being married would be different from our current co-habiting situation (aside from the legality -that bit at least I understand).

    I did not expect to find the answer to some previously failed google attempts in the past: should I really be considering a lifetime with my addict boyfriend.

    Sitting here crying with relief that there are other people in this same situation.

    Mine is a recovering drug addict, ex-smoker, who worries about whether or not he should drink because what if it ‘gets’ him next, and all the while taking extreme measures to stop him acting out because of his sex/porn addiction. And also having to be am amateur counselor and therapist to get him through the underlying depression and low self esteem.

    When I write it like that it sounds like I am mad to stay with him.

    But actually, despite the fact that it is a problem that we struggle with together, it is not the be all and end all of his personality or of our relationship. We support and help each other in so many ways, and he does make me deliriously happy 99% of the time. We tackle his issues together almost all of the time, and really the only time it causes problems is on the rare occasions when he slips a bit and acts out, and then tries to hide it.

    I find it difficult sometimes to feel like I have anywhere to turn because the social and cultural stigma around addiction makes it so difficult to know who I can talk to. And I feel like I need to protect him from the judgments of our friends and families.

    So…the relief is palpable.

  • Jessica

    I’ve read this 5 times… It’s as if I wrote it myself. Thank you for reminding me I am not alone.

  • J

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I know this post is old, but I just now found it, and it’s exactly what I needed. I am engaged to an addict and have been having doubts. This was a much-needed reminder that the addiction is not the ONLY factor that should determine whether or not I say “I do.”

  • Vivan Cosme

    Hello every one there my name is Vivian Cosme from Canada I never believed in love spells or magic until i met this spell caster once when i went to see my friend in Africa this year on a business summit. I meant a man who’s name is DR ONIHA he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring back one’s gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell for a good job or luck spell .I’m now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 3 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3 years. I really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good paying job. So when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided, skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 9 days when i returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do. Well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the new job and our lives became much better. His email is

  • droboitespelltemple

    My name is Sheryl Chablis, I have been through hell and pain,looking for a good and real spell caster who can help me get my husband back.I have been scammed so many times,by some who claimed to be real spell casters.until i found the real and great spell caster (DR.oboite) who helped me,and solved all my problems concerning my husband who left me since eight months ago.and after that i also took my friend along,who was also having the same problem concerning her husband,who left her since five months ago,and the problem was also solved by the same DR.oboite Cant you see! the real and great spell caster is here,all you need to do now is to contact him when ever you are in any problem related to spell casting.It took me a very long period of time,before i could get this real and great spell caster.So right now is here,and the best for you to solve your problems all thanks goes to just free the institution that he will give to you just do the institution and everything is going to be fine with you this man really help me, am now a happy woman with my husband if you are there pass through any problem email him just free but you we have to share his testimony after the spell have be cast okay email him:

  • Lanessa

    “…I feel very lucky and blessed that were able to turn our marriage around like this with his spell. My husband used to spend as much time as he could away from home with other women. Since he cast the love spell on him, My husband is now so in love with me and its so funny that my husband had not go out for weeks now!”
    –Ianessa, Portland