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When I met my partner and we shared our past I knew we were different. He had been into drugs and weed until he hit 30, I had been previously married with two children and never touched a drug. But we hit it off because this was 3yrs behind him. I know we all have a past and people change, so everything was perfect. Fast forward 18 months and I find out after a job loss that he had been smoking weed for 6 months without my knowledge. I was devastated. He said he was scared that I’d leave him. After a lot of hard work, we got through it as we loved each other and he went to great lengths to prove himself, cutting his friends out of his life. After a year, he moved in and became a wonderful role model to my kids and I accepted his marriage proposal. Everything’s perfect.
Now a year later one of his druggie friends wants to reconnect, and he wants to go see him. I feel really upset by this as this guy is a loser. All of his old friends are 45 and still smoke and do cocaine. I feel let down that I stood by him after he lied to me, that he’s going back on what he said. To be honest, had I known what his friends were before I fell in love with him, it would have concerned me. I don’t want myself or my children to be associated with anyone that does drugs. I don’t want to appear stuck up. It’s just how I am and had I met my partner when he did drugs we wouldn’t have been comparable. It doesn’t make him a bad person, just not for me. Now I feel cheated into falling in love with him that he’s back tracking.
The trouble is I understand that he needs man time but he has no friends who don’t do drugs and hasn’t managed to connect with anyone who doesn’t. He actually has one friend he’s been out with twice this last year who’s lovely and is clean, but he’s busy with work and his life. I want my man to have friends, I understand it. But I feel threatened by the above. He said he won’t go because I’m more important, but I told him he has to because he looked so happy to hear from him I won’t stop him. I can’t help how it makes me feel. Two of his friends have tried to lure him into using with them before and I’m scared he’ll be easily led back. What do I do I’m in turmoil here. I’ve never fully trusted him since. There was one occasion a year ago when he came back and I suspected he may have done some coke but put it down to me being paranoid.
-Fearful of Drug Past
Dear Fearful of Drug Past,
If your partner wants to do drugs it doesn’t make him a bad person, it just doesn’t work for you. There is no moralistic judgement coming from me for his past drug use or if he wants to use drugs now. Drug use is a personal choice, but one that can come with serious consequences. It is possible for someone to use alcohol, cannabis, and/or other substances without developing an addiction. I have seen the full gamut of substance using clients including those who experimented with no problems, those who experienced problems with one substance but not others, and clients who quickly struggled with every substance they touched.
Because of these possible consequences, substance use is a choice that not only affects the user but also their partner. This elevates your partner’s choice to use or not to use substances to a relationship issue. Therefore, you certainly have the ability to set boundaries around what you will accept within your relationship. He doesn’t have to agree with your boundaries, but you have the right to set them. Given the importance of your relationship with him, it will be important to consider how to move forward to protect yourself and your relationship.
If he is committed to being drug free, then he can take steps to increase that likelihood.
First, you say that he is backsliding but I don’t hear evidence in your question that he is trying to use substances again. I’m not hearing him say that he wants to start using weed or cocaine, just that he wants to spend time with old friends. You even said yourself that you understand his desire to spend time with his guy friends and that you support this effort. However, it is also quite fair to be concerned and worried about the possibility of him returning to use.
If he is committed to being drug free, then he can take steps to increase that likelihood. Agreeing on limits with these old friends is a good idea. Grabbing lunch with them or getting coffee together is quite different then a late-night get together at their house. He can put himself in protected situations that greatly reduce the likelihood of use. This doesn’t make substance use impossible but it makes it a safer situation. If his friends refuse or want to go hang out at in a riskier situation afterwards, he has to be ready say no and head back home.
Also, it sounds like he could benefit from new friends in his life. Finding new friends isn’t easy but could be something that you two work on together. Think about setting up some double dates with some of your friends who are a better fit for your future. Lastly, it is of utmost importance that you approach him with trust and collaboration. You aren’t there to be his mother. Be his partner and figure out a plan that works for both of you.
Dear Fearful of Drug Past,
I am sorry to hear that you are in this dilemma. Addiction is an ongoing battle and something that isn’t cured in a year, or three, or ten. It can be a lifetime struggle. While he may be drug free in this moment the temptation is constantly flirting with him. He is very lucky to have such a great support system in you. He needs to realize just how wonderful you are.
It certainly sounds like your fiancé needs a new circle of healthy friends and influences to hold him accountable. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of bad habits when you are surrounded by poor influences. He’s not far enough removed from these friends. If you are aware that they are still using, then it should be clear that he needs to cut them out. As hard as it is, it puts you in a position of suspicion and lack of trust. If he wants to make a happy life for you and your children he needs to commit to you and your children. Not these friends. As you mentioned, he was lured back into using before. It seems clear that a very firm boundary needs to be made against his old friends.
He has to make this decision on his own, but you can be honest about how you feel.
There are support groups and communities that exist. Encourage and support him in finding these. For local community support he can look into such groups as 12-step fellowships and SMART recovery groups, or if you cannot find them in the community, then utilize online support.
Friends are important. Community is important. Family is most important. He has to make this decision on his own, but you can be honest about how you feel. I would clearly indicate that there is no tolerance for drug use and if he continues to make that decision, then he is deciding to choose them over you and the children. Let him know how much you love him and want to support him and how you believe he is a beautiful role model to the children. Stay strong and set boundaries, while encouraging him to be a better partner.