In a new twist on Lalalaletmeexplain’s hit column, readers ask for her expert advice on their own love, sex and relationship problems.
Here, she offers advice to a woman who is worried about her best friend’s new man… Sign up below – for free! – to read what she has to say.
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I got into a new relationship with a man at the beginning of 2021. The relationship started out wonderfully, but it did begin to move quicker than I’d expected.
After around 2 months of seeing each other, he met my children and became a regular face in our household – he ended up moving in without us ever having an official discussion, but I and the children loved having him here.
Other than the relationship moving a bit quicker than I’d have liked, there weren’t really any red flags at the start; I even looked him up using Claire’s Law and he came up clean.
Fast forward five months and he started to act strangely. By this I mean paranoid, asking to see my phone a lot and disappearing late at night and not coming home for hours. I reached out to his family and asked if this was normal behaviour for him, does he have a mental health condition or problem with addiction that I didn’t know about?
They all denied there was a problem that they knew of, but this turned out to be a lie. As time went on, the strange behaviour continued, and I eventually found out he’d been leaving the house late at night to buy drugs and to secretly drink alcohol.
He has had a problem with addiction for years and his family have been totally aware. On finding out this information, I told him this was not a relationship I’d like to continue, and I certainly didn’t want him in my property if he was under the influence of any substances.
He said he wanted to get help and started attending regular CA and AA meetings. He took at-home drugs tests every 3 days to prove he was staying clean, and things seemed to be looking up.
Then, shortly before Christmas he went out and binged. I ended the relationship and told him I didn’t want him in my home, so he left for 3 days. I then let him back and ever since we’ve been in this cycle of relapse (usually once a week he will binge and have to stay somewhere else) and it’s killing me.
He will not go back to the meetings, and he keeps on lying about the amount he’s drinking when he binges. I don’t understand how/why he can be honest about having a drink, but lie about the quantity?
To add to this stress, I am 26 weeks pregnant with his baby. I feel I am at the point where I am ready to call quits on the relationship but I also really, really want it to work. I don’t know how I can maintain a happy, safe environment for my children whilst also looking after my own mental health when I am constantly having to worry about if my partner has been drinking.
How should I go about moving forward, or ending the relationship? I don’t feel like there is any support out there for the partners of addicts and it’s really affecting me now.
I am so glad you wrote in about this because you need, and deserve to have, a lot of support around you right now. When I approach people to give me expertise on certain questions, I always choose people whose work I respect and love.
I approached Lisa from Bluebag Life for this question because she’s just so incredibly supportive, knowledgeable and empathic on the subject of addiction. Following her account may help you. You’ll find a whole community of women who’ve lived through the exact same cycles on Bluebag Life. When Lisa sent me her views on this letter, she answered it so well and so thoroughly that she basically put me out of a job. Here’s what she said:
“I’m sorry you’re going through this, the first year being with someone in active addiction is a quick learning curve. Lots of relationships progress quickly, it happened to me too. My partner pretty much moved in soon as we met.
“The disappearing, late nights and paranoia five months in happened to me too, once the honeymoon period – and little did I know, his drug free period – was over.
“Sometimes families lie about the addictions/mental health, either to protect their loved one in addiction, or to deny the addiction to themselves, and sometimes they want to just move on. Maybe they hoped that you would be a part of a fresh start? It’s common for families to start to detach, for their own protection. And because it’s exhausting.
“Ultimatums hardly ever have any longevity for people in active addiction. If you tell them to leave unless they stop using, they’ll most likely hide it, as it’s an illness that needs hard work and help to give up. If you catch them out, they hide it better, and that’s how it usually carries on. They become professional liars because they need to be. Most of us start with those ultimatums. We try everything. Nothing works because we are not them.
“AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)and CA (Cocaine Anonymous) were a good move on his part, it shows a willingness. But these aren’t the only programmes that work (although many people might disagree). The drug tests also show a willingness, but these can easily be faked, unless you are actually watching the urine come out! I’ve been there too.
“What I’m saying is that none of this is uncommon behaviour, these are all textbook examples. We continue to find ways to make them give up, to help them, to find reasoning from their pasts somewhere. Nothing works and we begin to feel hopeless. We begin to become addicted to helping them.
“We are addicted to their addiction, and they become our habit, our cycle. We relapse with them (addicted to helping the addicted person) if we don’t find ways to manage ourselves. Lying is a part of all this. Partly due to shame, partly due to them not being ready to quit the only coping mechanism they’ve known, long before us.
“If you don’t leave, you haven’t had enough. You’ll need to find ways of protecting your child and yourself. How can you detach enough so it doesn’t send you spiralling and obsessing? What are you doing for you? You need to make space in your head for you and your baby.
“You need to talk with other people like you. Follow my page, there are lots of people like us who are feeling alone and desperate in this. Try Al-Anon (it follows the same principles as AA, but it’s for families). Speak to Adfam. Look at Turning Point. Look on forums. I found so many people like us who were hiding away in fear. They helped me the most.
“Search for the ones who have the experience and knowledge. The ones who don’t let their loved ones’ illness consume them. I don’t have the answers, but I have the experience, and I do know that it takes daily work on our part to be well.”
I could not agree more, and those are the same organisations that I would’ve recommended too. Support from people who understand is what will help you to begin to make sense of all of this. A close relative of mine is an addict, and I’d studied and worked and been around addiction a lot, but I didn’t fully grasp and understand the textbook nature of addiction and the causes and patterns of those behaviours until I attended Gam-Anon (Gambler’s Anonymous for families) and sat with other families telling their stories. It helped immensely.
The biggest thing it taught me was to stop enabling my loved one. I loved him and wanted to cushion him from hitting rock bottom, so I shelled out money and did everything I could. Gam-Anon taught me that I was just prolonging his addiction.
Once you have really good knowledge about addiction you’ll feel more capable of managing how you manage him, and it’ll probably give you clarity about whether it’s right for you to remain in a relationship with him at the moment.
I think the deciding factor has to be your children. It’s virtually impossible to be a great parent whilst you’re going through relationship battles. We can put on a brave face, and still meet our children’s basic needs; but when you’re in pain and turmoil you simply cannot provide the energy that you need to really give children what they require.
We’ve all been there – it’s why it’s extra important for single parents to avoid f**kboys/girls. Because even if they’ve never met your children, if they’re causing you drama, they impact on your parenting. It’s inevitable. And we don’t need to feel guilty about it if it’s short term and infrequent. Life happens. It’s a teachable moment. But if you’re consumed by ongoing cycles of your partner’s binging, then you need to consider how much of an impact that’s having on your ability to be fully there for your kids.
Beating yourself up about being a bad mum is pointless and it’s not accurate. Your choices do not make you a bad parent. You fell in love with a man who you thought was good for your children and it turned out that he had hidden a huge part of who he was from you. By the time you found out you were already in deep with feelings and attachment.
It’s life, we fall, we crash, we make mistakes. But I do need to mention, for the benefit of other readers, and for your future: we’ve got to be so careful about who we bring into our children’s lives. Stepparents can be a wonderful addition, but they can also be a risk factor.
The fact that he moved in when you knew nothing about him is worrying. It’s clear that you were considering your children and taking safety measures by doing a Clare’s Law check, but a Clare’s Law check isn’t fool proof. There are many worrying people who have no criminal records (it should also not be used in this way – it should only be used if you suspect the person may have been abusive in the past because of how they are treating you/someone you know. It should not be used to vet all new partners. Generally, if you feel the need to do a Clare’s Law check in the first place, you need to run).
It concerns me that he didn’t tell you. You had the right to know about his addiction history, he denied you of information that you needed in order to make an informed decision about getting into a relationship with him. He lied and he led you into a relationship under false pretences. It’s also a red flag that he was able to simply stay one day and never leave. Where was he living? Did he not have to end a tenancy? Was he sofa surfing?
Like Lisa said, his family were probably relieved that someone else was stepping in to support him. They’ve probably had enough. It truly is exhausting supporting an addict you love. But they also let you down by not telling you. Can you rely on his family and yours to give you support?
A strong network around you and around him might enable you to juggle this more easily. But again, I have to state for readers and for your future reference – if you have kids and you discover after five months that the person you love is addicted to cocaine and alcohol – leave.
It is not acceptable for parents to enter into relationships that could pose a risk to children, active addiction should always be considered as being risky to children. No matter how in love you are, you have to put children above partners. Always. Giving someone a chance in a few years when they’ve got their addiction under control may be safe, but not now. Not when their addiction could impact on your children. It’s simply not worth the risk. They will not change/stop using until they’re ready, there’s nothing you can say or do to intervene.
The fact that he’s currently refusing to attend meetings and is lying about how much he’s using, and drinking, isn’t a good sign at all. Unfortunately, you’ll not be able to allow him to have any unsupervised contact with the baby. Babies are vulnerable and fragile. Active addicts are usually chaotic and reckless. It’s a dangerous combination.
Nothing can be fixed in this relationship until he addresses his addiction and from what you’ve said, he’s not at that point yet. My advice to you would be to walk away and focus on yourself and your children. You should still have regular contact with him (as long as it’s safe and he’s sober) and allow him to develop a relationship with his baby. But I think you need to keep him at arm’s length, and I think you need to strongly consider whether it’s right for him to continue to live with you. I would recommend talking to your midwife, who will almost definitely make a referral to social services.
How I imagine that would pan out is that social workers would want to establish whether you can keep your children safe from him. For example, if he’s drunk or high are the kids in any danger? Will paraphernalia be left laying around in the house? Are there dealers coming to the door? Does he owe anyone money? Any drug related enemies? Any risk of drunk driving with the kids in the car? Could he fall asleep drunk and roll on to the baby? Cause a fire while dozing off?
They will be likely to encourage you to get support from your family and the organisations listed above. But do you really want to be in a relationship with someone you have to protect your kids from?
It’s a big burden on your shoulders. If it’s a burden on your kids shoulders too, then that’s your answer. Can you truly be the best Mum if you’re stressed about him all the time? You can love him and support him at a distance and make it work in the future when he’s in a better space and you don’t have the fragility of pregnancy/new-born stage to worry about. Get involved with the communities, follow Bluebag Life, get educated on addiction, and get your power back.