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Friday, April 16, 2010

love the one you're with

The following is a repost from "let's talk about meth" from the dc working group. there is much thoughtful insight into what can be excruciatingly painful and confusing when dealing with someone who is twacked on meth. there is a reduction in the obviousness of meth use in our community, and much of the press around the "meth crisis" has waned, however, there continue to be members of our community who are at various stages of interludes with meth and many times their lives and relationships become tattered or disintegrate.
acknowledging there is a problem and then finding the where-with-all to talk about it is the first step in lessening the fear and reducing any stigma, both for the user and their loved ones.

Although every intimate relationship is certainly unique, predictable patterns often emerge when addiction joins the partnership. As addiction develops and evolves, most couples experi-ence parallel changes in how their relation-ship feels and functions. The common progres-sion looks something like this:

Explanations: Early in the development of the addiction, you and your partner explain away his occasional episodes of excessive drug use or drinking. You may attri-bute them to unusual stress at work or a birthday celebration gone too far, for example. Although the events come and go, your anger, embar-rassment, or disappointment may start to build up.

Doubt and distrust: Soon you realize that your partner's drug use/drinking is not normal, and you begin to pressure him to be more careful, cut down, or quit. This can be especially difficult if you both drank or used drugs together, you now stop, but your partner doesn't. In this case, your partner might see the problem not as his own substance abuse but as your sudden attitude reversal towards this once shared activity. Regardless, you now become the bad guy or the nagging mother in the relationship.
At the same time, you try to hide his problem from the outside and keep up a good front,which can become exhausting over time. You may notice more negative emotions creeping in. Where is he? He's hungover and now I have to do all the yard work. What is he doing all night? I hate that I don't believe him. As resentment and distrust emerge, so too might the apologies and promises not to let it happen again. You forgive again because you love him.

Crisis: Now you can no longer pretend everything is OK, and you spend much of the time going from crisis to crisis. Life seems quiet for a while. Then all of a sudden - another binge, another chunk of money gone, another 3-day disappearance, another lie that's backfired. The emotional roller coaster consumes your energy. You may feel helpless and unable to control the emotional or practical chaos of your own house-hold. At this point, you might start seeking outside help.

Sex can become a central and divisive issue, particularly when crystal meth is involved. A common scenario goes like this: Your sex life starts to shrivel up, he starts having sex outside the relationship or going beyond the agreements in your "open" relationship. You may feel ignored sexually or even feel manipulat-ed if your partner uses sex to "make up" for something he's done or to prove he loves you even though he's acting like an ass. Ultimately, sex can become some-thing to avoid, withhold, or use as emotional leverage.

If you're worried that his sexual activ-ity might bring home HIV or an STD, start insisting on condoms, having less anal sex and getting tested more frequently. Many men take greater sexual risks when under the influence, so your concerns are certainly valid. Do what you need to protect yourself.

Coming to terms: Your coping abilities eventually become stronger and now you clearly see the addiction. You gradually assume a larger share of the responsibility for the home, friend/family commitments, and taking care of your own needs. You become more resilient to his lies and denial and less guilty for not getting pulled into them.

This period sometimes becomes the "ultimatum phase." You want to help, you want to stick by him, but you can't do it unconditionally. Many partners set new limits (or at least stop adjusting old ones) and begin to envision a possible change or end to the relationship.

Disentangling: At this point, the "we" evolves into "you and me" as you begin to see yourself more separately from your partner or his addiction. Many turn to counseling, with or without their partners, in attempts to either arrest the addiction or deal with its consequences. It may be useful to work with a coun-selor with specialized experience in addiction and for each partner to see his own therapist outside of couples counseling.

Should I leave? becomes a common question here. How long do I try and how far do I go to help until I just can't anymore? Clearly, the answer is different in each relationship, but there are two situations in which you should strongly consider separation, even if only temporarily:

1.Your partner's addiction is making you sick as well and you are no longer the person you used to be. Perhaps you see yourself more depressed, withdrawn from friends, not doing the fun hobbies you used to, or having prob-lems at work because you're so distracted.

2.Your own financial, physical, or legal security is in jeopardy. Physical or sexual violence should never be tolerated.

Addiction can have cata-strophic legal and financial consequences. Watch out for deep trouble spots and take steps to protect yourself as much as possible. Distancing yourself can be tricky, of course, if you co-own a house, bank account, or other assets, but it is even more critical in these cases. Co-ownership is also an emotional symbol of trust and commitment in most relationships. Talk to a legal or financial professional for objective advice.

Some men feel a lot of social pressure to stay in a relationship. They don't want to appear too "heart-less," or they worry what friends might say if they jump ship too soon. And what do you do about all the friends you and your partner share? What if you adore his family and they adore you? This is where trust-ing your instincts is important.

Too many guys have prolonged painful relationships by not believing their own sense that something is wrong. There are so many ways to talk yourself out of your own gut feelings. Maybe I'm overreacting. He said he didn't get high last night. Well I acted like a jerk too. But no matter what your partner says or what your own head says, your gut will always know when something doesn't feel right. Listen to yourself, trust yourself, believe yourself. If something feels wrong, it probably is.

Reorganizing: You either reconcile with your partner in his recovery or restructure your life without him.If the relationship ends, it doesn't mean you didn't try hard enough to make it work. Or that you didn't do the right things along the way. The responsibility for the relationship lies equally between you. He is responsible for his addiction and for its consequences on others. That may not lessen your sense of loss, betrayal, or anger, but it may help you move forward knowing that the decision to leave was at least the right one for you.

You may or may not be able to con-trol the course of addiction on your relationship. But you might feel more in control if you can step back, see what is happening, and take steps to manage the challenges facing you in the moment. Just knowing that the doubt, confusion, frustration or despair you may be feeling are common and even predictable might help you regain perspective and cope more steadily.

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