At the beginning of my relationship with B, I was incredibly idealistic, hopeful, and naively believed that love would conquer all. The first three months we spent together were the most intensely joyful I have spent with another person. I have never felt so much love, understanding, meaning and adventure. I felt adored.
The subsequent two years have left me questioning everything I once believed about life, love and people. I hated who B had become as he relapsed into heroin usage just after I found out I was pregnant. I hated who I had become as I struggled to make sense of what went wrong, who he was, who I was and what to do. During this time I fought hammer and tong to make things right again. I tried so many ways to rescue him, me, my daughter and our lives. I let go of my dignity, my dreams, my sense of past identity and my life as it was.
The things I valued in a relationship: trust, honesty, understanding, compassion, safety, loyalty, shared values were questioned on a daily basis.
When things first imploded, I ended up in a mental health hospital, newly pregnant, off anti-depressant medication on suicide watch. Every hour, on the hour, someone would come in and ask, “Are you ok?” At night time, this tedium was interrupted by a torchlight shining on my face, “Are you ok?”
Then I had months apart from him and I did not go to work for three months, I lay on my lounge day and night, without the strength to make a phone call, or take a shower, ambivalent about whether I should keep my baby. What world would I bringing her into? Did I have the resilience to go on? I don’t know how, but I did go on. I had to be honest with my boss about what was happening in my life and was extremely blessed by his good will. He told me not to come back to work until I was ready. He never stopped paying me during that period.
As B tentatively made contact and we started to see each other again, I realised that heroin addiction forever alters a person. This includes, brain chemistry, personality, behaviour, scruples, sense of responsibility and empathy. Similarly, his heroin addiction had also altered my outlook and behaviour. This included feelings of humiliation and betrayal, loss of independence, loss of dignity and hope, fear for B, me and my child. I was overtaken by paranoia, fear, disgust and jealousy. Not from another woman but from a chemical rock in a mini balloon.
At first he was open, completely, daring me to confront the reality of my choice. I went with him at times when he bought drugs. I watched him shoot up. I saw it control him and obliterate his beautiful personality. I bribed him by buying drugs for him if he would promise he would go to detox or rehab as soon as a facility would accept him.
I invaded his privacy; I used controlling and emotionally manipulative behaviour. For the first year, I cried, I begged, I ranted, reasoned, dared him, threatened him and I emotionally withdrew.
I kicked him out many times and begged him to return every time.
I hated him, I loved him, I tried to be supportive, and I tried to rekindle his dreams. I encouraged him back to his family, his son, his daughter, therapy, medication, tertiary education, work, physical exercise, health and to living life to its full potential. He would try to return to land of the living for a while, sometimes days, weeks or months but then I would be let down, disappointed, betrayed, he would deceive me and live a double life.
So I tried to tear him down (you’re a slave) and wear him down with ultimatums.
I financially supported him; then I called him a parasite, a user, a liar and I called myself a host. I argued with the same arguments, the same insults, the same recriminations, manipulations over and over, like a broken record.
I took him away from Sydney, on many a detox holiday, with promises from him that he would be ok when he returned, only for him to run immediately to his next fix.
I tried to influence him, to make him feel guilty, to blackmail him. I followed him and chased him down in my car and held him captive as I drove hundreds him of kilometres away. I blamed him and the other people in his life.
I told him that I had met someone else (which was untrue) and that he was everything that B wasn’t. I told him that I was leaving him to go to another country to be with him (Mr imaginary friend) and taking our child and never returning.
I told him, if you were my friend you would not lie to me, use me, hurt me and betray me. I don’t like you anymore, you are NOT who I thought you were, I don’t respect you anymore.
<div style="margin: 0cm 75pt 0pt 37.5pt; line-height: 120%”>I lived through withdrawal after withdrawal, 2 days free, shot, 3 days free, shot, 4 days free, shot, shot, shot, 3 days free, shot, 5 days free, shot. No libido, no communication, no energy, no will, no eating, no affection, nothing left but an never ending cycle of irritability, pre-occupation with the next shot, resentment at my expectations, putdowns, aggression, my personal property taken and pawned. It was like I was re-learning the lesson over and over with false hopes, raised expectations, lies, and broken promises.
I threatened him and other people in his life to make him stop, or make them stop being his direct or indirect suppliers. That incensed him one night so much so that he hit me in the face. I remained with him but something snapped inside of me.
I went to bed that night and took all of my Effexor and a full packet of Xanax. When I woke up after sleeping for two days, he said I awoke in a rage and had super human strength and I assaulted him back. He could not restrain me and found it almost impossible to extricate himself from the situation. He finally left to score. I went driving in my car high as a kite, in despair, I nearly had a car accident, was physically assaulted, (the second time in a matter of days) and went home to find that he was leaving me again.
Of course, I begged him to come back. Even after this, I never stopped believing that the real B was underneath all this shit. The person I have respected and admired and loved for thirty years.
I then started to research. I read about other people’s experiences and learnt a few things.
I stopped asking ‘who was that who called?’ or ‘what did they want?‘ I stopped checking his phone, cross examining him or insisting that I knew everyone of his movements. I stopped nagging, the put-downs, the ultimatums, the tantrums and the high drama.
I told him no more money. I told him he had to contribute some money to the household when he was paid.
I started to live my life again. I tried to switch off from my paranoia and anxiety because I knew I wasn’t being paranoid and anxious. He was using drugs and he was lying to me about it. I tried to press on and do things differently. I started to try and live my life outside of him. I tried to focus on my daughter and our future.
As I detached from him I realised that my physical and mental health had markedly deteriorated so I went to the doctor and she diagnosed me with a thyroid disorder and another pregnancy. That was September last year.
In December, his ex-partner was so ravaged by heroin addiction that we ended up with his son staying with us for most of this year. B started back studying in February and I don’t know how or why but he decided to stop using.
If I have had moments of suspicion about whether or not he has used, but I haven’t acknowledged them. He has started to talk to me more about it. He hated that he had been so weak; he didn’t need me laying my reinforced concrete layer of guilt on top of his self hatred.
He has gone to school every day, he studies every night, every weekend, he is getting good grades, he cooks dinner every night, he cleans the house, he is giving me money every fortnight, he is communicating with me, he has become affectionate again, he calls me to let me know where he is and what he is doing and he has acknowledged that I have tried to modify my behaviour (which he says has made it easier for him to change). We are trying to stay away from lingering over the past if we argue and just focus on what is happening right now.
For the past three months our arguments have been about non-heroin related issues. Like how do we provide consistent discipline for our kids? What values and behaviours do we want to instil in them? How can we try foster a healthy co-parenting relationship with his ex-partner?
He is now looking after me more, asking me if I have I taken my medication, encouraging me not to get down about not getting a job yet (7 months pregnant makes it hard to get an interview during a recession!), making sure I am eating properly, getting enough rest, and reminding me to do my study.
He is talking about the future, plans, goals and dreams again. Active heroin users usually only plan the realisation of their next shot.
He called me after his classes today to say everyone was going for a drink at the pub and would I mind if he went for half an hour? It seems pathetic probably to most people but I felt that it was a sign that he was actually considering my feelings before doing something. I said I that would absolutely fine and he was back within the half hour.</div>
Somehow we are negotiating day by day. It is takes a conscious effort from us both not to act in our knee jerk ways but when we do, we seem to be not letting ongoing resentment sabotage what seems like a period of renewal and forgiveness.
At this point of my relationship with B, I am still incredibly idealistic (but learning to accept imperfection and uncertainty) hopeful (without illusions), and believe that love will conquer all (provided both partners acknowledge that you have keep loving one another despite each other’s flaws and take responsibility for changing your own thinking and behaviour).
“I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for the truth; and truth rewarded me”.
Simone de Beauvoir