How do I help someone who keeps pushing me away?

cocaine
ask-a-professional
relationship

#1

I’m not sure what to call him, but my ex is in very active stages of cocaine addiction. We were dating very happily for 4 years before this, and we had been living together for a few years as well. Why I’m writing here is that we’ve been on and off relationship-wise for the past few months. There was something off about him this summer but I couldn’t quite figure it out. Like, he would go out to the club multiple days a week, and come back very late in the morning all the time. One day I confronted him that I didn’t understand what was going on, and told him he was acting really risky and I could tell he was pushing his real friends away and hanging out with these new people all the time, he was also acting really scared like he was going to lose me. I knew the friends were doing a lot of cocaine, but for some reason I trusted that he didn’t dabble at all, even though he’d hang out with them almost every night it seemed. We took a “break” for a couple weeks after I confronted him about this strange new activity and how he’s not hanging out with his real friends, then he told me I should just go stay at my sisters, and that turned into a couple months. Where we’d see each other maybe every week or so, still or text but it wasn’t the same. Eventually I confronted him and told him I’d leave unless he decided what he really wanted.

Basically, he kept telling me he wanted a break so I could “focus on myself” and what I need to accomplish career-wise, so I thought it was all my problem. He kept telling me he couldn’t commit, but then a couple days later or so when it seemed like I’d really leave, he’d text me that I was his everything. After we had what I thought was a good reunion and we were back together…he got a dog for gosh-sakes and told me that he wanted me to be a “dog mom”. I came back to live there for a couple weeks, and everything seemed okay…still fishy but I still didn’t know he had a drug problem. Then one weekend he just disappeared for a few days, and I knew something was wrong because he neglected to go to his best friends birthday party. When I confronted him and told him I would leave unless he communicated what was really going on, he told me he didn’t feel the same about me anymore. I could see in his eyes he didn’t mean what he said. I decided to leave. I talked to one of his friends who happened to be a mental health and drug counselor and he told me that he has a problem with cocaine and that’s the drug talking. He somehow found out that I talked with the friend and that I probably found out about the drug addiction, and that’s when he really pushed for me to move out. So I agreed. I packed up my stuff and he had his brother drop off my things…and now I realize that he purposely kept some of my things. I left him a letter telling him I knew something was wrong, but I’m going to go until he realizes he needs help. (Also when I went back to the place, I found evidence of drug use and realized that I’ve seen evidence months before but didn’t really put 2 and 2 together)

It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve last talked to him. I’ve avoided reaching out again because I really felt super deep into the drama and it was becoming overwhelming. I feel better, but I know in my heart that all that he was saying was just to push me away. I’m not sure what to do about it anymore, and I wouldn’t be so quick to drop it if we didn’t have a great relationship for 4 years before this.


#2

Hi @aesthete19 thanks for sharing your story here, it can be so hard to be in our role trying to find the balance of when to back of and when to intervene, and it sounds like you’ve been through a lot with him. Because he is in active use it’s hard to take what he is saying at face value, and pushing you away then pulling you back in is an indication of his impaired decision making. It also shows that he cares for you deeply but the drug is stronger at the moment. Check out this previous thread on a similar topic. Does his friend who is a mental health and drug counselor have any advice for you? Maybe he could help out and be an ally for you.

I wonder, what about the past 3 weeks has made you feel better? Keep taking care of yourself because the support you give to him is only as good as the support you give yourself! If you were to reach out to him, what would you want to say? If you do reach out it’s best to try and remain positive, let him know you care and want to help, listen empathetically, and plan for what you want to say to him. In addition, try and establish what boundaries you want to put in place if you reach out to him again. A similar post here is about setting boundaries (and potential ultimatums) in a relationship, as well as best ways to communicate effectively.

If you do decide to reach out here are some tips: Approach him with curiosity about what the substances did for him, or what not being fully engaged does for him, in a non-judgemental compassionate and empathetic way. Let him know you want to have open dialogue and you’re there for him and want to understand what his journey has been like. This will allow him to let his defenses drop and engage more fully with you.

  1. Ask permission to have a conversation: by doing this you allow him to invite you in rather than intrude, it allows him to be a participant in the conversation versus a passive recipient, and by asking permission you increase the likelihood that he will listen to what you have to say and be open and receptive.

  2. You can now provide him with information you may want to share: offer, don’t impose, provide options to achieve the goal (for support look into CA/AA (you can go with him), go to a therapist, talk to his doctor, go to group therapy, etc), if there is disagreement flow with it so it reinforces that you want to be an ally in helping positive change for the both of you.

  3. Check back in with him by asking “does that make sense to you” or “I just want to check back in about…”.

I hope this helps, and keep us posted, you’re not alone! Thinking of you :yellow_heart:


#4

Hi @erica,
Thank you so much for your response!
In regards to his friend that is a counselor, he told me it’s probably best that I moved out and gave myself a bit of distance from him right now and to not engage with him when he’s clearly not sober. He told me that he would come around, because it’s clear to him that it’s the drugs speaking and that he really does love me. His friend is actually one of his best friends, so he told me that he would do his best to keep in contact with him and make sure he was okay, and that we weren’t overwhelming him. His friend also told me that I’m welcome to come over anytime if I need/want to, and his girlfriend was as equally supportive. But they really emphasized that I should be really focusing on myself, which is what I’ve been trying to do a lot lately. I might reach out to them again soon, but I’m not sure how to approach it.
The “break” that I took the past 3 weeks helped me to really focus more on myself and “get my mind right”. I think it was hard to really focus on anything other than his issues beforehand and it felt like I had to do something NOW all the time.
I do want to reach out to him again. I want him to know that I’m here for him, and that I know he does care about me too, and I want him to be happy and go on a path that will make him happier. The boundaries thing is definitely important for me too, and I think it’s something I realized is important to establish after I moved out.
I also do want to talk to him about positive things, but it’s also come clear to me that I need to discuss some not fun things, like the fact that I’m not sure if I should stay on the lease with him anymore. (Also as a way to protect myself in case damage happens to the property or he has money problems). I don’t know how to discuss that without him wanting to close me off.
Thank you so much for your feedback! :slight_smile:


#3

Oh @aesthete19, thank you so much for sharing this with us. What a confusing few months you’ve had! Addiction can be so overwhelming & lonely for everyone - your boyfriend and you. Definitely not what you want out of such a long, good relationship!

I’m curious, what do you want now? Do you want to talk to him? Do you want to be back together with him? Do you want to better understand addiction? Maybe cocaine specifically? How can this Community help you find some clarity?

I’m glad you are taking care of you right now. @erica is right when she says:

Thinking of you!


#5

@katie
Thanks for your response!
I would like to talk to him again, and from the signs I’ve seen (without talking to him), I can tell he’s getting worse. I eventually would like to get back together with him, but I think that involves establishing my own boundaries and making sure that I protect myself emotionally and physically somehow. I guess I’m just trying to gain insight in how I should approach these conversations without him feeling like he needs to withdraw and protect himself. Because it seems to me that he tells me to leave and he doesn’t feel the same so he doesn’t have to deal with the emotions of seeing me leave because of what he’s doing. Granted, I think it’s helped me gain perspective to move out, but I still want to be there for him in a way that is comfortable for me and my growth.


#6

@aesthete19 Totally! I’m glad you can find the ‘silver lining’ here - gaining perspective, learning about yourself! :partly_sunny:

I like @erica’s invitation to stay curious and open. To me, this means getting really curious about how he’s doing, is he hurting emotionally somehow, what are the positive short term consequences he gets from using, how does he feel when you leave, what are his long term goals etc. (Obviously whatever questions make sense in context.) But leading with curiosity (and open-ended questions!), instead of your desired outcome or agenda might help soften him up or keep him from withdrawing.

If you get some nuggets of information from this kind of conversation - one focused on his overall well-being versus “JUST STOP USING!!” - you might be able to better find a way to support him that still respects your boundaries & growth.

Total brainstorm here - I wonder, could you guys set up a meetup/date somewhere neutral? A coffee shop or dog park? Somewhere where it’s a bit harder for him shut down. And maybe during a time that he is not typically impaired? (For instance, my dad is extra groggy morning to midday, so mid afternoon is normally my best time to have a coherent conversation.) Maybe you could agree to put your phones away while you’re together?

Would love to know what you think! If you like, we can even call on @erica again to help effectively articulate specifically what you want to ask him?!


#7

What I hear you saying is:
You want to talk to him again, you can tell he’s getting worse, and you want to get back together with him. You also recognize the need to protect yourself and understand your limits and would like to know how to approach this without hurting him.

Our professional perspective on the topic of Communication is:
When we communicate with our loved ones in a positive way, we’re more likely to get what we want: some positive change! Positive communication is contagious, and can not only positively influence our loved one, but also help us learn how to reach out for support and connect with others on a deeper level. These communication tips can help guide how to communicate effectively.

7 Positive Communication Skills

  1. Be brief (keep it short)
  2. Be positive (always look at the positive side of a situation)
  3. Be specific and clear (concentrate on one area)
  4. Label your feelings (i feel…)
  5. Offer an understanding statement (i understand why…)
  6. Accept partial responsibility (i know that this is partly my fault because…)
  7. Offer to help (I’d like to…How can I help?)

To apply it:
Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t feel good. So it may be beneficial to reach out to one of your supportive friends to practice this communication before you have the conversation to help you feel more comfortable.

I’m thinking the following: “I care for you and can tell that things are getting harder for you which concerns me. It’s become difficult for me to navigate our relationship, support you, and make sure I’m taking care of myself, and the old way isn’t working. I want to work together to make our life happier, how can I help?”

Hope this helps, @aesthete19! I invite you to comment below to share how this is of value to you.

A note from Village :love_letter: : Our Coaches are trained in the leading evidence-based methods. If you are interested in additional support, feel free to send me a direct message!


#11

@katie
That makes a lot of sense to stay curious and open, and also the point about not making the conversation about my agenda! I think I will definitely try to reach out to him. I’m a little afraid that he will just shut me down or say that he has nothing to talk about, but I think even the fact that I’m reaching out will mean something. A meet up sounds like a great idea! I hope it’ll work out. :slight_smile:

@erica That sounds like a great idea! I definitely want to reach out to him soon, and I’m wondering when is a good time. I know Christmas is coming up, and I think it’ll be really hard for him. Since we’ve been dating for 4 years, he always spent Christmas with me. He never did or does anything with his family, even though they’re semi-close, they don’t actually spend time together on Christmas. I think even a text that I’m thinking about him might be helpful and help him feel a little less alone. I would like to see him, but I don’t know if he’ll just shut down and ignore me. But I guess it’s worth a shot!


#8

Ah @aesthete19 you’re speaking my language! My best friend and colleague went down the rabbit hole with cocaine for a couple years and pushed me away too.

Eventually he hit a bit of a rock bottom and said he would go to rehab (third time - saying he was ready to go then actually getting there’s - a charm) and now three years on we are married and he’s an amazing partner and doing so well…still healing in a lot of ways but all in all we’ve made it work.

So I think I know how you feel. What worked for me and I think greatly contributed to his long term wellbeing was, during his dark days, in the depths of addiction was staying in contact. I wish I’d learned sooner to take better care of myself and be more patient and less prone to react in a crisis-mode but I don’t know if I’d behave differently if it happened all over again. It’s so challenging to navigate.

Your gut is likely more in tune at the moment than his - brain hijacked by the substances. Cocaine also has major depressive qualities when the user stops taking it so majorly hard to stop.

My thought here is - take care of you, stay connected but als give space and are there other friends or family who could share the concern and weight of the worry with you? As well as the checking in on him?

The more we talk and normalise what’s going on the better - in my opinion <3

Keep chatting here - this really hits home for me!


#12

Yah I think that’s awesome @aesthete19! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that he’s receptive to a meetup, and if not, I think the deep down knowing that you still care & are still there for him will be meaningful.


#10

@polly Thank you so much for your response, I super appreciate it! :slight_smile: I’m glad to hear that everything is better now for you and your partner!

That makes a lot of sense. I feel like a lot of what I’m doing right now is just off intuition. When I confronted him before I decided to kind of give everything a break, I asked him why he kept saying such confusing things. For example, in one day, he would send me a love song and talk to me like everything was normal in the morning for a couple hours or so, then we’d hang out and he’d say something is romantic, and then at the end of the day, he would say he’s not sure if he can commit to anything. Then a couple days later, he’d tell me he wants to be with me and I’m everything to him. It was really confusing, and it was a bit more illuminating when I figured out what was really going on. When I thought we were back to normal and I was living with him again for a couple weeks, but I think he realized that I was getting close to figuring out something was really wrong…basically because he disappeared for a few days on a binge, he told me he didn’t feel the same about me anymore. And that’s when I decided to leave. A few days later, he asked me about the dog. But what made him push me away and tell me to move out is that he found out that I talked to his friend that knew about his drug use. And I’ve actually never straight up told him that I know that he’s using, just that something is wrong.

In terms of other people checking up on him, that’s why I reached out to that friend. His friend didn’t betray my trust in telling him that I talked to him, he just found out a different way. This friend is a mental health and drug counselor, who assured me that he still loves me, but it’s just the drugs talking. I know he was trying to meet up with him, but he’s been a little avoidant of everyone it seems. I may have to talk to him. I don’t know if his mom knows, but I told his brother. His brother is kind of in denial about the whole thing though. He knows about the abuse, but seems to think that his use is just “celebratory”. I told his brother that it’s up to him to tell his mom or not. I don’t know if he’ll actually do anything though. He did tell me I could talk to him though and let me know how the relationship drama is going and if I needed to vent.

It would be really helpful to know that someone else is trying to reach out to him. I’m a little afraid that he feels really alone, because he’s always emphasized to me that I’m everything to him and that I’m his best friend.

Thank you! I think it is super important to have that network of support! <3


#13

I’m glad you’re getting other people involved @aesthete19 - even if it means your boyfriend is angry or frustrated in the short term!

When things really escalated with my dad and we got him into rehab really fast, I ended up taking on some of his business and things to tie up loose ends - so I’d be calling people who are pretty close to him (his lawyer, his business partner, etc), and explain that dad was in this program and didn’t have reliable access to email etc. and they all told me about how they knew he was struggling with substance use and saw his decline etc etc.

And I remember thinking, “WTF. Why didn’t you say anything to me sooner?!” I could’ve helped (or tried to help!) sooner. Of course had they told me, it would’ve been embarrassing or hurtful to my dad - but what was even more painful for him, I imagine, was “rock bottom.”

(An aside, I’m not sure how I feel about the term “rock bottom,” but for convenience’s sake…)


#14

Oh my, everything that your going through I am at the moment. My heart is broken and my head is spinning. I left him because Everytime at the end of the month he was using. It’s been a month we have been broken up. It started off as let’s be friends with benefits. I said no. Then it was I want to be single and take things slow. I said no again. Not because I didn’t want too, it was because he never took our relationship seriously. Then it was I want to work on myself and my career. Now I’m trying to be friends. And he doesn’t want no part in me. He loves me but can’t say why. I asked him recently when did you realize you fell out of love with me. He told me to stop and he has other worries right now. On top of it he now says he wants me to move on and that he’s moving on. I’m heartbroken. I was with him for almost a year. He told me about his cocaine addiction two months into the relationship. I thought I could help him through it. I was wrong. I beat myself over it. I know I need to find a counselor. We were on and off through out our whole relationship. Towards the end he wanted to stop but he now made me I into a monster because I wanted to help him change his life for the better. To grow. We both wanted a family but I feel he feed me lies. He never wanted to be helped. I do see that. He said we would never work because we don’t like the same things. And that I was trying to change him. I rarely reach out and I’m sorry if this post was a mess. I hope you had found your closure and your peace. I just hope I get there too. I never forseen what the drug can do to alter the mind.

Amanda