How do I respond to frequent slips or is it a full relapse?


#1

My boyfriend of a year and a half is addicted to cocaine. He uses it intravenously. When we met he told me he was in recovery and he was done using forever. I believed him. I had never dated anyone with this issue and was very naive. As far as I know he was clean the first six months, but not sure, since I had not yet learned to recognize the red flags. In the past year, he is using once a month on average and it’s usually 1-3 nights each time. I started going to Al-Anon soon after his first slip and it’s been tremendously helpful with getting support and putting the focus on myself. I have an 11 year old son and I and my boyfriend and I are talking about moving in together. I love this man. I don’t know what to do. I have conflicting voices inside of me - one scared voice that catastrophizes the situation (I will lose him and never love again, I will lose myself and not be present for my son) and one judgemental voice (this is typical of me, always falling in love with the wrong people, he will never change, I’m a terrible parent, make a decision and move on already) .
Not even sure what my specific question is - I think I’m just wondering if anyone else has experienced a similar situation.
Also wondering if you think he is in recovery with frequent slips or an active user with clean periods? Does it even matter how it’s labeled?


#2

Hi @Jmp great to have you here with us and thank you for sharing!

Has he ever had any kind of help for his use? Even a therapist, counselor, recovery coach can be a great step in the right direction for support.

My husband struggled with cocaine - in my experience labels are great when they are helpful - to help with communication, getting a point across etc. When it comes to determining how much of a problem / issue the use is, I think we generally have a good sense based on their behaviors and our knowledge of their use.

Slips can be turned into learning moments - they indicate that something is not working, that the support needs to be leveled up, and can be a time to reflect on what has worked in the past and return to those tools, or a time to brainstorm and collaborate on what they think might work for them now.

Tonight in our meetup (hosted online so you can join from home!) we’ll be talking about how we can use our knowledge of a loved one’s harmful habits to interrupt, divert and create new healthier habits. I think this will be a great topic for you to join for. I hope you will, you can RSVP HERE and I’ll send you the details to join the online meetup and the materials which we’ll work through during our time together!


#3

Thanks for being here @Jmp. Slips and relapses are so hard on everyone.

First off - I don’t believe the labels matter at all. In fact, I think labels often screw things up and have the tendency to place unrealistic expectations on people. Recovery looks different for everyone. My husband doesn’t have a “sobriety” date. I couldn’t tell you how long he’s been “clean.” Honestly I often have to think about what year he even went to rehab the first time. 2016? 2017? The timeline is all blurry in my head but it doesn’t matter. I focus on right now. That said, I call them “slips” when he gets right back into recovery. For me, a full on “relapse” is back into the cycle of active addiction with no action toward recovery. So he’s had a few slips in the past few years. It doesn’t erase all the work he’s done. With each slip, he stands up even stronger.

But yeah, the slips are super scary, and every time the voice shows up in my head, too. “What am I doing? Can this marriage last? How long will I be able to take this before I break? Am I an idiot for staying? Will he be slipping like this for the rest of his life? Is this my life now?”

I try to remember that the voice in my head isn’t the true me. Just a voice of fear. I recognize it, accept it, and let it go. I call my Al-Anon sponsor. I go to a meeting. I remember that we’ve survived much worse, that life is ups and downs, that these feelings are temporary. I remember that he is capable of recovery. My husband has also agreed to random drug tests at home and I can see his location on my phone. We had to put these things into place for full transparency in our marriage, because building back trust is hard after all the lies that come with addiction.

Sending you love, @Jmp. Keep going and have trust in yourself. You are going to be okay. :hearts:


#4

Jane - yes, he is in therapy and attends NA meetings.

Thank you both so much. Knowing that I’m not alone and that my feelings are totally normal is tremendously helpful. Also, to be reminded that there are ups and downs, accept and learn to roll with them. The ups are amazing, like truly amazing in a way I’ve never experienced. I have learned so much about myself and grown both spiritually and psychologically in this relationship. I will never regret it. But it’s also caused me a lot of pain.

I had a new experience this week. I left his house feeling happy as a lark - when normally my anxiety would kick in about what will he do next, when will he slip again, etc, I felt like I actually don’t care if he uses again. It’s his life, his journey, and his choices. I am a really good girlfriend, and I can’t do any more for him than I already do. I think I’m just done being in a constant state of anxiety due to another person’s behavior. I mean, that’s crazy. I have told myself that before, but this was the first time I truly felt it. Maybe this is detachment with love?
I also had a strong sense that I would eventually be fine if did decide to leave the relationship. I have choices too. This is a shift from the panicked love that I’ve felt before. I suppose I’ve been addicted to the addict. From what I understand this is not unusual. Like I couldn’t manage without him. Truth is, I manage my life very well.

Today I feel grateful for all of it.


#6

Love so much of what you’re saying here @momentsandlight - to call out a few that really resonate for me:

the voice shows up in my head, too. “What am I doing? Can this marriage last? How long will I be able to take this before I break? Am I an idiot for staying? Will he be slipping like this for the rest of his life? Is this my life now?”

^I find it amazing how quickly my mind rubber bands back there, and then when things are good easily shifts out of this state!

I remember that we’ve survived much worse, that life is ups and downs, that these feelings are temporary. I remember that he is capable of recovery.

^Keeping front of mind their capability for recovery is SO important for both us and them! They need that reflection as much as we need that conviction to stay connected.

My husband has also agreed to random drug tests at home and I can see his location on my phone. We had to put these things into place for full transparency in our marriage, because building back trust is hard after all the lies that come with addiction.

^Depending on the exact situation those measures and agreements may be different but the underlying point I see is this shows you are in it together.


#7

I am in the EXACT same circumstance except my bf drug of choice is heroin. And I don’t have a child involved in the mix. So my heart goes out to you. I can only imagine how much more intense it makes an already emotionally tumultuous situation this can be for us!

I’ve had the same conflicting thoughts. Since I found my bf was regularly using heroin (not every day but 2-3 times per week mostly on the weekends), it’s been a rollercoaster of recovery/clean and using/trying to hide/lie about it. I know he’s using, he knows I know that he’s using, yet he won’t actually admit it and still denies any attempt I try to confront him.

Slip ups, full on relapse, etc… I’ve tried explaining to him the difference and if he’d come to his support system (his family, a friend or even myself) that it can be rectified and the can return to the right path! But, he just doesn’t admit when he’s slipped up. I often wonder if it’s just because he’s uninterested in getting clean at this point and wants to continue to use behind everyone’s backs for whatever his reason may be.

So where to draw the line, right?

I know this isn’t an answer. I apologize! Your words just very much resonated with me and my own experience. I wish you and your family the best and I truly hope your guy is able to overcome this battle! Keeping y’all in my thoughts! :pray:


#5

This is amazing to hear, @Jmp. I’m glad you mentioned “detachment with love” - I think there is often an idea that detachment means turning away from our loved ones, but I think you’re spot on here as for you, in that moment, it meant detaching yourself from the disease and symptoms of addiction, detaching yourself from expectations for your relationship, detaching yourself from unhealthy behaviors, while still being able to show love and care for your loved one. Again with the labels people use in the recovery community. We have to learn to be careful as we navigate them, taking what serves us and leaving the rest. I’m glad you are able to find peace. :pray::sparkles: