Is it normal for a recovering addict to not want to talk about their recovery?

relapse
partner
heroin

#1

Needing some extra support today, Village Community! I apologize in advance for the long post…

Last night, my boyfriend and I got into a big argument that was bad enough for him to sleep on the couch. He slipped-up recently and we came up with a plan for him to start going to meetings and he is not quite sticking to it. I was upset at first but I decided I just need to trust that he knows what is best. He is going to meetings every so often but he keeps making excuses not to go now, but we agreed that if he doesn’t go to a meeting he will need to do something different to make sure his mind is in the right place.

He skipped last night and his excuse was that he got off work late and had to get up early for work the next day. I just didn’t have a good feeling about it. I was working up the courage to talk to him about it because it is still really hard for me to start a conversation because it is so uncomfortable and I’m always afraid he will shut down and take off. Well, I finally braved asking him about it right before we went to bed. I started the conversation with asking what he will do when he gets stressed out again. He slipped because he was stressed from the holidays. His answer was, “Well, I just won’t do that” (that as in heroin/opiates). I asked him if he has a plan and I could hear in his voice he was getting extremely irritable, but I just said that I know it’s not a perfect journey, there will be bumps along the road, but I just want to make sure he has a preventative plan in place because I just want to ensure we can have a future together. He told me that the fact that we have drug tests in the house will keep him from using again but I feel like that is such a short-term solution and not a long-term plan. I told him my concerns and he just said he just doesn’t like talking about this because it’s uncomfortable and he feels embarrassed. He compared it to someone talking about their own disability. And I told him he shouldn’t feel embarrassed, that I accept him for who he is and he should embrace that too.

I decided to end the conversation there because I didn’t want to push him, but a wave of emotions came over me because of the uncertainty of our future and our relationship as it all depends on his ability to stay on track with recovery. I started crying and I guess it woke him up so he got extremely angry and told me I need to knock it off and that I’m acting like a child and started saying some pretty hurtful things to me. He forced me to go to the bathroom and watch him take a drug test, threw the results at me, and said “there, are you happy?”. I felt like he was shaming me for feeling worried. This morning, he still kissed me goodbye before he left for work but I just have this feeling he used this morning so I’m going to test him tonight.

I’m not really sure what to do. Any advice? Anyone have similar experiences? Was there a better approach I could have taken?


#2

Hiya @Selfcare31 I’ve definitely been in your shoes! Not with heroin, but with my husband’s cocaine addiction. It was REALLY hard to talk about. I remember going over and over in my mind how to talk to him about it and I’d hold out, hoping for a window then frequently find myself not able to hold it in and having these kinds of late night frustrating conversations that hit roadblocks.

In my experience with my husband:

  • He hated talking late at night (which can be frustrating because sometimes that’s the only time we had to talk). My husband suffered from a lot of negative self talk which has taken years to erode. I think my trying to talk late at night when he might be trying on new positive self talk would be frustrating to him because it snapped him back into thinking about the relapse and failure instead of thinking about how most other days he’d done better and sticking to that thought train as much as possible - that’s also why my husband didn’t like AA/NA meetings and doesn’t go to them. He found it more helpful for him to think about life outside the addiction.

  • He was much more open to talking about relapses / binges after he recovered from them (which in this case was like a week)

  • He never expressed plans to me. When I tried to participate in making them or pushing for them I didn’t get too far. Mostly (I think) because I wanted more from him than he could give and I think I also was coming up with solutions versus listening to him.

  • He also felt extremely shameful and embarrassed about it. One of the biggest reasons he didn’t want to seek or accept professional help (he said) was because he didn’t want to admit that he couldn’t control his use – that was a really scary and powerless feeling to acknowledge. I think trying to talk about the chemical effect and hold these substances take and that habit change takes time can be helpful to try to help diminish this feeling of failure and incompetence. (The second reason for not getting help was financial stability and fear of losing his job - there’s a lot of misinformation about this and the more we can do to inform people about the laws that protect job security when seeking help for an addiction the better, which is why I mention it here ;)).

For safety sake please reinforce that if he uses it’s safest to not use alone and to have narcan on hand.

If I were to go through it again (and in some ways I do still with his drinking which concerns me)…I think I would try to listen as much as possible. Let him know I’m there to brainstorm, ask for permission and a time when he will want to talk about it with me (hold my tongue if he picks a date a week from now!) Give up on the idea of creating a plan unless he brings it up (it just never worked for me.) Work on reconnecting him to joy - plan a fun activity asap, get his friends to book in time and family to call and spread love.

This is just from my experience. It got long but I want to share with you - I’ve cried myself to sleep many nights though frustration, worry and confusion.

We’re three years plus on now from the lowest lows and when this relationship and addiction started we were ‘just friends’ it’s been a slow but steady upward climb and today we’re happy :slight_smile: and mostly healthy aside from a winter cold!


#3

Oh - and sending ALL THE LOVE <3 And I was just thinking. This is a stressful time. How do we take better care of you right now?
Plan a dinner with a friend? Yoga class? Call mom?


#4

@polly thank you so much for sharing your experience and your wisdom. This immediately made me feel less alone! My boyfriend mentioned the subject of our conversation is not great for pillow talk as we are trying to fall asleep. He actually told me last night that I pick the worst times to talk about this but it’s really hard to find the right window and then build up the courage to talk about it too.

It has been almost 2 weeks since his slip-up so not sure if he is recovered or not. This is his first slip after being clean for 18 months and out of rehab for almost 7 months. I think it’s just unfamiliar territory for both of us so we are both handling it the best we can.


#5

@polly <3 I plan on going out with a friend tonight just to get out of the house and take a break from him so I don’t dwell on things too much.

I have to constantly remind myself to let go because I can’t control any of this. It’s really really tough!


#6

@Selfcare31 I totally know what you mean about finding time to talk it is SO hard. Maybe test asking him when you he will be open to talking about things and see if it works better.

I’ve literally had that conversation so many times - like for years, it probably took me 3 years to learn not to bring things up at bed time AND I STILL DO! ha. :see_no_evil:

Great to hear you’re getting out with a friend. Enjoy it :slight_smile: <3 and stay strong! And I’m totally here for you guys xxx


#7

@polly Thanks so much for your support and encouragement! It makes me feel like a burden is slightly lifted and it’s really nice. I’m glad I’m not the only one that takes about things in bed… I’ve always done this even in my past relationships - probably because that is when I have the most thoughts racing through my mind!

I guess this is just another skill I am learning and this is just my journey. It is going to take some figuring out and learning what works best for both of us. Next time i want to talk, I will try asking him when we can talk. That is still scary to bring up because I’d be afraid he’ll just say “never” :roll_eyes:

Baby steps…


#9

I’m so glad you felt safe turning to this Community @Selfcare31, and I’m sorry last night was so hard. @polly definitely has more firsthand experience with journeying through this with a partner, so I’m taking us a little sideways here…

I’m wondering if it might be worth suggesting an activity you can do together to keep his health/well-being up. Maybe It’s just a walk around the block each night? Or each of you leaves a post-it on the mirror during your get-ready-for-bed-routine that says 1 thing you’re grateful for that day? (That’s a brainstorm! :brain:)

I watched this video by Marie Forleo yesterday that suggests to offer a “minimum viable action” as a persuasion tactic. What is the smallest possible action someone could take to create the change you want? Basically, make it easy!


#8

@Selfcare31 I’m confident he won’t say never! He knows it’s coming from a good place. But do let us know how you get on!


#10

@katie love this idea of a “minimum viable action”! This ties in with so much research that has been done that shows that our brains LOVE small actions that lead to small rewards, because they lead to more consistency with behavior change!
It’s so important to be the catalyst of that change, and really think deeply about what has worked for inciting action within your loved one in the past. It’s the little things that count!


#11

I can only speak from the perspective of a parent of an addict, but I have dated alcoholics in the past so I can imagine being in your shoes. I would say its normal for them to NOT want to talk about it. Using my son as an example, he hates to discuss it for several reasons:

  1. The shame and embarrassment he feels
  2. He KNOWS he’s screwing up and doesn’t need me to confront him about it
  3. He feels guilty but instead of admitting that, he gets defensive
  4. He knows that I love and support him, but he also knows I have not flippin idea how hard it is to stop using heroin, so it irritates him when I talk about it as if its something he can just “do”, in reality he’s been using for 11 years and he can’t stop (yet).

I’m sorry to hear you have to go through this with him. I don’t know how long you have been together or if there is talk of marriage and/or children. I would caution you to take it slow because sadly, once an addict - there will ALWAYS be a struggle. Remember when the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died a few years ago? He had stopped using heroin for 25 years and went back to it. I’m not trying to scare you, but you need to understand opiate addiction, its not like being addicted to cocaine or any other drug. Please educate yourself as much as possible.

HE has to want to stop using for HIMSELF first, then you. He will start resenting you if you keep bugging him about it (is that fair? No! but I’ve seen that happen time and again).

I hope I don’t sound harsh or like a know-it-all, but I’ve been around heroin addiction for 15 years, lost a son to it, have worked in rehabs, talked to literally hundreds of addicts and attend a meeting each week that is a group of parents and a group of guys with addiction, Its not something. Please be careful.


#12

@AnthonysMom I think you highlighted a really important theme here, which is that addiction is not something our loved ones want for themselves! No matter how badly they may want to go back to using, they can be just as aware as non-users about how bad of a cycle it is. It just really comes down to the fact that it’s so hard to stop using due to the way addiction hijacks the brain. But deep down I truly believe our loved ones want to recover! It’s just naturally a very tough thing to discuss due to the feelings of shame and embarrassment.