Friday, August 14, 2020

Should I Quit Drugs for a Relationship?

That's the 64-thousand dollar question.  It's asked all the time on drug forums and, less frequently, relationship forums by people looking for direction.  Should a drug user give up their substance of choice for a romantic relationship, or should they tell a potential partner to stick it where the sun don't shine?

I've run into this one myself in my past long-term relationship.  My ex never came right out & gave me an ultimatum but threw my pill use in my face when she dumped me the first time, blaming my love of opiates for all manner of issues, from my inability to keep up with chores to our money problems.  To be fair, drugs cost money so she probably had a point with the latter one but my chronic fatigue & depression LONG predate my drug use. 

Substance abuse is complicated like that:  it tends to be interwoven with other problems like mental illness, physical health problems, childhood trauma & unhealthy coping skills.  It's hard to see where the effects of the drug end and the other issues begin.  While drugs can absolutely cause their own set of complications, they also make an easy scapegoat for people who don't truly understand how they affect the user.  There are many factors to consider when answering this question so let's get into it. 

Compromise & Accommodate

So to answer the question:  It really depends on your individual situation.  (I know, not all that helpful but hear me out).  If your drug use is light & responsible but an important part of your identity, you may be able to incorporate it into a relationship in a way that allows everyone to be happy.  You will have to bend a little, changing the frequency, duration or location of your drug use to accommodate your partner a bit if it makes them uncomfortable or is a turnoff.  (This does NOT include lying or sneaking around).  But that's better than nothing, right?  Relationships are about compromise.  If you find yourself totally unwilling to compromise, either it's not the right person or you're not ready for a relationship at all.  Be honest about this upfront so you don't lead the other person on. 

However, if your drug use is problematic (i.e. takes up an unhealthy amount of your finances, time or puts your health/safety at risk), you will need to cut back or stop to be in a thriving relationship with a person who isn't an addict.  Substances like heroin, crack or meth are harder to use casually & more likely to jeopardize a relationship.  You might require detox or inpatient treatment to quit which will be well worth it in the long run.  Anyone who's willing to stand by you during something like this is worth keeping around, if not as a romantic partner then at least as a friend. 

The Bottom Line

Quitting drugs is something you should do for yourself primarily.  If you don't want it bad enough, it will never stick anyway.  You'll end up resenting your partner & sneaking around behind their back, causing all kind of problems.  On the other hand, if you're lucky enough to find a person you truly click with who loves you back, that's not something to throw away over something that doesn't mean that much to you.  If drugs are something you just enjoy occasionally but aren't important to your life or well-being, don't hold onto them out of stubbornness.  There are other hobbies & coping mechanisms you can use's all about weighing the benefits & drawbacks for YOU.

There are exceptions though:  if your drug use is moderate & your partner shows signs of being controlling or manipulative in other areas, such as expecting you to stop hanging out with your friends or family, this is a red flag.  It's not about the drugs in that case--they just have a controlling personality & it's likely to spiral into abuse if you stay with them.  Run!

Whoever I get with next will have to accept my substance use as part of the package.  I've been a moderate opioid & stimulant user for over 15 years now & that's not changing.  But I am also in therapy, seeing multiple healthcare professionals & doing things like exercising & meditating to ensure my mental & physical health so I'm not just relying on drugs as my only form of self-care.  I've also grown more mature & discreet about drugs over the years, no longer flaunting it like it's cute to drink cough syrup out of the bottle or a "pimp cup" in public.  I treat recreational drugs like I treat my Prozac--taking it in the same dose every day to keep my mood afloat...not to get wasted.  My partner doesn't need to use drugs or even think they're "cool" as long as they don't judge me for it.  We're all adults here. 

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