'My long-term boyfriend was a secret drug addict'
After Liam* became abusive, Sarah* realised he'd been hiding his addiction for years.
MirageCIt probably wouldn't surprise anyone to read that according to the World Drug Report 2016, one in 20 adults used at least one illegal drug in 2014. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime researchers also reported that globally, 29million people are dependent on drugs. They also found gender differences within drug use too - men are three times more likely than women to use cannabis, cocaine or amphetamines.
But something that hasn't really been looked into before is how deeply drug dependency can impact on relationships. New research fromAddictions.comlooked at people who'd experienced drug abuse first hand to see how damaging the effects had been on their partners.
It was found that everyone's happiness in a relationship declined as their frequency of drug use increased - while people whose partners occasionally used drugs cited their happiness as between 7-8 on the scale, for women who were with someone who constantly used drugs it fell to a 3. More than half (56%) of respondents said they wouldn't remain in a relationship with someone who was suffering from substance abuse, but leaving a partner over their drug use is rarely simple.
Cosmopolitan UKspoke to 26-year-old Sarah*, who, for a number of years, had no idea her boyfriend was battling a secret drug addiction."My boyfriend was a secret drug addict""I was 18 going on 19 when I met Liam* at the warehouse party where he was DJing. He bought me a drink and was super sweet, and we were into the same music. He was also really smart and we just hit it off.
We were living and studying in different states, so our relationship was long distance for months. But we had such a great rapport that we decided to keep it going. I'd travel to see him every two months or so because I had family where he was anyway, it was basically like going home.
When I did see Liam, drugs were usually involved. He always DJed at the weekends so we went out a lot - we'd have some drinks, use typical club drugs and smoke some weed. It never occurred to me that his drug use was anything more than occasional.
GettyAfter we'd been together for a year, when I was about 20, he graduated and decided to move back up north with my while I finished college. He was used to DJing massive clubs every weekend and now, we lived in a small town and there was nowhere to go out. I think he got really restless. That's when I first noticed that he drank a lot... like, getting drunk basically every night. He’d go through a bottle of wine on his own every day. I thought that was really weird.
When we moved to Spain together just after my graduation, it really hit me. He was in his element with his job, and I realised drugs were a daily thing for him. There was always an excuse to take drugs and soon it became a daily thing to pop a pill, or grab a baggy and go out. I didn’t always want to party, but he'd pressure me to. Then we'd get into horrific arguments which our roommates overheard through our thin apartment walls. I slowly began to realise I was moulding my life to fit his.
Trying to talk to him about his drug use just resulted in him getting so nasty that I had no choice but to back off. As well as being defensive, he'd bring things that I apparently did into it. Liam would say,"Well you love to go out and I provide that." I’d end up feeling guilty and he'd storm out. Looking back, he was very much a manipulative person.
In the bedroomHe became very physically aggressive and he'd make me do things I just wasn't comfortable with. He started using drugs and booze to make me more open to trying things I didn’t want to in the bedroom. I was thinking,"Oh my god, this is not OK." And as time went on, our sex was either very aggressive or we didn't have sex at all. I ended up finding all these night jobs to avoid going home. I was afraid.
Believing certain jobs were"below" him, I'd have to bartend in these sleazy bars that I hated so much just to make enough money for us. Meanwhile, he was out partying and using the excuse that he was 'networking' to go to clubs and take copious amounts of drugs. It was a bizarre situation, but I was just stuck in the cycle. Trying to break free, I started trying to go my own way with new friends and our roommates. This just made him angry and mistrusting.
MirageCI'd be doing laundry and find empty baggies in his pockets, which was evidence he was doing a lot more drugs than he said he was. Liam would come home and say he just drank that night, or just took"one little pill". He'd either shrug it off when I asked, or get mad and tell me it wasn’t my business. And he was still getting physically aggressive at home - I don’t know why I stayed so long.
After we moved back to the U.S., we were having a huge argument and it came out that he was thousands of dollars in debt. It was completely unexplained because his parents had paid off his tuition fees. I don’t know if he was using any drugs other than ecstasy and weed, but surely you can’t go through that many thousands of dollars on just ecstasy and weed?
As his addiction worsened, he developed a habit of not showering. We'd fight about that and by this time, he disgusted me. Shortly after in 2014, I found him on Tinder, and finally was like, 'fuck this!'. I don’t know why, but it really knocked it into my head. By that point I was ready to leave and had seen who he really was.
Getting my confidence backIn hindsight, I realise that he was abusive. I’ve had to go through counselling to help me deal with that. I also don't think I ever knew the sober Liam. I do think addiction can affect the person the addict is in the relationship with more. He was highly functional in his life, but his behaviour really broke me down and held me back. The aggression he'd take out on me meant it took a lot for me to gain my confidence back.
"His behaviour really broke me down and held me back"A lot of people in that situation don't realise how poisonous it is, to them. I certainly didn’t. To have to carry that energy around in your relationship or home is unhealthy and something that’s going to halt your growth as a person.
If I could give any advice to women in the same situation, it would be: get out. If the signs are there and you’re starting to wonder, that’s a problem. There’s probably a lot more going on that you don’t see. I stayed for like a year and a half more than I should have.
As soon as the relationship ended, I knew it was the right decision. It was like this weight I’d been carrying around for so long had lifted. That was four years ago now. I recently moved in with my boyfriend of two years and he’s completely sober. He's showed me how you should be treated in a relationship.
*Names have been changed“If a loved one has problems with Read more: Cosmopolitan UK »
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