I have been in a lesbian relationship for the last eight years. We had a lovely commitment ceremony at my parents' home, and my partner is loved by my family. We have a 3-year-old and own a business. We have a great house that we put a lot of our energy into maintaining. To all on the outside (and often to me on the inside) it has seemed like a domestic fairy tale.
For the last few years our relationship has had more rocky moments than I would like, but I attributed it to a new baby and running a business in a shifting economy and two cycles of PMS running through one household. My own parents fought often and are still in a truly genuine partnership 45-plus years strong.
The infrastructure that our relationship has (the home, the kid, the family stake in our success, the business, keeping up appearances) has clearly been the glue that kept me from saying yes to opportunities to cheat, walking away or in any other way saying, "This is too hard." She has no family but a sister, so I also feel a pressure to keep it together born of her loneliness and isolation.
Lately (for a few months at least), I have felt that I was doing all of the heavy lifting with our child and household, the business, our friends, and I couldn't get through to my partner. I felt all alone.
Then, at the end of last week, I got a phone call from the police that I needed to go to the seedy part of town and collect the car registered to me because the driver (my partner of eight years) had been arrested for felony heroin possession! I had no idea. Apparently she has been abusing OxyContin (or oxycodone, I'm not clear on the difference; being naive about drugs, I barely even drink; I'm pretty Type A) for at least six months, and she may or may not have been using heroin also. She says she was in the wrong place at the wrong time (the story is too complicated and tangential to the question I'm asking you to be worth three paragraphs).
Of course I didn't bring her home. I had to borrow (from my parents) $12,000 to check her into rehab and another $10,000 for a lawyer to deal with the legal implications.
You would think I would be feeling just awful, but now that she's out of the house, I feel great! Finally the truth is out. I'm not crazy. Things really were not OK. I really was doing all the work. She really was lying to me. I haven't felt this great in years! Such a weight is lifted off me to not be trying to do everything and make it look like two of us were doing everything. My kid seems happier (and has not asked about where his other mother is even once), and my stress rash has cleared up, all in less than a week.
I find myself unable to ignore my basic gut feeling: "This is your 'Get Out of Jail Free' card." The marriage has been unsatisfying to me for a while, but I don't believe that as human beings we can be happy all the time, so I thought the commitment I made to our relationship, and to my friends and family to honor the relationship, was what I had to honor. Happiness would come around again, I hoped.
Now the infrastructure holding us together is gone, and she was the one who took steps to disintegrate it. Whether it was conscious or not, she did it. My entire life has been leveled. Everyone knows what is happening; my ego has been cast to the wind. The business can't go on as it has, if at all, and she needs to change her habits and patterns if she is going to be well enough to be a co-parent with me. We aren't living together now since she's left the house. We don't really have any money to argue over (since we're spending it all on her recovery), and I want to walk away.
But instead I'm being told by my friends and family (except for a select few) and by the rehab facility that I should stick by her, that there is hope. I don't want to hope; as it is, I am resentful of the degree that I am being asked to participate in her recovery. I'm not an enabler; I only needed to have the information that she was doing drugs before stopping all efforts to keep up her side of appearances. I don't do drugs, I have been to a lot of therapy in my life and am pretty clear that I don't think God is looking out for my specific life. That I have been asked to go to 12-step meetings (and talk about God's plan for my life, sigh) at the rehab facility 45 minutes away, four times a week, while still trying to cover childcare and keep our work commitments going so that I can at least pay this month's bills is overwhelming enough!
Obviously, I want to do the "right" thing. I want her to be well, but I've been so lied to and so violated that I don't envision ever being able to forgive the months of deceit enough to feel like we are truly equal partners. I understand that addiction is a sickness, but she chose to start taking the drugs while not addicted knowing that I am opposed to playing around with something so dangerous. She made a choice to do something that she knew would be devastating to the relationship.
So how come I feel like I am about to be cast as a mean, abandoning, heartless b*%#h for saying that there is no second chance? Do I have to try? I'm willing to say that I will work toward having a mutual parenting relationship. I am willing to go to the rehab family events when I am not scheduled to work and can get a sitter. I am willing to say that I will not be available to others for romance until she is well enough for us to mutually end the relationship. But I just can't hold myself up to her as the reward for her getting through rehab, and that seems to be what is expected of me.
I value your opinion as one who has struggled with addiction. What do you think?
Dear Addict's Partner,
I have a message for you that is fairly simple: If your partner is in recovery, her recovery does not depend on you.
But is she an addict? How do we know? Has she freely admitted that she is an addict? Has she reached the point in her life where things are so screwed up, and she is in so much pain, humiliation and shame, and feels so helpless and degraded, that she is willing to do anything to stop using drugs?
She says she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That doesn't sound like the voice of somebody so demoralized and broken by addiction that she is willing to try anything, absolutely anything, in order to be free of it. It sounds more like she just got caught. She indulged in risky behavior, got caught, and was whisked away to rehab to learn the psychologically correct lingo of the recovery-industrial complex. And everyone else in the situation who has an interest is now pulling strings to cover up the indiscretion, preserve the infrastructure, and make sure she looks good and repentant in front of the judge when she comes up for felony possession -- if she comes up for felony possession, which I doubt.
Drugs bring many powerful social and economic forces into play.
I might be an addict in recovery, but I don't think using drugs is wrong, and I don't think that everybody who gets caught with heroin is an addict. And I especially don't think that you and I can decide for somebody else when it's time for rehab.
Obviously something is going on, and with a 3-year-old kid to take care of, and a business to run, some decisions have to be made.
Meanwhile everybody's telling you that you should support her recovery. You should be there for her. Of course the rehab says it's best if you stay involved and support her recovery. You're paying the bills. And of course everybody assumes right off that she's an addict, that she has a disease, that she has to be cured. That's the current religion.
But I'm not buying it. Not on what you tell me. I don't feel swept up in the feel-good morality play of the moment.
If she is an addict and she's going to recover, she is going to do it with or without you. If she is going to slip into a graver and more deadly addiction, she is going to do it with or without you. If you try to manage all this, it will just drag you down.
The best thing you can do now is be authentic. That might mean leaving and it might not. You will have to discriminate between a momentary impulse to flee and a deeper, more certain knowledge that an episode of your life has come to an end.
"Since You Asked," on sale now at Cary Tennis Books: There's still time to receive an autographed first edition!
What? You want more advice?