I love an angry heroin addict

Plus: Let's talk about creativity and writing

By Cary Tennis

Published February 8, 2013 1:00AM (EST)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Reader,

As I pointed out in the Wednesday column, the best way to read the column every day is to bookmark http://www.salon.com/topic/since_you_asked/ and click on that every day.

I will run this notice up here for a few days so that folks will see it. (In case you've been having trouble finding the column because of the higher volume of stories Salon is now publishing.)

You could also subscribe to the Salon email newsletter and see how that works for you. It works for some people.

Another thing: Please write to me more on problems of creativity. I would like to expand the kinds of things I talk about into areas that I know something about and about which there can be more substantive discussion. We could even talk about specific books and music that you are interested in. Maybe. If it was something I had something to say about. For instance, if there is a passage in a book that struck you with peculiar force and you are unraveling how that reflects your current emotional or spiritual state, that might be interesting to talk about. Like why a certain passage in Jonathan Franzen's book "Freedom" caught me with peculiar force. Things like that might be interesting. As well as particular work habit issues related to the creative life. I'd love to talk about stuff like that. And relationship problems in writing groups. That would be interesting, no? And matters related to the financial side of artistic careers -- business, promotion, etc. It would all still have to be anonymous, of course, as far as it involves private individuals. But in the case of books and public figures, that's different. I think we would be free to comment.

So let's expand the parameters of this a little bit. I think we deserve that, after nearly 12 years!

Oh, now there is still a column here. I can certainly answer a letter from somebody involved with a heroin addict. So let's actually read the letter and answer it! OK!

Dear Cary,

I have been in a five-year relationship with someone I love dearly, but who has several flaws. The two most serious are drug addiction (heroin) and having anger management problems. Most of our relationship has been long-distance, with about a year of living together. We've been married for two years (no kids). After a series of particularly bad relapses and temper tantrums, I moved out of our home and have been living on my own for the past year. We have been seeing each other again for the past few months. He has continued to have relapses during this time.

He has been clean for several weeks now and says that he is tired of me not living with him, and that I have to either decide to move back in, or we should get a divorce. He said he promises to stay off drugs this time. I'm still very attached to him and enjoy his company, and as strange as it sounds, the arrangement of living apart has allowed me to tolerate his flaws and just be with him when he is "OK" and leave when things start to get weird. It is very scary to me to think about being without him, although it was so scary living with him before that I can't see myself ever agreeing to move back. I have tried to convince him to continue this non-traditional arrangement of living in separate residences, but he doesn't want to do that long term.

My question is, where do I go from here? I feel paralyzed by fear and indecision. How do I get past my fear of being alone? How many chances do you give a person? How do you break up with someone that you love and care about like a family member? How do you gain perspective and become decisive when you are so caught up emotionally?

Thank you for any insight you may have into this situation.


Dear Attached,

I think the answer to this is simple. Keep living where you are. Don't move in with him. If he insists on a divorce, then get a divorce. You might call this "calling his bluff." If he wants a divorce, give it to him. Do not let your fear of being alone weaken you into becoming his slave. If he cannot become clean and sober, you cannot live with him. And his current pattern is not a clean and sober pattern.

Is there a time limit on this? Well, after a person has been clean and sober for five years and is self-supporting and has no outstanding warrants, no unpaid traffic tickets, no unsecured debts that are not being paid off, a steady source of income, a signed lease on a living space and a set of sober friends in recovery and a home group, and is attending anger management workshops, then maybe it might be time to at least entertain the notion of living with him.


I'm serious. If you want to have a lifelong relationship with this man, then do not move in with him. Keep doing as you are doing. If he can enter an addiction recovery program and remain clean and sober long enough to have a genuine change, then he will become capable of accepting the fact that you wish to live apart and still have a relationship with him. He may not choose to do that but at least he will accept it. As long as he is trying to bargain with you or manipulate you into moving back in, he has not really accepted that you are an independent individual separate from him, with a separate set of needs. And as long as a person is a practicing addict it is nearly impossible for him to see the world as a set of autonomous individuals with their own needs. Until he is free from his addiction, he will continue to see the world and everyone in it as existing solely to satisfy his unquenchable thirst for oblivion.

Don't move back in with him. Not for at least five years.

Cary Tennis

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Addiction Creativity Heroin Jonathan Franzen Relationships Since You Asked Writers And Writing