He and I were walking along one of the darkest roads in the city. It was around 3am, and we’d just come from a friend’s party. He opted to park the car down the road, and promised to show me something cool a short distance from where we’d parked the car. I obliged, even though I knew something didn’t feel right. “Nothing good comes out of roaming South African streets after midnight”, my mother used to say. Those words resonated my mind, but I walked that dodgy road with my hand in his anyway, because I loved him. The path we took led us to the man who’d changed my life forever: his dealer. He bought his coke, shook the dealer’s hand and we walked back. “Don’t say a fucking thing”, he said to break the silence. I was too shaken to say anything anyway.
He had a drug problem long before he met me. We were friends for years before our relationship began, and he always seemed to have it all together. I encouraged him to go to rehab, to make sure that he was good, and he did. He was clean for four years. He had so much extra money (since he stopped buying drugs) that he’d invested and saved for a house, the one we eventually got to share. It was a gorgeous house, and he gave me free reign to turn it into a home he could be proud of. Every piece, from appliances to the furniture, I had chosen with him in mind. I did it to show appreciation to him for not only being a loving man, but also a responsible man.
The first six months living in our home were blissful. It all changed when he got a promotion at work. He had to work longer hours and travel more. That didn’t cause a strain in our relationship, but it was the stress he’d been under because of his added responsibilities at work that ruined everything. He’d have angry outbursts when I’d do or say something wrong, and he would spend “work weekends” away without a trace. I worried about him so much, but had faith that he was working hard and trying to deal with the pressure he was under. I didn’t think he would relapse. I didn’t think the drugs would be the first place he’d run to for a sense of peace. For months he took me on emotional rollercoasters I never grew tired of, because I loved him.
The night of the party was like no other. There were moments when he seemed edgy and tense at the party. I socialised with our friends, laughed and danced all night — and so did he. Whenever the wave of tension would overwhelm him, he’d make regular glances at the door as if he was expecting someone to walk into the room. This worried me, to some degree, but I didn’t want to bring it up in case he would have had one of his intense outburts. Once the party was done, we left. That’s when I saw just how badly he had relapsed.
The months that followed featured missed days at work, for the both of us. When he was on a bender, I had to lock the doors and ensure that eh didn’t leave. I did this out of fear that he’d hurt himself or someone else on the streets. I hid his bank cards and told him he had lost them. As a result, he resorted to selling our furniture and appliances. We were left with the couch, microwave and TV before we had to move out of the house. I moved into my own apartment, and he moved back in with his brother. In between settling down in my new home and today, we broke up because supporting him became difficult for me. He’d taken so much me away because he needed support and someone to remind him to try to stay sober. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I left.
Regardless of the nature of the addiction, or its intensity, at some point in the relationship you may put become your partner’s keeper. There is little to nothing you won’t do for them to ensure they stay clean. You’ll become the shield that blocks off any trigger that comes, put everything you love to be there when the withdrawal symptoms get intense and you’ll even go as far as putting your whole life on hold to keep your person sober. In the beginning, all that will be easy to do because you’re driven by love or whatever bonds the two of you together. Leaving your partner will be hard because you’re convinced that the break up will make him/her relapse. Addictions make one selfish, and the truth is that your partner will only relapse because they didn’t want help in the first place.
The important thing to remember in this journey is that your happiness should come first, always. If your partner priorities a high over you, then it’s time to retrial with yourself and leave. You deserve more than a remorse-filled conversation after the high has subsided and empty promises of sobriety. You deserve to be the one on speed-dial, instead of the dealer. You deserve a sense of peace and security when you’re around your love. A peace that’ll overwhelm you and give you a high you yourself won’t want to shake off. The first step to take in order to achieve that is to leave. Just leave.