At 15 years old, my first boyfriend was a drug addict. I never had any exposure to drug use as a young girl, and my first exposures were directly tied to the relationship I was in. The first time I ever saw people using drugs was during the two years we were together. The pipeline of being in a long-term relationship with a drug abuser tore apart my first impressions of what a relationship is like, and to this day, I feel the effects of his drug use on my own life a year later.
As a sophomore in high school, getting into a relationship with a boy seemed only normal. Who doesn’t want a big, tall, boyfriend to hold your hand to fourth period? From the first weeks of our romantic endeavours, all my reasoning for why I should run away became nonsense.
I wanted to make a point; that a naive, clean-cut girl like me could be with an edgy, rebellious boy like him. In my eyes, I was going against the rules of society, and it made the endeavour all the more exciting. I figured that I would be able to look over the obvious addiction that was taking over his life. As long as the relationship didn’t get too far, who cared if he had addictions?
As our feelings for each other grew, we spent more time together and shared our beliefs and ideas together. He knew that I wasn’t like him, and he promised to keep me distanced from the abuse that he and his friends would engage in on a daily basis. It wasn’t until it was too late that I discovered his promises were hollow.
Spending time at his house meant that his friends would also be there. I sat in the corner of the room, observing as they smoked, snorted, and consume various substances that I had no understanding of. They observed me back, and suddenly I felt like the smallest ant in a jungle of creatures. Was I scared? Yes. But, could I let them know that? Not in a million years.
I spent hours in a room full of addicts all engaging in drug use except for me. For two years, I watched my boyfriend and his friends pump their bodies full of substance until they couldn’t take any more. The limit of what they could handle was constantly pushed. I spent two long years in a neverending second hand smoke of abuse, addiction, and narcissism. Once I realised that I had been suppressing my feelings of fear and discomfort, it was too late.
Fast forward to a year and a half, and our relationship is deepened. We understand each other now. His family loves me. My family loves him. He wants to stay together through college. I change the subject.
His addiction grows stronger, and I watch him lose himself in the process. I watch as his cheeks become hollow, his hair becomes thin, his diet becomes scarce. I watch him consume more and more, and become violent when there was nothing left to consume. It only took a few months before I felt the invisible hand around my neck, taking away my air and mobility. The last days of our time spent together consisted of his addiction wrapping its arms around him and I both, taking away our oxygen. I no longer see the boy I fell in love with, instead I see a drug addict with violent tendencies.
After the final end of our relationship, the effects were not noticeable until I began my recovery. I had developed crippling anxiety and depression. I started going to therapy for the sudden anxiety attacks that became a part of my life. Not only was I sad that our relationship was over, but I became conscious of how being in a relationship with him turned me into a more skittish person. A lot of my coping mechanisms were tied to him, and without him I found it difficult to soothe my own emotions.
If I were to share my advice with anyone in a relationship with a drug abuser, I would say that the most important thing is to be a support system for your partner, and to be a good listener. If drug abuse begins to tear the relationship apart, it is best to leave.
Viviana Villarina is a mental health advocate.