What It's Like to Date a Drug Addict
My boyfriend made promise after promise, but he never kept them.
I met James in December of 2020. There was an instant attraction. He wasn't like any guy I had dated or been interested in before. I could tell right away that he was The One.
James told me the night we met that he was an addict—or a former addict, he claimed. Ironically, he told me this as we were doing lines of coke in my room, although heroin was his drug of choice. I didn't know anything about drug addiction, so I assumed it was normal behavior, that he might have a problem with one drug but could handle himself when it came to others.
He glamorized his addiction.
He seemed almost proud of it, talking about how heroin addicts were “the cool kids.” They were the most hardcore of all, he said. Nothing compares to shooting up so much you blow out your veins, forcing you to start shooting the ones in your foot. He romanticized the idea of spending every day getting high, partying sunup to sundown. Instead of spotting a problem right away, I thought this made him incredibly interesting. Plus, he said he could handle drugs and alcohol now, so why should I worry?
Our Relationship Got Intense Very Quickly
The night he asked me to be his girlfriend, I was hesitant, not because of the "former" drug addiction but because I felt we hadn’t spent enough time getting to know each other. But from the get-go, he made elaborate promises that convinced me to say yes.
Things moved very quickly in our relationship. We fell in love in a drastically short amount of time, but I meant it when I told him I loved him, and I knew he did too. Looking back, I see that he was love bombing me, making promises about the future that seemed like a fairy tale.
"I'm going to take care of you, if you let me," he would say. "I'm going to work so you never have to." I was on cloud nine. I told my family and friends the things he said, and they were so happy for me, at least at first.
Four months into dating, we moved in together. I thought it was the best idea because we essentially lived together anyway since he was always at my apartment, and I was ready to take the next step. We decided he would cover rent and I would handle groceries and bills.
And with that, I made the worst decision of my life.
I lived on a month-to-month lease. Roommates were always coming and going, so the easiest way to deal with security deposits was to pay the person moving out. Because James was taking both of my roommates' spots, he owed each of them $600.
He didn't have the money at the moment, so his dad was going to pay for it—or so he said. “My dad is sending the money this Sunday, so let them know they’ll have the money then,” he told me.
Sunday turned into Monday, which turned into Friday. "The money is coming," he said over and over. My former roommates grew understandably impatient as I explained the situation.
After two weeks, I took matters into my own hands and paid them myself. I knew James was never going to pay them (and toward the end of the relationship, he even told me so). He promised he’d pay me back, but of course, the money never came. But I trusted that this was only temporary. He’d take care of me like he said he would—right?
He Constantly Made Excuses About Money
He "lost his credit card," so I paid for everything. I bought groceries, dinners, even gas for his car. There was always an excuse why he couldn't pay me back: His PayPal wasn’t working or his Venmo had been hacked. I wanted to take care of him, just like he said he was going to take care of me.
When I wanted to redecorate the apartment, I asked if he could cover our shopping trip since I was already paying for everything else. "OK, but I only have $80 in cash," he said. I walked around the store, seeing things I wanted, but I felt guilty that he didn't have much money, so I left the store empty-handed.
That night, I had a friend over. He and I were watching a movie when James put on his coat and headed for the front door. When I asked where he was going, he told me, “Our dealer’s house.” Knowing each coke bag was $150 and knowing he claimed to only have $80 earlier that day, I asked him where the money had come from. He said he “found it in his jeans.” I knew that was bullshit, but I didn’t feel like arguing, so I let him leave.
Even though I was angry, I still railed some lines when he got back. We even had people over to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
An hour later, when we were all fucked up, I caught him trying to ingest our cat's medicine, amitriptyline, which gives you a euphoric high. When I found him, he brushed it off as a joke. It wasn’t funny at all.
Two months in, I started getting texts from my landlord, wondering why he hadn’t received our rent check. When I approached James about it, he said he would talk to our landlord and straighten things out.
But my suspicions were right. He wasn’t paying at all.
After several more texts from my landlord, I made James drive us to my landlord’s apartment to deliver the check personally, like he said he had in previous months. When we pulled up to the house, I realized we had entered the wrong address into Google Maps. When we pulled up to the actual address, I noticed how different that house was from the other. My landlord lived in a two-story house with tan siding. The house we first visited was a brick ranch.
“If you’ve been here before, how could you not remember what it looks like?” I snapped. “Are you stupid or are you a liar?”
“It was a month ago!” he snapped back. “I don’t remember what everyone’s house looks like!”
“I know you didn’t drop off the check,” I said. "Tell me the truth."
Of course, he pouted and said how hurt he was that I didn’t believe him.
After two months of lying about paying rent, I received a letter saying we were being evicted. In the five years I’d been living in that apartment, I had never had issues with my landlord. I thought James would eventually take care of things, and I wanted to protect him. I brushed off the fact that I was losing my home of five years.
That should have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. But James managed to make our eviction seem like a positive thing. We were getting to move someplace new! We could live in a better place that didn’t cost as much!
My sister begged me not to sign a new lease, but, of course, I did. Maybe, I thought, being in a less expensive apartment would change things.
James’s Mother Told Me Things About His Past That I Didn’t Know Before
James said he had a job, but I don’t think he did. I think he sat in a parking lot for eight hours a day to make me think he was at work. How could he have absolutely no money if he was working full-time? Instead of saving money to pay for rent himself, he said he’d get the money from his dad. That was his idea of taking care of me: relying on his parents, who had already given him so much.
For 10 years, his mother had bailed him out. She continued to love him, even after he pawned her wedding ring, even when they sold their house because he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from them, even when he committed credit card fraud and took everything she had.
I can't blame his mother for his mistakes, but I do blame her for enabling him. When you continuously bail someone out, they know they can get away with it, which he knew.
Regardless of my opinion, she and I became very close, but I could tell she was worried about me, knowing James's past and what he was capable of. One day, when we were alone together, she told me things I had no idea about: how he pawned his dad's tools while we were together, how he had her social security number and took advantage of that.
"He's not going to do that to me, is he?" I asked through tears.
"I know he loves me, but he doesn't care about me," she continued. "But he cares about you, and I'm praying he doesn't make the same mistakes and ruin the amazing thing you have. You're so good for him. I really think he's going to change for you."
You want to believe an addict is going to change, that you're the one who makes the difference. But you're not. As much as you want to believe you're the top priority, they will always choose drugs over you.
I Had Proof That He Stole From Me—but He Denied It
The last straw was the night I caught him stealing from me. We had been drinking at our friend's bar all day (so much for sobriety), and he was trashed. He called our dealer to grab a bag, which I thought was weird since he made it very clear he didn't have any money.
I knew in the back of my mind what was going to happen, and I didn't stop it. He wouldn't do that to me, right? He wouldn't steal from someone who cared about and loved him so much…right?
I left my phone at the bar when I went to the restroom and, when I came back to my seat, I saw I had an email saying I sent him $100.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I screamed. “You just took money from me!”
“No I didn’t,” he replied. “I sent you the money.”
“I’m looking at the email!” I yelled. “Do you think I’m that stupid? Are you really gonna sit here and tell me I’m making this up?”
I got up and left. He followed me in complete silence, then took a different path back to the apartment. When I finally got home, his car was gone. So not only was he running away from the situation, he was also driving drunk.
I went to sleep, not caring about where he was. I didn’t even care if he came back.
The next morning, I found him in the guest room. We didn’t speak all day. I needed time to figure out exactly what I was going to say.
Later that night, I was finally ready to talk. After I finished speaking (which I did calmly, even though I wanted to scream and cry), he responded just like I thought he would.
“You're not talking to me; you're talking at me,” he said.
“You stole from me and lied about it to my face. And I'm giving you the chance to talk, but you don’t want to say anything, so what am I supposed to do?” I snapped.
He continued yelling at me and playing the victim. “I can’t do anything right,” he said. That was his favorite line.
After failing to get him to take responsibility, we went to sleep.
The next morning, he had a completely different attitude. He told me he was getting sober again. But, of course, he couldn’t do anything without guilt tripping me.
"I don't want you to think I'm boring and leave me," he said, knowing I wasn't going to.
"I don't love you because you party with me," I told him, even though I was dying at the thought of spending the foreseeable future sober. But I was willing to support him with his sobriety, even if that meant giving up drinking and drugs myself.
Soon into his "new lifestyle," I noticed he would doze off during conversations. My best friend's father was an addict, so she pointed it out when I made a joke about him always falling asleep. But we’re always together, I thought, so when could he be using?
I caught him lying about where he was when he told me he was on his way home from “work.” When I checked his location, which I forced him to share after the rent check incident, he was in the part of the city known for drugs—a place he had frequented before we met.
Twenty minutes later, he walked through the door.
"Why did you tell me you were in fucking Chinatown?" I asked through tears.
Of course, he had his excuse prepared.
"Honey, there are no drugs in Chinatown," he laughed. "I was going down there to get us some boba tea."
There was nothing in his hand. He didn't bring back a smoothie; he didn't bring back anything. I said nothing. I knew he would never tell me the truth, so what was the point of listening to another excuse?
Now That We’ve Broken Up, I Hope I Can Learn to Forgive Myself
I broke up with him the night he picked me up from the airport after a weekend with my family. I didn’t even want to come back to the life I now lived. It meant supporting both of us, knowing he was never going to fulfill all those promises he made what seemed like so long ago. I couldn’t hide in Ohio forever (plus, I had my cats to take care of).
After six months of forgiving someone who didn’t deserve my forgiveness, I told myself I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep picking up the pieces and protecting his reputation. I finally allowed myself to see him for what he was, the person I had been trying to pretend he wasn't for the last six months: someone who would always choose drugs over me.
As he was packing his things, he begged me to stay with him, but after giving him a million chances, I couldn't let myself give him any more.
I still can't forgive myself for what I put myself and my family through, but I hope one day, I will.
Now I’m living the life I had been waiting so long for. I have an amazing boyfriend who takes care of me and never expects anything back. He’s everything I wanted and more. When he makes a promise, I don’t have to hold my breath, wondering if he will.