My fiancée and I recently broke up two months before we were supposed to get married because of my drug problem. I’m a recovering heroin addict and after a few events that happened last year, I decided to pick up and get high again. This is the second time this has happened since we’ve been together, but I’ve now taken steps to change my ways. I just don’t know if she’ll ever be able to trust me again. The thing is, when she asked me if I was high, I lied to her and said I wasn’t. We really love each other very much, but I just don’t know where to go from here. What should I do?—J, San Francisco, California
The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
The first thing you point out is that you recently broke up, but then you go on to say you have now taken steps to change your ways. I’m left to wonder how recently and how lasting your changes may be. Chances are that your ex-fiancée is scared that it will happen again. She’s protecting herself from being set up for heartache, and you have to admit, you can see her point if you’re admitting that you lied to her. Once trust has been broken it is a very difficult thing to regain, my friend.
I ask you to put yourself in her shoes. This woman is making what she feels like is the biggest decision of her life and she needs to be sure it’s with someone she can at least trust. She needs to be sure she knows you as well as possible, and also weigh the sacrifices she will or will not be willing to make to be with you. When she’s considering marriage with you, she’s not just considering a cake and a dance—this is for life. She’s not only thinking about what kind of partner you will be to her, but also what kind of role model you will be to your kids. It’s the whole package. Think about what you have to offer right now and then think about what she needs from you. Only after you reach that conclusion will you take steps toward regaining her trust.
The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
Counseling, my man. Head on over for some intensive, long-term counseling. Until you can prove to yourself that you will not return to your heroin addition (or to any others as a substitute) you need to take a break from your relationship. Ever see the movie 28 Days with Sandra Bullock? Go rent it. The advice one of the counselors in the film gives to their drug-and alcohol-addicted clients is as follows: once you can take care of a plant for a year without letting it die and then graduate to a pet for year, you will be ready to begin dating again.
If she is the right one, she will still be a year from now, or even two. You have to rebuild your own house before letting anyone else in. You need to do this for you, not for her. I have no doubt you love her, but relationships also need trust. Your relationship trust with her is badly broken, and your relationship with yourself needs quite a bit of repair as well. Now is not your time to get married. So get yourself lots of support, but not from her. Stay clean and tend your own garden. Rebuild your life, one plant at a time.
The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
Here’s some genius, groundbreaking advice: stop using heroin.
Sorry if I appear unsympathetic but I just don’t care why you use heroin or how hard it is to stop. Or how hard you think your life is, or if you’re claiming to have it in your DNA to be a user/addict, blah, blah, blah. Life isn’t easy and if you want a woman to choose to spend her life with you—and I assume you do since you proposed marriage to one—then you gotta stop the usage and the lying.
We 4-wayers are not addiction specialists so I’m just going to go at this from a relationship perspective. Honesty is the best policy. If you’re really afraid of losing her, you’ll stop using drugs, stop lying to her, and continue getting as much help as you need to keep you off drugs. It’s that hard and it’s that simple. You also need her help and support, so she is an important part in your recovery. Should you be honest and involve her in your struggle, she’ll be more willing to forgive your weakness and help you get stronger.
Your word probably doesn’t mean much these days, and it shouldn’t. It’s all about your actions now. All you have to offer her is your contrition and renewed, unparalleled dedication to changing your ways. She has the choice to stick with you or not. If she loves you like you say, and you love her like you say, and she believes you’ll be honest with her from here on out … you’ve got a shot. A shot to get sober. A shot to have the love of your life to grow old with. A shot to be a relatively happy guy. The kind of shot you don’t get from a needle.
The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
I think it’s a good step in the right direction that you can admit that you have a problem. But before I attempt to answer your question, I want to shed some light on what your ex-fiancée is probably feeling right now. Her tight group of friends and/or family are telling her right how incredibly fricking lucky she is to have dodged a massive bullet: marriage to a drug addict. They have painted a painfully vivid picture of what her life could have been like—an unhappy marriage with a partner she can’t trust who randomly decides he wants to get high every once in a while, which would probably affect his ability to hold down a job, creating financial problems for her. That probably led to a discussion of the kids you might’ve had, and how she’d probably be almost 100 percent responsible for their care, worrying every minute about whether or not your lying ass was out getting high and what that would mean for her family.
Or she could be completely in the dark. The way your question is worded, it sounds like you just called off the wedding and dumped her without telling her why, which would be equally as devastating.
If you want to know where to go from here, I think it’s time for the full-disclosure-honesty route. If you seriously want her back, go to her with the truth and a plan. You sit her down and tell her what you’ve been doing and why the wedding was cancelled. Tell her you’re in treatment (and if you’re not, you need to get yourself there), prepare her for the hard road ahead, but tell her you love her and want her on that road with you, but don’t push her on the marriage issue. Give her information for local heroin-addict support groups. And don’t cringe at the word “addict”—your wedding is off because of your drug problem, so I think it’s appropriate. But beware, J. If I were her, I’d be hard-pressed to take you back. By your own admission, you’ve already got two strikes, and if it were me, I’d be unwilling to gamble on the third. Still, if you truly love this woman you have to go after her and try to make it work—but you have to be ready to change and change for good, no looking back and no more lying. Get yourself in treatment. Good luck.