Blowing in the Wind

Dear Sibyl,

I was recently left by a guy that I thought was going to be a long-term boyfriend with a future.  We had only been together for five months but we had been chasing each other for half a year before then and I know he had been interested but thinking he had no chance for way more than that. When we finally got together, we were the dream couple to all our friends and the times we spent were most often in mutual genuine bliss.

Then one day, he invited friends over on a Friday at 1.30 am when I had said that I was tired from a long week. So I was a bit pissed off and went home. He broke up at 4 am with a text and confirmed that in a conversation the next day saying: ‘We have nothing in common, he can’t see his friends (far from true), I’m reactive–he’s proactive, it won’t work out so he’d rather end it and it’s better for me as well.’

I was devastated. Most friends said it’s just gonna be a few days. So I took it with dignity, kept my public appearance, including Facebook, happy and optimistic and left him alone for about 5 weeks. But believe me, I was devastated. I had no idea what was going on and friends told me he wasn’t being himself either. So I had hope he’d come to his senses.

Then I saw him at a festival. Snorting mountains of cocaine. Everything became a bit clearer to me. Throughout the weekend I learned that he had re-started cocaine the night before he broke up, been doing loads of drugs since then and that he had lost his job. He did continue to want this breakup but deliberately stood next to me very often and started crying during songs. I have told him now that I don’t want any contact for a few months. That included that I didn’t want a ‘Happy New Year’ email either. I thanked him but told him again no-contact.

But now I don’t know what I will do after that. I can’t avoid him forever. Will he come to his senses? Would it be a good thing if he came to his senses? Should I try and stay friends? Should I avoid him in my life—tricky because we have zillions of mutual friends that I don’t want to lose. I think that it’s not a lack of love but a fear of failure and of commitment that he’s suffering from. I know the cocaine phase is temporary. So is the unemployment. Part of me wants him back after that. Another part thinks that he can’t be trusted ever again.

What do you think?

Yours,

Brokenhearted in the U.S.A.

Dearest Brokenhearted,

There are so many ways to cheat on one’s partner.  You can disengage emotionally and start up an internet friendship with a long lost fling.  You can sleep with a member of their family, their best friend, or a random person you meet out dancing.  In your case, Brokenhearted, the cheating wasn’t sexual at all.  His mistress was cocaine.

When I was a teenager, my best friend lost his mother to cancer, and I, to my great surprise, lost them both.  I adored his mother, and had fully believed that my fervent prayers to save her would turn her illness around, right up to the very end.  By the time she died, however, I was not surprised, having visited her several times in her final days.  But I was completely shocked how my friend reverted into himself, eschewing my friendship for people who never knew his mother, and would not bring up his pain.

I wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I wrote him long letters, parked outside his house and waited for him to come home from school, and, when he did let me in, sat with him for hours in silence while we inexplicably watched tennis on his tiny television.  It was all he wanted to do.  Or so I thought—I slowly learned that all the times I couldn’t find him, he was off with his new friends, consuming as many drugs as was humanly possible in the provincial area we lived in.

Since that experience, I’ve learned to look for the presence of mind-and-mood altering substances any time a person has suddenly disengaged in a primary relationship, especially when there is a precipitating loss of some kind.  For whatever reason, your boyfriend’s unemployment was more than a temporary career setback—it was a huge loss to his sense of self.  Instead of being able to let you in to that pain, he turned to something to shut it off, in this case, cocaine.

The only bright side is that he broke it off with you the moment he chose drugs over connection with you, even if he wasn’t truthful about what he was doing.  This is actually sort of admirable, because most people in the throes of an addiction just take down whoever is closest along with them.  You dodged a bullet, and when you realized the kind of dangerous behavior he was engaged in, you wisely instituted a no-contact policy.

The piece I have to gently warn you about, Brokenhearted, is your assertion that his cocaine use is a “phase”.   Drug use is not like body piercing or thinking you’re an evangelical Christian.  It’s not a phase, it’s an addiction, especially if it’s been caused by depression because of his unemployment, caused him to do something so drastic as break off a healthy relationship, and if he is truly snorting “mountains” of it at festivals.

I know that in your pain of losing him, you wish he could come back to you, untouched by your time apart.  But he will not be the same person then, even if he does.  He has started down a long road that will take him a good while to return from, and in fact, he should be a different person, if he really digs in to the recovery process.

So, my suggestion to you is to only invite him back into your life if he is a) in some kind of recovery program, and/or therapy, b) willing to discuss why he sought out drugs instead of connection at that time in his life, and c) interested and able to hear from you how it hurt you to lose him in such a way, and what boundaries you need going forward.  Finally, he should agree to never break up with anyone ever again via text message.

In the meantime, tend to your own broken heart.  Think less about him and his choices, and mend your own wounds, sewing them up with the support of your friends, with new experiences that bring you joy, and comforting practices like staying in to intricately braid your hair and read your favorite book over again.

Your boyfriend made a sad mistake, choosing cocaine over you.  Don’t follow him down the rabbit hole.  I have seen many people throw away their dignity for the lure of the seductive drug user.  There’s something desperate in those hollowed-out eyes, and we are sure that if we can just harness that desperation, we can turn it into passion—for us, rather than the substances.  Instead of chasing that dragon, stay close to yourself, on your own side, in the realm of human, rather than chemical, connection.

Soberly,

Sibyl

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