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September 24

This is your relationship on drugs

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:51 am

This Is Your Relationship on DrugsAsk anyone single, and they will tell you that the number of, well, couples is on the rise. Ask anyone at the Department of Health and Human Services, and they will tell you that while overall drug use is down, use of cocaine and heroin is creeping up, especially among people under 26. Merge these trends and you’ve got the strung-out boyfriends and girlfriends of tomorrow. And right now, boyfriends and girlfriends of today’s drug users are writing to Breakup Girl to ask (among other things): When drugs are a crowd … do I just say Go?

Remember, Breakup Girl is only a superhero, not a trained substance abuse counselor. But it doesn’t take a trained counselor to notice how many letters arrive in my e-mailbox in which the bad guy’s name is Jack Daniels — or, the bad girl’s, St. Pauli; in which chemicals kill chemistry; in which certain substances are not so controlled; in which the writer doesn’t know whether to be furious or terrified. Or to know how it feels to get dumped at the 1980-something eighth grade Beach Dance because you didn’t have much — that is, much interest in smoking pot — in common.

There are plenty of resources out there for family members and parents of substance abusers but, according to BG’s supercomputer, not as much help is obviously available for Others who, once drugs enter the picture, feel a whole lot less Significant. And who, as such, have their own set of concerns about guilt, partnership, trust, “enabling,” gauging the toughness of love.

So where do you start?

Here’s the would-that-it-were-that-simple bottom line (with a little help from BG.com’s Actual Credentialed Expert, Belleruth):

If it’s to the point where the bad mojo is really interfering with your honey’s — and/or your — ability to work and play and love and feel; or if a large portion of your energy is going into responding to the substance abuse, thinking about it, planning around it… the deal is: get help or get out.

This if…then either/or might sound like a big Breakup Girl DUH, but it’s not. Because:

1. Substance abuse problems are often more subtle: no needles in the den, no dates with dealers … but how about “social” drinking that gets anti- every time? Pot before class? Pain dulled with dope instead of dealt with?

2. At the other end of the caveat spectrum, most partners — user and Other — kid themselves about how bad things are getting. Especially because the abuse — like domestic violence — often escalates incrementally. So things can get out of control before you’re even clued in.

And even if you already know that either getting (a) help or (b) out are your only real options: how do you decide?

The answer is: ask. Someone with particular expertise in the peculiar dynamics of drugs-plus-love.

Still, it’s totally fine to start the asking with Breakup Girl. To use a cliched-but-true recoveryism: the first step is admitting there’s a problem. This is true for the People Who Do Drugs, and — for the reasons in points 1 and 2 above — it’s an equally tricky and trippy step (though in different ways) for the People Who Love Them. So Bravisimi to those of you who’ve already written.

For the third step, you may wish to check out: The hotline at the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (1-800-662-HELP), general information about substance abuse, organizations that deal with it, various support groups, plus alternative ways of dealing and healing.

A version of this column originally appeared on November 9, 1998.


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