Going to War with a Narcissist Drug Addict
My story started out as carefree and magical as yours did because, in some ways, we are all a part of the same narcissistic formula. We can take comfort in knowing our rise and fall are the same, but everything in between is as different as it can be. Five years ago, I met a man who I believed to be the most attractive man I’d ever met in my life — emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Just like your narcissist ex-partner, he stole clues from our first conversations and found a way to insert my ideas, experiences, and passions into his personal history. This first phase affectionately referred to as the love-bombing phase, is one of the most dangerous tools in a narcissist’s arsenal. Not because it caused me pain, but because it didn’t. It was the one thing that kept me hanging on for so long. Without his ability to master that skill, he might have just been another jerk in a long line of unsuccessful relationships.
It was the love-bombing phase that rendered me immune to everything about him that might have threatened to push me away. That is one of the main reasons why I was unable to recognize his drug addiction. Our mutual friends mentioned his drug use to me, but of course, I couldn’t see that either. Because I was so intoxicated by the persona he took on during the love-bombing phase, I could not see him as a drug addict. That label wouldn’t appear over his head until much later in our doomed relationship.
The first hint of his drug addiction didn’t show up until my 41st birthday party when he unexpectedly showed up to our hotel room with two other people, who also ended up being drug addicts. After the party had been underway for a couple of hours, everyone started snorting lines or smoking from a pipe. I asked what it was and threw caution to the wind. There is a bit of danger to life when you don’t place any limitations on how you live, but it didn’t seem dangerous to me at the time. I doubt it helped much that I was no stranger to doing illegal drugs.
Still, he didn’t appear to be an addict, at least not that night. At that point, it seemed only to be recreational drug use, but I learned later on that his drug problem spanned years. You might consider behavior like that from an addict, right? I was still under his dark spell, so I passed off his reckless behavior as a means to an end. He convinced me he would only be using and selling drugs for a short period until he could make enough money to get back on his feet. I know now it was stupid to believe his lies, but I can’t change the past now. It wasn’t until he was comfortable enough to reveal his intravenous drug use that I first saw him as an addict.
I ask myself on a regular basis why I saw this as acceptable behavior, but I can’t come up with any honest answers. In the beginning, I felt as though I had something to prove to both my boyfriend and myself. I saw that there was a huge divide in the types of lives we’d both lived up until that point, and I did anything I could to erase that divide. So, I sought out to prove that I could keep up and be the kind of partner he could be authentic with, no matter how ugly or dangerous that authenticity was. I saw the women he surrounded himself within that lifestyle of using and selling drugs, and I couldn’t find my place in it. Rather than walking away — which is what I should have done — I accepted the drugs and everything that came along with his lifestyle. Despite my desire to be knee-deep in the shit with him, he shielded me as much as possible, I think out of fear of pushing me away. And at that point, he wasn’t quite finished with me. My life still had value to him, even if it was only for a place to stay or a car to drive.
When I was around him and his friends, I witnessed so much pain and sadness because of the drugs. Every woman around him who had kids, had them taken away because of some incident with drugs. There was also a guy who got a needle stuck in his arm that my boyfriend had to rescue. It turns out in many cases, a magnet can do the trick. I suppose that would be good information to have if you know a lot of drug addicts, but as an outsider, contemplating this was a shock to my system.
There were also many other shocking things I learned about after I left him. After the police arrested him for a crime he committed while he was high, I found evidence in his phone of him trading sex for drugs and other things. There was an incident I still laugh about today where he traded sex for a massage table I’d given him for the tattoo clients he visited in their homes. He found this woman through Letgo, a popular online website and mobile app that allows you to sell used items to people in your area. I still ask myself — who does that?
Less funny, however, was another incident I found out about after I left him. We’d been apart for a couple of days, and during that time a mutual female friend of ours claimed later he shot her up with heroin against her will so that he could have sex with her. She’d never used heroin before and forgot she already had opiates in her system, so it hit her much harder than he intended. Later that night, she was hospitalized because she nearly overdosed. After he and I parted ways, she claimed she didn’t consent to the sex or the drugs. This, out of everything I’d heard, made me feel the sickest. While this particular incident was hearsay and she never filed an official police report, I felt as though it was likely to be true as much as it was to be false. In situations like these, it’s really hard to believe which drug-addicted liar is telling the truth. He did accept responsibility for her near-overdose, so I accepted the rest of the story as mostly true.
If any of it was true, what kind of person can do such things with no remorse? A narcissist. And not just a narcissist, but a narcissist drug addict. While I’m not a mental health professional, I’ve learned that dealing with a narcissist drug addict is a much more frightening experience. It not only amplified his abusive behavior, but it also made me wonder if he could be normal without the addiction.
His behavior became too normal in my head for me not to be part of it. At first, I only used recreationally, but it quickly became a daily habit. I not only wanted to prove I could keep up with him, but I wanted to be involved in all aspects of his life. Even though I figured we couldn’t make the relationship last much longer, I was afraid of what might happen if I allowed the divide between our lives to continue. The love-bombing phase had such an overwhelming effect on me that I was determined to get the boyfriend I fell in love with back. I didn’t realize at the time that it was impossible. I never considered that he would manipulate me only to have someone on his side for a short period.
I saw my escalating drug use as a way to bond with him on a level I could never achieve before. It never at any point in our relationship occurred to me that he encouraged me to create a drug problem for myself. He acted concerned about how the drugs affected me, but he never once tried to stop me, even when things got scary. And that’s where the divide comes in again. Scary to him and scary to me didn’t even live on the same planet if he was capable of true fear at all. Not even when I’d used too much or when I didn’t feel safe.
He felt no sense of obligation or real protection of me because I think he set out to destroy me from the very beginning. And what better way to destroy a person than to leave them with a drug addiction? Addiction was never something I wrote down in my list of accomplishments throughout my life, nor did I ever want to. It was not like me to accept this as a part of my life, but I did it for him, or that’s what I told myself. I know it’s incredibly cliché to say that love is blind, but it’s true. And it’s especially true for those of us who fall in love with narcissists. When there is more bad than good, all we can see is good because we wish so hard for that to be our reality.
I don’t remember what switch got flipped in my mind for me to accept drug abuse as acceptable behavior. I clung to how good it made me feel to be a part of the man I loved and how much clarity and energy being high gave me, but I didn’t want to recognize the bad parts of it. I didn’t want to face the fact that it also caused me to hear voices and see shadows. And I certainly didn’t want to acknowledge the suicidal feelings it created in my mind. It also kept me up for days on end, and when I did fall asleep, I felt as though I might stop breathing at any time.
When I left him, the drug abuse continued for another three months. It didn’t get worse, but it didn’t get any less either. It didn’t help me that I still kept in contact with some of his friends who also sold and used on a regular basis. They convinced me they still cared for me as I did for them, but in the end, I think they were only using me like he was. That’s one of the problems with trusting a drug addict — when it comes to drugs, they will tell any lie that allows them to stay high.
Today, I struggle with defining myself as a recovering addict because I don’t think I ever embraced the addict mentality. I never once stole, lie, or hurt anyone to use, and I only used drugs for six months. With some people, it only takes one hit, one line, or one inhale to incite an addiction, I felt like I still had a life to live that I was betraying by continuing to use drugs. I thought back to all those other mothers who lost custody of their children, and I knew I’d never been able to live with myself if I allowed that to happen.
I remember the day I decided to quit like it was yesterday. The day before I spent all day driving around a friend who made her minuscule living selling drugs. I was at the end of a drug binge and was feeling pretty miserably tired, so I just kept using to stay awake. The night was over, so I went home and fought against the effects of coming down — emotional pain, insomnia, and that uncomfortable feeling that I was going to stop breathing. The next day, when I went to pick my daughter up from school, I took a hard look at myself and how the drugs physically affected me, and I woke up. I said to myself — this is not who you are.
So, I quit cold turkey, and I cut everyone out of my life who might lead me back to that dangerous path. It’s been over three years now, and I still have moments where I struggle with being sober, but I imagine that feeling will remain with me forever. Here I am now, forever regretting that choice to crawl into a narcissist’s dark hole. I gained 50 pounds that I haven’t been able to lose, my blood sugar has gone chaotic, my hormones are out of control, and I battle with mysterious chest pains that no medical test can diagnose. I am physically beaten down, and I fear I’ll never be able to see myself as beautiful again. How ironic, considering the narcissist I fell in love with was the only one who convinced me I was truly beautiful. But you and I both know that’s all a part of their manipulative game. That’s not to say that I’m not beautiful, but it’s been a struggle to get there again.
While drug addictions and drug problems are rough things to experience on their own, one of the most challenging aspects comes into play when the drug addict is a narcissist. I can’t tell you how many times I asked myself — is it the drugs, or is he truly a narcissist? It left me feeling so cold — almost frozen — and made it nearly impossible to turn my back on him. Even louder than the normal what if questions were the what if he goes sober questions. In the back of my mind, I created a reality where his brain might have had an opportunity to heal itself if he ever decided to quit using drugs completely.
When you left your narcissist, did you meet other partners who seemed like they were a clone of your abuser? I did. He had the same profession, the same set of friends, and he even had the same birthday. What felt even more incredible to me was the fact that they had the same drug addiction. So, I essentially jumped from one frying pan right into another. Luckily, I had enough sense to see the second coming for who he was — a liar, master manipulator, cheater, and a hardcore drug addict. It wasn’t just the one narcissist who traumatized me by himself, but it was the idea that these men (in my case) seemed to share the same damaged brain. And again I asked myself—is it the drugs, or were they truly narcissists?
The answer to that question is yes; both of these unfortunate men were very much narcissists and hardcore drug addicts. One could come without the other, but I’ve never experienced any narcissists who were clean and sober. Narcissism is bad enough without substance abuse, but when you combine the two, their partners have no chance of any closure. In the end, I had to accept the fact that I gave my all to somebody who couldn’t possibly love me back. No amount of drugs — or absence of drug use — can erase that fact.
Being an overly empathic person makes both of these mental disorders a challenge. I tried too hard to understand where my partner was coming from and how he was feeling, all while he made no effort to do the same for me. He wasn’t capable and never will be. I had to learn not to focus on the pain of living without the person I loved so deeply. Instead, I focused on building a more positive life that was far away from the drugs and far away from anyone exhibiting any signs of narcissism or sociopathy.
While my physical form doesn’t represent the woman I was before the natural disaster known as narcissism and drug abuse hit, the woman looking back in the mirror is stronger and more accomplished. I am a writer, an editor, and a mother who didn’t leave her kids behind. That’s much more than I could have said four years ago.
I am free.