He’s Choosing Marijuana Over Me

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Reader’s Question

I am in a relationship with a guy who used to smoke pot quite frequently from the age of about 15 (he is 31 now). Ever since our relationship started, I said this is an issue for me and not something I can accept. He agreed not to smoke anymore but has since then broken this promise on four or five occasions (of which I know) during our two-year relationship. I have heard his promises many times now and the last time it happened I did say I can’t take him lying to me any more, and if it happens again it will be the end of us. Yesterday I found a bag with some marijuana again: he betrayed me yet another time… Pot smoking is one of the biggest issues in our relationship, and while I cope with everything else I do not seem to be able to accept his smoking. Apart from that I am very happy with him (and so is he), and we are really good together. Is there any chance for us to even be together? Will he ever change, or is it a matter of my having to accept his drug habit? Even if we stay together, how can I ever trust his words again?

Psychologist’s Reply

It is said that, when an addiction to a substance begins, one stops maturing emotionally. When one stops using the substance, then emotional development recommences starting from where one left off. This is true with marijuana as much as it is for alcohol or narcotics. By this reasoning, your boyfriend was 15 emotional years old when he stopped using two years ago. Now, he is roughly 17. From your tone of voice, you sound like you are dealing with a 17 year old, and you don’t like it.

As far as recovering from an addiction goes, relapse is a part of recovery. You needn’t accept his drug habit, but you may want to cut him some slack about his relapses if he goes back to his sobriety and recovery (which means he gets in the program). On the other hand, his deceit, which you experience as betrayal, is much more serious. I can almost picture him, in an impulsive moment, choosing to get high because he thinks he can get away with it, that you won’t find out, that it’s just a joint, it’s no big deal. So he gets high. Then, he either gets sloppy and leaves his stash where you can find it, or he unconsciously decides that he wants you to find it. Either way, you are dealing with a 17-year-old.

Obviously, you two need to talk about this again. If you decide that you want to try to reconcile, then talk to him about what will help him resist temptation in those moments of impulsiveness. Is there something that you can do to help? Does he need a sponsor, as an alcoholic needs a sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous? (I would venture to guess that the answer to this is YES.) Finally, with all your support and good intentions explained and demonstrated, contract with him to stay sober. Promise that you will do all you have committed to and that he must do the same. If either of you breaks that contract, then specify the consequences. They may be counseling, they may be drug detox, or they may be separation.

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I appreciate that you feel betrayed. I’m neither excusing his behavior nor condoning it. I ask you to consider whether this is something that you could get over if he renews his effort and gets help. Writing a contract like this is a vehicle to re-establish trust. Like a prenuptial agreement, it lays out the consequences for a breach of contract and saves you from the agony you now suffer. If you two can pull it off, then your chances of making it together are stronger than ever because you’ve faced adversity together. If there is a breach of contract, then you can walk away knowing that you tried everything and gave him the benefit of the doubt.

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