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Is My Partner's Past Drug Abuse Responsible for my Low Self-Esteem and Can Prison Really Reform a Person?

by Tracey

In the 4 years my partner and I have been together he has spent many weeks at a time fighting his addition to alcohol, cocaine and occasionally crack.

Although I was unaware of the severity of the problem it soon became clear how serious it was after about a year into the relationship. The last 12 months in particular were filled with many highs and lows, him being sober or high, working one minute, unemployed the next and dictating whether I would be upset or happy.

We did not have many arguments but I would feel so let down whenever he relapsed and all that would happen was a new cycle of drying out with him failing to remain sober for longer than maybe 5 or 6 weeks at a time. Despite this we had a great sex life, he treated me like I was the queen, and he always told me how much he loved me. Equally there was never any doubt in my partners mind how much I love him. We were soul mates and other than the substance problem we felt we had no issues whatsoever.

But things did take their toll. Back in May last year my partner stole from me and I guess it was the straw that broke the camels back! We had a huge row and he walked out on me. I was actually relieved at this point and believed I really had had enough. I felt that despite how much we loved each other it was probably never going to change and things would gradually get better for us both if we went our separate ways.

I was extremely miserable but refrained from calling him, then a couple of weeks later he called me to say he was likely to be going to prison for a fight he had had (under the influence of alcohol) and wanted us to meet up for a chat! I did, and was shocked to see that in such a short space of time, this once masculine man had disintegrated into a sunken cheeked skeleton.

It broke my heart but I felt there was no way we could get back together and that he had to see this through without me. In retaliation he let me know that he still loved me and wanted to make the best of a bad situation by taking advantage of any support he could get while in prison. He said if he did this would I be prepared to try again when he came out as long as he was sober.

It took me a few weeks to answer but I had already made my mind up the second he asked. I knew I wanted him back and so while he was on remand I agreed to give it one last shot from that moment!

Well he kept to his word. He put himself forward for the prison RAPT programme, and began his recovery. He agreed to counselling, for both drug and emotional problems, attending NA meetings until 6 months later he was asked to counsel for other inmates. He continues with his programme and is also studying with open uni with the intent on becoming a drugs counsellor himself when he gets out.

Because he has worked so hard and is seen as a model prisoner, he has also been recommended to be moved to an open prison for the rest of his sentence. He still showers me with love and even asks one of his counsellors to call me occasionally with his progress and to make sure I am okay.

Today I see the man I fell in love with and yet although I am proud, very proud, I am so confused! It's now almost a year later since we first parted, and one minute I think he is just talking the talk, yet another I look at him and see he is being real.

He talks about his addiction and takes everything I throw at him on the chin when we discuss anything to do with past events, he says all he wants is for us to move forward and if it means that he has to listen to what I went through before I can move on then that's what he is prepared to do.

He claims responsibility for what went wrong in our relationship and says that everything he said about loving me during our time together he meant and that included getting the support for his substance abuse. I am so happy but also very scared. I feel very insecure and sometime distrusting.

I never once questioned other women on the outside, yet I have even gone as far as saying I did not like the way he smiled at a female prison officer. I seem to be going through some sort of crisis where I don't feel I am good enough and the minute he gets out he will go and find someone else.

I have been told on many occasions that I am pretty (not that it is relevant), yet when I go to visit my partner I feel I look repulsive and wonder what he sees in ME? Does anybody know what is going on with my self esteem? I can't ever remember feeling like this in my life so why am I doing it now when I should be happy?

Lastly is it really possible a person can turn their life around that quickly in an institutionalised environment? My partner told me to go to an Al Anon meeting in the hope that will help me understand things more clearly but I have no one to go with and don't want to go on my own. I am genuinely confused and scared, although he is very good with words, my partner did tell me that he can see I have changed and it is not nice.

One final comment, I am 38, my partner is 31, do you think it may just be old fashion vanity with me and nothing to do with our circumstances?


Hi Tracey

Your partner has done everything and more that can be expected of him. Been a model prisoner, gotten help for his addictions, actively working his recovery, supporting others in theirs ... so it sounds like the issues you have do stem from some kind of underlying problem from your side, whether it be low self-esteem, or something else is difficult to say, but something you should consider talking to a counsellor or therapist about.

Look, a certain amount of caution is understandable considering that having been with him through his active addiction, a certain amount of trust will have been broken, which will of course take time to repair. And that's something only his actions can make amends for. But so far he's doing all the right things and so you should try and be supportive of that.

Often too, the type of relationship when one person is in active addiction, is codependent in nature. But then when the addict has gotten help and starts changing for the better, the other person is still stuck in their unhealthy codependent ways, which could also be the case with you.

So your partner is absolutely spot on in recommending you try and get to Al Anon. He's changing and letting go of the past - and you need to do that too, which is what Al Anon can help you with. Otherwise he's simply going to keep on growing and hopefully changing for the better, and you're going to stay stuck in the past, which simply isn't conducive to a happy and successful relationship.

In terms of overcoming the fear of attending by yourself, you can usually phone beforehand and arrange that one of the regulars meets you there to show you the ropes so it doesn't feel so intimidating arriving by yourself. But you'll see once you go, it's not that bad at all because the people there tend to be very welcoming and supportive.

You can only act on things as they stand. So far your partner seems to be doing fantastically, because he's obviously made the decision to get serious about turning his life around. That it's happened in prison is irrelevant. If things change for the worse in future, well deal with it then. No point making an issue over something that may or may not happen.

Don't let your insecurities ruin what could potentially be a great relationship. Sure, let him earn your trust etc. again - but so long as he works at his recovery, we can only hope this new way of life for him remains permanent. There are no guarantees, but so far he's done everything he can. Should things change, trust yourself that you'll be able make the decisions you need to then.

Good Luck

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May 07, 2010
by: C-P

Changes happens on a individual, personal level. Prison and/or some kind of treatment may facilitate that - but it boils down to each person whether they change for the better or don't. So hopefully your partner's commitment to change lasts because he certainly seems to be making an effort and taking it seriously. Sure, your partner's past may have played a role in your low self-esteem because being in a relationship with an addict isn't exactly suited to producing feelings of trust and self-worth. But it's also critical to understand that you need to learn how to develop a healthy self-image irrespective of your relationship to others. Your most important relationship is with yourself. If nurture and develop that - everything else will eventually fall into place. You need to be able to love yourself first - before you can really love and allow yourself to be loved by someone else. So use this as an opportunity to also do your own work and begin making the internal changes you also need to, to start feeling good and at peace with yourself. Good Luck.

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