Accepting someone's past and hope for a brighter future
I recently responded to a Craigslist ad for an encounter, and it wound up becoming something more than that. The day we were supposed to meet the first time, he wound up cancelling without any sort of response outside of "I can't make it, sorry." So, imagine my surprise to being stood up. I chalked it up to "oh, well, it's Craigslist" and gave up. Later that day, I was at home, and decided to follow a hunch to see if I'd been catfished or not, and that was by doing an Instagram search by my phone's contact list, and there he was: Legitimate. Facebook? Check. So, I hadn't been catfished.
This led me to the next afternoon, when - on break at work - I texted him again and explained what I was feeling, prefacing it with "one final text, and I'll leave you alone..." To my surprise, he responded with "there was drama going on downstairs" (he lives in an apartment in a subdivided house), and we set it up again for the following Saturday.
The night before, I texted him again, and dug deeper into the post: Finding out if he was actually real, or if I was still being catfished. He opened up to me through the text messages, which alleviated any doubts that I had about going through with this. (I'd never actively pursued anything on CL prior to this, so it was definitely a new experience.)
The next day, we met up and hit it off. He told me that he wanted me to come back, because he "needs good people in his life." I'd told him that I was off the next Tuesday, and we set something up then.
Tuesday rolls around, and he calls me in the morning. "Change of plans: We can't meet at my place. Would you like to get a room [here] instead?" Now, [here] is a male-oriented spa in town, and all I knew about it was other CL ads that, basically, said, "getting a room at [here] - line 'em up, boys!" So, while hesitant, I went along with it. We got a room, and had a good time. Over lunch, he opened up about his past some more: Where he'd been living, some things he'd been through, and I was just left speechless. He'd been incarcerated already for the better part of his 20s, and had just gotten out of jail over a year ago, and was homeless for the majority of that time. He'd also been to detox for a heroin addiction, which just ended "a little bit ago." He told me that he didn't do that anymore, which was reassuring. After we ran out to get lunch, we went back to the room, and he laid down to take a nap. I laid down with him, and it just felt -right-: Here we were, at [here], and I was just watching this handsome guy sleeping. It felt really good, and it was then that I realized that this wasn't just about sex: I actually met someone that, while he had a troubled past, was actually a halfway decent guy.
I planned a dinner date for Wednesday, but had to cancel it because of a family matter that I had to attend to, and couldn't leave alone to go out to dinner with him. He was upset over that, but understood. That night, I'd started talking about what was going on with a group of friends in a chatroom, and was met with rejection of this all the way around: "He's no good for you. You'd better leave now." Things like that, and I actually stormed out of the chat because I felt like I was being ganged up on. While I wasn't looking for an overwhelming show of support, SOME support would have been nice. Fast-forward to the next day, and I'd texted back and forth with him to set up the date for 5:00. 4:00 rolls around, and I get a text back: "I've been eating all day. If you want to grab something on the way, you can." This is where a red flag went up in my mind: I'd been planning this date for two days, and he'd already been eating all day? Suddenly, everyone's suspicions about this had started to enter my mind and fill my thoughts, so I couldn't enjoy my time with him that night, which had devolved from "dinner date somewhere nice" to "meet me here and let's have sex." Afterward, he walked me to my car, and I just lost it. Was this simply a one-sided relationship? Had I built this into something that wasn't really there? I'd picked out songs that reminded me of him - Kelly Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster," in particular - and he told me that I'll "always have him" while we hugged in my car. After he got out, I spent a good 40 minutes driving somewhere to get dinner and fighting back the urge to just break down and cry my eyes out. I started to Facebook Message one of my friends from a plaza parking lot, telling him exactly what happened, and he was genuinely sorry about what had happened. He encouraged me to let my feelings out, and I did just that.
Fast-forward a little bit later, and my request to be his designated driver for Saturday (St. Patrick's Day, and he's of Irish descent, so I figured he'd be out partying all day) was fulfilled. Maybe I just don't want to let him go? I don't know. So, Saturday rolls around, and the first thing I have to do is run him over to someone's apartment to "pick something up." Now, in my mind, I know exactly what this something is, but maybe the secrecy is to keep me safe, in the event that something happens? Later, the only 'partying' he does is a couple of drinks at the local bar, and that's it. After that, I took him home, and we went our separate ways. It was nowhere near the night of debauchery that I'd built up in my mind, which was fantastic, because I didn't have to worry about him being around hundreds of people in an environment of heavy drinking.
To backtrack a little bit, he had a couple of job prospects lined up - a long-standing one down in Florida, and one at [here] that sprang up in the past week - and, while he'd not heard anything from [here], I'd been pushing for him to at least check out the Florida one, if for no other reason than to escape the situation that he's in for a while, decompress, help to get over the final effects of the heroin withdrawal, and to follow the job lead. I'd take the chance that he get it and form a solid foundation down in Florida, if he'd come back a better person because of it, instead of staying up here, bouncing from place to place, and basically selling himself for money. He was supposed to leave today, and, when I left him on Saturday, everything looked good for the trip.
Yesterday, I text him to make sure he's okay, and he tells me that "it looks like I'm not going to Florida." So, now, I'm starting a list of questions to ask him: One, what are *we*, in terms of a relationship? Two, what happened to Florida, that was a go last night, and now isn't?
We met up for breakfast today, and the first question I asked was about Florida. He said that the guy that was planning the trip was unreliable and keeps changing the date at the drop of a hat, but it's not completely off the table. Alright, I can accept that. Next question: What are *we*? He'd mentioned on Saturday, before we went to the bar, that going together would make people "think [I] was [his] boyfriend." His response was, "with where I am right now and what I've got going on, I'm just not ready to commit to anyone, because it wouldn't be fair - once [I've] got everything situated? Definitely." So, I'm taking that to mean that we're just really good friends right now, which I'm willing to accept. I do care deeply about him and want him to stay safe, but if it's not in the cards right now, then I'll have to curb my feelings and take things as they happen. After breakfast, we went back to his house and just sat around, where we wound up talking more about his past: Come to find out, he was very much on the wrong side of the law for a lot of his adolescent life, and a lot of what he got into was paid off in sex, alcohol, and drugs. After he got out of jail, he'd moved in with someone, and got 'paid' for services around the house with alcohol and drugs. He wound up in detox for heroin, and had just gotten out the day before we were supposed to meet up the first time. (!!) To curb the effects of the heroin withdrawal, I found out (apparently, he'd told me before, but it might have been in passing) that he does meth, but "not every day." I only found that out because I saw him run off and do it in secret, like I wouldn't catch on. That sent shockwaves through my system.
I just don't know what to do. I genuinely care about the guy, and he genuinely wants to get better, but he's just surrounded by everything that, to me, would keep reminding him of his past, and might lead him down that road again. People have told me that addicts will lie, cheat, and steal to get their next fix. None of that has happened to me to this point in time and, more to the point, he refuses to take money/gifts from me, so I don't see myself as "gullible target #5." A lot of what he's done in the past, though, just leaves me speechless. Maybe it's because I was raised in a solid home and told to put education/family first with anything else second, and I had a decent foundation growing up - where he was pretty much left to his own devices at 16, so he fell in with some bad people - but, deep in my heart of hearts, I see a good person in there, and I want to be there for him. At the same time, he has to want to improve his life.
Maybe the Florida trip will do him some good, and maybe he'll get whatever job is waiting for him down there and be gone for a while. While they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, I think I'd be willing to wait for him to come back (he'd said that, if he goes down there for work, the longest he'd be gone is six months), or I could visit once he's settled down and stabilized. I wouldn't run down there at the drop of a hat, though.
Also, if he does go down there for a while, that would give me time to reassess things and get my own head on straight again. This is the first serious relationship-like thing I've had in a very long time, and I'm afraid that, because it's all happening so quickly, I'm not giving myself enough time to process everything, since new bits of history keep getting thrown at me.
Long story short: How do I combat my own feelings about his past? Do I let the past be in the past and hope he's learned from it and can change, or is this a case of "a leopard never changes his spots" and I should just bounce before I inevitably either get hurt or wind up in a dangerous situation?
All people have baggage, but this guy has major BAGGAGE. And he’s in the thick of it again with the meth thing (still got his teeth? Yikes, that stuff is BAD! )
He said he “needs good people in his life.” So do you. You really need to decide if you want to invest your time and energy into this relationship.
PS With his drug and sexual past I hope you are practicing safe sex. Have you also found out what his “job” is? And why would he be gone for only five months?
Wow, you have shared a lot here. It helps us understand but we will never be as close to the situation as you. This can be both good and distant so please keep that in mind. It also helps a great deal when you don’t pretend that conflict does not exist or that these offenses are minor. They are not. Perhaps we can start with if this is a restoration intervention or a love affair or both.
You both should have a role in this relation. It is wise of you to identify what “we” means. Clearly identify what both must bring to the relationship in order for it to work. Even though you are potentially walking on the dark side with him, these expectations may help light your path and his. Only with clear and measurable character expectations can you hold each other accountable as well as protect your values. Love can be blind!
Begin with your and his values. How compatible are they? Can they be modified or changed with effort to be well matched and like minded? Do you thing they need to be? One more thought that wasn’t shared previously that will definitely affect your long term relationship. Was he forced into bi-sexual relationships?
It is clear you like to write so I am hoping you will continue to share the progress made by both of you.
While I don't envy the situation you're in, I do have some relevant and recent experience with loving an addict. He was a homeless Vet, living in the streets, hooked on heroin, for over a decade. Last month, he celebrated his 11th year clean and sober. He loves his life so much now, he says he's never truly tempted to relapse, but keeps up with counselling anyway. Lots of people tried to help him, but it never worked? Until it was his idea. He just finally decided he wanted to live, not just survive. He checked himself into inpatient rehab for a year. Then busted his butt for 4 years getting his degree. Now he loves his job, and is happy, healthy, and very well loved by all. I have more respect for this man than I can fully articulate. He also has a crazy past with women. He's handsome, ex-special forces, and he's never been lonely if he didn't want to be. His body and overall health took some major hits. He fought to get healthy and is now healthier than most me his age. He's lucky, but he made a lot of that luck himself.
He started by moving out of the area where all of his "buddies" lived. He abandoned the place (and people) that made it harder to stay clean and sober. And, he got a new start with the police in a new area, while he was in rehab. His counselor helped him figure out what he wanted, and how he could get it. 11 years later, I'm so thankful for the role those people played, I now volunteer there.
It sounds like he GENUINELY wants to get better. With that kind of addiction, he needs professional help, and some good friends. Heroin is a beast that can't be beaten into submission without some heavy artillery. Is it possible to get him into a program?
About learning to accept his "colorful" past:
I decided to be thankful for my Love's past, because it all made him the man he is now.
The women he loved, and that loved him, taught him how to love and be loved. The breakups taught him about conflict resolution. The scrapes with the law taught him about choices and consequences. The jail time taught him about the value of being free. The drugs taught him to appreciate waking up and not feeling so sick he wished he hadn't.
What's happened can't be changed. You can only control your willingness to accept him as he is, and what happens now. He's right that you should be friends for now. Anything romantic is down the road of his sobriety. Until or unless he takes real steps down that road, you should set and keep boundaries to protect you both.
@SusieDQQ - We've only had intercourse like that once, and he promised me that I couldn't contract anything, between what we did - protected sex - and the medication that he's on. I found out, from a recent doctor visit for what I thought could have been the very early stages of showing symptoms and turned out to only be the stomach flu, that it's highly unlikely that I could have contracted anything, and that, had I known about this in the beginning, I could have gone on a medication regimen to completely obliterate anything, should there have been anything contracted. I took an early-detection HIV test that I should know the results of by tomorrow, but - pending that - I'm completely clean of everything else. It's looking good on the front of not having anything, but I won't know for sure until the final result comes back. As for the job, it was to become a delivery person for a company down there, but he actually landed a job up here, so he's making some 'good' money for now. As for the meth, he told me that it's not a daily thing - maybe twice a week - and it's to offset the cravings for the heroin and to help steady him through the withdrawal process.
@8Twenty8 - The only part that I can truly answer right now is the relationship angle. I did ask him if he was gay/straight/bi, and he said that, while he still enjoys sex with girls, he doesn't want the baggage and would rather be with guys, in that regard. When we're together, there's zero drama, and I actually feel like a nagging parent whenever I hear his stories. He's definitely trying to clean up his act, but it's going to take some time. As for "love is blind," I'm quickly learning that: This is something that I consider a relationship - even though he doesn't want to commit right now, he's quickly become like a brother to me - and I've really had to defend him to people I know. One such friend is proud that I'm standing up for my convictions, and hopes that I'm right about him. I hope I'm right about him, too.
@MamaBear - The major obstacle that I see with my situation that matches up to yours is getting him to leave the surroundings that he's in. Right now, the building he's in is very conducive to drugs, and being around that environment, if he really wants to change, is something that needs to change, as well. One of his new job leads is on a farm a little ways south of where we're at now: beautiful setting, on a lake, and far away from temptation. I told him that he should really consider moving down there, both for the job aspect as well as the 'new beginning' aspect. Yes, moving down there would put some distance between us, but - if nothing else - we'll definitely be friends until the end now. His past has definitely helped to shape his future - he's been on the dark side, and doesn't seem to want to go back - and, to answer your other question, he's fresh out of detox for heroin for a few weeks now. According to him, the effects of withdrawal can take a month to get through your system, so he should have about a week and a half or so until he's completely free of that. Whether or not the other drugs stop at that point is entirely on him: I can only support him so much, and I think my being in his life is definitely helping. If nothing else, I can hold him accountable for his actions. I'm aware that I can't change his past, but I just don't want him to go back down that road, you know? I know that I've only been in his life for about two weeks now, but it's been a whirlwind of a time.
Also, he promised me that I'd never be put into a dangerous situation. I'd like to think that I'm smart enough to leave things, should they get that bad. More to the point, there's not been any lying, cheating, or stealing, and I've practically had to force anything I've offered onto him, because he doesn't want to risk my generosity turning into an 'ownership' thing. I mean, I'm not rich by any means, but I'd like to help out a struggling friend when/where I can.
You have a good heart, but please be discerning! Two weeks off heroin, with a meth “booster” during the week is not being “off “ drugs.
Time is the great reveal. You must have a clear vision of what is really happening.
Are you supporting him or giving him money?
I agree with SUSIEDQQ. He's headed in the right direction, but he could (and likely will) pull a u-turn. At best, he'd regret it, and then he'd have to start detox all over again. That's best case. Without professional help and a change in environment, he will keep using, and will end up using heroin again. John "quit" and went through detox several times over that 10 years, but he could never stay off it until he moved, and got help.
You need to watch out for yourself. He can promise you anything, and mean it, when he's sober. But once he's using those promises evaporate. He has no real control over his own life, and you need to make sure you don't put yourself in a bad situation. The people in that world have no regard for others, and will do anything to get what they need. Be careful. While I (obviously) am a big believer in second chances, and as much as I love him, I would not have gotten involved if he was still using. You need to keep a healthy distance, for several reasons. You can be a good friend and influence, and care about him, and help. But do that from a distance until or unless he takes a serious step towards getting healthy and clean. And, you must keep in mind he is likely using you, whether he realizes it or not. It's just how that world is, and you need to limit financial help. Don't give him cash, but food, clothes, personal hygiene products, etc. Even that, only when it's necessary and you want to. Addicts steal from everyone, so keep valuables hidden and locked away.
Obviously, I believe real change is possible, as I have living proof. But John harbors no illusions about how he's behaved in the past. He's not proud of it, and does what he needs to make things as right as he can. He has a good relationship with his family again, but it took time as he'd hurt them horribly for so many years. Be as helpful and supportive as you want, but keep yourself rooted in reality. Even if he decides to get clean and sober, it will be a long and difficult road. And he may never make that decision. You need to accept that, and know you can't make him want to change.
I wish you both the best of luck, and I really do hope he is able to turn his life around before it's too late. Hugs to you!
I think these ladies have your back, man. Their comments are sound and should be taken under advisement. Whatever it is that you do, you may want to consider social work or similar professions, or at the very least, volunteer in these areas. The training, preparation, and experience dealing with these relationships may well be worth the investment. By the way, have you also considered prayer?
@SusieDQQ - After the first couple of meetings, I became blinded by love and, admittedly, wasn't listening to reason. Since then, I've slowly come down from the high - especially since he's said that he's not ready to be exclusive, with where he is in life (understandably so, fresh out of detox and still young, trying to recapture the youth he spent in and out of prison), which I completely understand - and I'd like to think that he's being honest with me. All things considered, the things that I might not know are happening are out of a concern for my own safety, and to not get me wrapped up in things he might be doing. I understand that meth in lieu of heroin isn't "off drugs," but I'm holding out hope that, after the next couple of weeks go by, he drops that and really focuses on recovery and getting better. As far as supporting him financially, we actually met through a couple of paid encounters, and the only physical money that's traded hands since then was the $20 I gave him to buy drinks and tip the waiter at the bar on St. Patrick's Day. Anything else, I'll touch on next.
@MamaBear - I completely understand and agree with everything you said about him wanting to change. Deep down, HE has to be the one that wants to change, and - as much as I'd like to just pick him up and move him to a totally new environment, away from all of the influences surrounding him where he's at right now - I only just met the guy a couple of weeks ago, and am in no position to really impose anything except the loving words of someone that genuinely cares about him. As for support, he refuses to take money from me, and - the other day - didn't necessarily want me to pay for the cleaning supplies that he needed from Family Dollar to clean up his apartment. I told him that I'd pay for it, since he was low on money. He was grateful for it, so that's why I believe that, deep down, there's a good person in there. When we were trying to decide St. Patrick's Day plans that afternoon, he wouldn't let me take him to someplace expensive. Instead, we went to the local family restaurant and a nearby tavern down the street. He does have champagne tastes and a drinking fountain budget right now, and I reminded him of that when he was looking at shoes, and setting his sights on some expensive ones. I almost bought him some new shoes, but couldn't find any really good bargains. I did buy him some new clothes (hopefully, they fit him - if not, I'll keep them, because we're about the same sizes, ironically enough) on sale at a couple of different places (and, by sale, I mean REALLY good sales - at least 50% off, if not more - and not expensive name brands), and I found a nice coffee pot on clearance at Ollie's for $10 that I'm going to force him to take. I'll bundle it all up as an Easter present and give it to him early. That way, he'll have to take it. >
He's never been out to my house, yet - everything's been at his place or, that one time, at the spa - so I don't really need to hide anything. During our first meeting, all I took with me was the requisite cash, my ID, my debit card, and my phone. I left everything else at home, out of fear that I'd be walking into a setup.
I understand that the road to recovery is a long one, though being around someone who's coming off of hard drugs is definitely new to me. My late stepdad was an alcoholic to the point where it nearly killed him on more than one occasion, so I never touched the stuff myself because I've seen the effect it had on him and his relationship with my mother. As for drugs, I'm a child of the '80s and all of those PSAs/the DARE program, so I always steered clear of them because it was beaten into my head as a kid that drugs were bad.
Thank you for the hugs! Hugs back!
@8Twenty8 - Thank you for the feedback. I've never really considered social work, but maybe I should look into it. Of course, I have an elderly relative that needs my attention first and foremost, so even spending time away with my guy and his situation is hard to do (even though this story makes it seem like I'm running out there at every given chance). I'm definitely taking all of these comments to heart, and it's really helping to have more of a perspective on the situation. It's definitely helped to just be able to vent about the issues and get some good feedback. As far as prayer, I haven't really considered it. Maybe I should...