In the past 9 years, I’ve talked to literally thousands of people addicted to drugs or alcohol or both. Over 500 of these individuals have been coaching clients I’ve worked with one-on-one via phone or video chat. The rest I’ve corresponded with via email and on the comment sections of my blog and YouTube channel.
Due to communicating with thousands of people in active addiction, I’ve recognized several important patterns.
The pattern I’ve chosen to dedicate this blog post to is individuals that hide their addiction from their intimate partner (spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc).
This is a common occurrence.
Guilt and shame are powerful feelings embedded in the psyche of most individuals with an addiction…
And for the people that are keeping their addiction a secret from their intimate partner… the net level of guilt and shame are often tenfold or higher.
Worse still… the pattern I’ve noticed (at least with the thousands I’ve communicated with) is the following:
“The people that hide their addiction from their intimate partner recover far less frequently than those who are open and honest with their partner about their addiction.”
Why People Hide Their Addiction
The most common reason why people lie is to avoid the imaginary pain of openness and honesty.
It’s imaginary because it’s impossible to calculate a 100% accurate prediction of what your romantic partner’s reaction will be.
In the case of hiding an addiction from an intimate partner, there is usually tremendous fear (conscious, unconscious, or both) of being seen differently (in this case in a less than flattering manner).
Here are common fears that go through the minds of people hiding their addiction from their partner:
- “If I tell her then she’ll make me quit right away and I need the timing to be right!”
- “I can’t possibly tell him I’m addicted because he will not approve of me anymore and he might try to get full custody of our children!”
- “My addiction is not super bad, I have a great plan and time to quit, and telling my wife would just make her worry so I’ll just get it done and she’ll never have to know.”
- “I’ve hidden my addiction for years and if I tell him now he will NEVER forgive me for not telling him right away!”
You can probably see how this list is by no means comprehensive, although it gets the point across.
For many individuals, it takes almost no effort or time to rationalize that they’re making the right decision by hiding their addiction from their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/etc.
This was certainly my experience over a decade ago.
Story Leading up to Why I Hid My Opioid Addiction from My Girlfriend
When I was 30 years old, I was going through a lot of intense shit in life, and using opioids helped me get through it… at least for the first couple of months.
The pills gave me TONS of energy to work full-time and care for my newborn daughter as a sleep-deprived single dad (her birth-mom and I shared custody and placement).
The pharmaceutical opioids also relieved me of all anxiety and depression.
Since they made me feel fucking awesome and allowed me to crush it at work and in life, I took them every day.
You might be able to guess where this is going.
Within 4-6 weeks, I was so hooked that I needed pills daily to avoid withdrawal.
Another 4-6 weeks after that and my tolerance was high — bank account low… a dreadful combination and one that I wished was the other way around!
I was soon spending most of my paychecks on pills and not getting the superhuman abilities anymore, although I still felt pretty good.
Perhaps another 8-12 weeks later and I was still spending most of my money on pills, only now I didn’t feel anything.
Earning $9/hr simply wasn’t conducive to being able to afford many pills (which were $40 a pop).
I imagine I’ve spent more than $50,000 on pills that no longer worked and only prevented me from getting sick.
What a fucking WASTE!
Exercise: Using your best hypothesizing capabilities, see if you can come up with a ballpark estimate on how much money you’ve spent on substances after you wanted to quit but kept using to prevent withdrawal.
Why I Hid My Opioid Addiction from My Babe
Around 6 months into my opioid addiction, I started dating a beautiful girl. Soon after, she moved in with me.
We were together for a total of one year.
During this entire time living together, I never told her I was addicted to opioids.
Here were my reasons:
- I didn’t want her to judge me
- I didn’t want her to see my weakness
- I didn’t want to spend more money (by having to buy her pills too!)
Number 3 should have a little more backstory.
Backstory: My girlfriend did enjoy snorting OxyContin and oxycodone. During the year we lived together, at least 1x every week or two I’d tell her that I bought some pills for us to snort and enjoy.
We would crush up the pill dust and snort lines together.
What I hid from her was the fact that I used pills every day and needed them to function.
She wondered why I never had any spending money but didn’t care so long as I paid for the rent and utilities (and she bought all the groceries).
To make a long story short, my opioid addiction became so severe after I switched over to smoking heroin that within 6 months I got busted.
There was no hiding it anymore.
I was 6’3″ and only 145 pounds (looking like Skeletor) — stealing money and jewelry — pawning my music gear — lying through my teeth all day every day — and more.
I was a heroin addict with a habit of 1-2 grams/day.
Most of my waking hours were spent stuck in the following sequence (my “downward spiral to rock bottom”)
- Wake up and smoke the small amount I saved to avoid withdrawal in the morning
- Text my dealer and ask “what time his delivery guy would be available”
- Brainstorm ways to come up with at least $30 and preferably $100 (since I was unemployed with no income I often resorted to lying, borrowing, stealing, or pawning)
- Hook up with “the delivery man” and trade cash for brown tar heroin
- Smoke a few big hits of the heroin off aluminum foil right there in my car after the dope was delivered
- Drive home (where I lived with my parents but had my own room) and go in my room to smoke more heroin with the door locked and incense burning/music playing
- Smoke heroin in my room or car every 30-120 minutes throughout the rest of my waking hours
- Resist the urge to smoke the last of my stash at night so I wouldn’t feel crappy in the morning and could repeat the process all over again
The net result of opioid addiction was Total Devastation of my physical health, mental health, relationships health, finances, self-esteem, and identity.
And yes, it caused the end of my relationship with my girlfriend.
Why Hiding an Addiction from Your Partner Usually Sucks
I’m fully aware that each situation is unique. Thus, for many people, hiding their addiction from their partner may actually be the right decision.
Things are not black or white.
I get that.
However, at least with the data compiled by me and my colleagues that work in the field of addiction, it appears that statistically, “Those who hide their addiction from their romantic partner recover far less frequently than the ones who are open and honest about it.”
The success rates amongst my personal coaching clients that do the Elite Transformation Program (12 weeks in duration) are around 70-80% when their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/etc. is aware of the addiction and very supportive and understanding.
The success rates are only around 20-25% if they’re hiding their addiction from their partner whom they live with.
At least for the people I’ve worked with, that’s more than a 300% increase in success rates when the client’s partner knows about the addiction and is supportive.
Here are some of the common negative consequences that may result from hiding an addiction from your partner:
- It becomes much more difficult to make it through acute and post-acute withdrawal as you pretend like something else is wrong with you (and not that you’re quitting a substance)
- When you’re tired and don’t feel good detoxing it’s much harder to cook, clean, parent, work, and help out your partner (this often leads to the partner becoming resentful — which increases your stress, fear, guilt, and shame — which makes you want to use again)
- You miss out on the mega-benefits of having your romantic lover helping you! If they know you’re detoxing usually they love to help in any and every way they can. Committed and compassionate partners will pick up your slack around the house, with the kids, work… really with anything they can to make your detox easier!
- You continue to be plagued with guilt and shame for hiding your addiction and you’re never able to be truly happy and spiritually fulfilled
- Your partner catches you somehow and finds out that you’ve been lying to them — and they never trust you again — or they break up with you or another bad scenario
These are just 4 of the common negative outcomes for the person hiding an addiction from their lover.
I assure you there are many more, especially when you consider the damage that you could do to your partner’s mental and even physical health (as they are in fact connected; and it’s important to consider these things).
I’m No One to Judge
I write this article with the intention of warning people about the damage hiding an addiction can cause.
I learned my lesson the good ole’ Hard Way, and in the process, I hurt someone that I loved very deeply.
In my current relationship, we’ve been together for more than a year and I have never told her a lie… not even a little one. I’ve been 100% truthful and open from day one and I intend to keep it that way.
I’ve made it a rule and discipline to always tell Ashlee the truth and hide nothing from her.
Facing the consequences of our decisions is one of the constants of life. From childhood to the moment we pass we are never free from the forces of cause and effect but rather eternally bound to them.
“Our decisions shape our lives. Good decisions are often painful at the moment but lead to big benefits for your future self. Bad decisions are often pleasurable in the moment but lead to negative consequences in your future.”
Honesty is not always easy and sometimes excruciatingly painful, but it’s usually the best policy.
And lying to a person you love and live with about addiction causes much more harm than good in most cases.
Make your choices in life wisely.
Good choices lead to a good life.
Thanks for reading and I hope this essay was helpful to you.
P.S. If you want to learn more about making good decisions, check out this podcast episode I created on the topic: