Famous Last Words: “Mom, I can change him.”
Finding Mr. or Ms. Right is hard enough. You finally locate someone who shares your interests, who’s attractive, sympathetic, enjoys being with you. There’s only one problem: He (or she) uses drugs. Maybe it’s just once or twice a month; maybe it’s every weekend, or every day. No one’s perfect, you say to yourself; everyone has a least one weakness.
Should you get married to a drug user? No one but you can make that decision. But before you make it, here are some things to consider.
Most drug users, especially the heavy users, have one great love: their addiction. The more they get into drugs, the more time and effort they put into feeding their addiction. Life becomes a cycle: finding drugs, using them, and acquiring the means to use more. Love of family–and time for family activities–take a distant second place to love of drugs.
Employment, Finances and Drugs
Most drug users are poor providers. Many are unemployed. But even those who are employed full-time have far higher job turnover rates than non-users, according to a 2007 study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, drug users are more than twice as likely as non-users to have worked for three or more employers in just a year’s time.
It’s hard to keep a job when you’re on drugs. And for drug users, good jobs are harder to find. A 2003 PBS documentary reported that virtually all of the Fortune 500 companies require drug tests before they hire new workers. They also conduct random drug tests on their existing employees. Drugs and work don’t mix.
Drugs cost money, lots of it. The money paid for drugs comes from funds that would ordinarily go to feeding, sheltering and clothing a family, paying for the children’s education, and for all the other expenses of raising a family. And the drug-related expenses go beyond the cost of the drugs themselves. Overdoses, drug-related illnesses, traffic accidents caused by drugs: these are just some of the things that put people in hospital emergency rooms. If your spouse is “between jobs,” as many drug users are, chances are good, unless you have health insurance yourself, that you’ll be paying for all this medical treatment out of pocket.
There’s a strong relationship between drugs and crime. Some of it comes from the search for money to buy drugs. But a lot of violent crime comes from people doing things under the influence of drugs that they would never consider doing when sober. Unfortunately, much of that crime takes place within the home itself. There are many stories of drug-related abuse.
Drug Use Affects the Whole Family
One story that captured the headlines some years ago involved a Manhattan lawyer who threw his six-year-old daughter against a wall and then sat in front of the girl, smoking cocaine with his companion, a book editor and author, while the girl lapsed into a coma and eventually died. When police arrived at the apartment, they also found a 17-month- old boy, soaked in urine, encrusted with dirt, tethered by rope to a filthy playpen. Why would two such intelligent people be so heedless and reckless in their behavior unless their minds were messed up with drugs?
Drug users and their families develop a whole new group of friends: the wrong ones. These new friends, and the things they do, are all part of the drug culture: fellow pot smokers, crack cocaine addicts, heroin dealers, prison cell mates – not to mention the self-rationalizations, the lies to family, friends and employers, shoplifting, stealing from parents, the street robberies, prostitution, emergency room visits, and frequently death.
Too often, the whole family gets sucked into the drug culture: ten-year-olds who get sent by their mothers out into the streets to buy crack; six-year-olds who are burned to death when their parents’ jerry-rigged methamphetamine labs explode. Some experiment with drugs thinking they’ll escape the demands of life, and then often realize they’ve found a new way of life, one far worse then they ever imagined – and one they find it impossible to escape. And too often they bring their families along with them.
Once you start, it’s tough to stop. Avram Goldstein, a medical doctor and Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology at Stanford University, put it this way in his book, “Addiction”: “There is some truth in the saying ‘Once an addict, always an addict.’ The formerly addicted person has drug-related memories and experiences not shared by those who have never been addicted. And these – under the right conditions – can trigger a relapse.” Consider all the Hollywood stars and sports stars who have been in and out of rehab facilities. Even if their efforts are successful, people in rehab give up their prime years – years when they could be focusing on building a career and raising families.
Can you change him (or her)? Anything is possible. But before you take the plunge, give some serious thought to the kind of life you aspire to – and just as importantly, what kind of future you’d like your children to have.