My Normie Wife
I’m a former meth head who hustled to support his habit. My wife’s history is completely pristine. And that’s a good thing. After all, one person like me in a marriage is plenty.
Somehow it seems to bother her more than it does me.
Or, well, she’s the one who keeps bringing it up.
I’m not sure what brings it to her mind exactly.
My history, I mean—that is, my history as a drug addict, alcoholic and hustler. My wife and I were married over a year ago and I guess we both thought it would have gotten easier for her by now—which it definitely has—but she is still uneasy whenever an addict character is in some movie we’re watching, or I accidentally start telling a story that is connected with my using—which happens fairly often since, even though I’m 30 and have been sober for four years, my life was more or less consumed with either using, or trying to recover from using, from the ages of about 17 to 28. The fact of the matter is that a lot of my experiences are from times when I was in rehab, or some halfway house, or some even more sordid situation.
“Maybe you should be with someone like you,” she’ll say. “Maybe you’d be happier with another addict in recovery. They would understand you and they wouldn’t get so upset thinking about these things.”
Of course, I try to edit myself. But it does slip out.
At these times, my wife always comes back to the same place. “Maybe you should be with someone like you,” she’ll say. “Maybe you’d be happier with another addict in recovery. They would understand you and they wouldn’t get so upset thinking about these things.”
Obviously, in some ways, she’s right. Being with another addict would probably alleviate those arguments. Another addict would understand how I could do things when I was addicted that I would never do otherwise. They would also understand that now that I’m not using, it’s not like I’m forever fighting cravings and remembering how great the good ol’ days were. In fact, I hardly ever think about drugs. And the person that I was when I was addicted seems like a completely different person than who I am now. Even my memories are more like watching a movie than remembering things that actually happened to me.
Someone like me—an addict like me—would know just how truly terrible and horrifying the good ol’ days really were. They would understand that I would never, ever, ever want to go back there.
Plus we would, theoretically, at least, be able to talk about our similar experiences. I could share rehab stories and so could she.
These kinds of relationships happen all the time.
I’d be curious to know what the statistics are but it does feel like addicts do tend, in general, to date other addicts. In fact, right after our wedding, a close friend of my wife’s, who is sober, married his longtime girlfriend, who is also sober. They met, naturally, in their NA meeting.
It makes sense.
But not just because of our ability to relate to other addicts.
Out in the world, away from school, there really aren’t a lot of opportunities for meeting people. You might meet someone at work but the options in a work environment are usually limited. And because so many people meet at bars and clubs, your options if you’re sober are significantly fewer.
So 12-step meetings become the main source of human contact for people in recovery (at least, 12-step recovery). Hell, truth be told, I’d say a good deal of my attraction to AA was the possibility of meeting girls there. And I tried, haplessly, to date girls there. But all my experiences with AA girls proved disastrous—mostly because I would try to hit on them, be rejected, and then I’d be too ashamed to go back to that meeting.
There is a danger, of course, of dating addicts in recovery when you, yourself, are an addict. It’s an old story, I guess, of two sober addicts talking each other into using again, and it’s a relief to know that I definitely don’t have to worry about with my wife. I potentially lived through the worst scenario of all when the AA girl I dated—who had started using again, unbeknownst to me—ended up tricking me (though it was my own damn fault and I probably did know what was up and was just lying to myself) into using again. That ended up being my worst relapse of all, where I nearly lost my arm and everything else. Both of us just about got each other killed every day for six months straight.
Dating sober girls definitely wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Of course, it does work for people.
Those friends of my wife are married and doing great. I see their photos on Facebook all the time and they are a cute and cool looking couple; they have their meetings and sober friends together. Maybe that’s part of what makes it work, too—going to the same meetings at night, working with their sponsors and talking about that kind of stuff. I’m sure it’s very nice for them. It’s very nice for a lot of people.
In the rooms I saw couples of all kinds. Some seemed functional. Some seemed dysfunctional. It’s probably just about the same as anything else. There are inherent advantages. But there are inherent disadvantages, too.
More than anything else, though, when it comes to relationships, it seems to me that being too similar isn’t always the best thing—at least for me. I have a hard enough time living with myself. Living with someone else like me would be just terrible.
And, sure, in terms of external things, at least, my wife and I couldn’t be more different. But we do share the same values and desires for the future. And I’d like to think our differences compliment one another’s. My shortcomings are her strengths and vice-versa (though her strengths are definitely more numerous then mine—and my shortcomings way more numerous than hers).
Of course, what makes people truly compatible is some secret, magical formula of differences and similarities that I couldn’t possibly explain, describe, or even begin to understand. It’s so much more complicated than simply both being addicts, both being in AA, both being cancer survivors, astronauts, screenwriters, or heads of state.
Whatever it is, it’s beyond comprehension.
But it’s what the two of us have.
And I try to tell her that, whenever she has her doubts.
When it works, it works.
It’s better not to ask too many questions.
Nic Sheff is a columnist for The Fix and the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction, the New York Times-bestselling Tweak, and We All Fall Down. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two hound dogs, and a cat and has previously written about selling himself for sex and his father David Sheff's book Beautiful Boy, among many other topics.