Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover

By William Henderson 08/25/11

Falling for another man was a minor problem. Falling for a drug addict was a major one. One writer recounts how becoming addicted to another person can be as deadly as being hooked on any drug.

Clinging for dear life Photo via

In the middle of our second date, D told me he was a former drug addict: crystal meth, cocaine, ecstasy, and GHB. He said if he ever used crystal again, he would use it until he died. All he did now was smoke pot “but only because my roommate pays for his half of the bills in weed,” he said. “I don’t smoke all the time, but if you ever see that I’m heading down a path toward crystal meth, you need to promise that you will do whatever you think you need to do to stop me.”

Already, he saw a future with me—one in which I would have the power to keep him safe. The invisible ropes connecting me to he grew tighter, until they grew so taut, I could neither separate myself from him nor see a life without him.

I had known him less than two weeks.

I could not tell that D was stoned during our first date and he could not tell I was married and a father. Instead  I kissed him, and I more than kissed him, and we agreed to a second date, and afterwards he texted me that he wanted to give me everything he had, and I wanted everything he had to give because I wanted to give him everything I had, even if giving him everything I had meant divorcing my wife and missing out on 50 percent of my son’s week.

And that's how my affair with D began.

“He recognized a void in you, and he knew he could get from you what he needed,” my therapist, Judi, said. I had met her 27 minutes ago. I’d never thought I’d need a therapist, but I’d neither come out to my wife nor confessed an affair before.

“I don’t have a void in me,” I told Judi, but what I really meant was I didn’t want to have a void.

“You got involved with someone who needed you to help him, and you wanted to help him because if you helped him, he wouldn’t leave you,” Judi said. “And he picked someone who was willing to take what was offered without saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t enough’ or ‘Hey, this isn’t working,’ or ‘Hey, I don’t want to date a drug addict.’”

“I thought if I hung on long enough,” I admitted, “then he would pick me.”

“He’s a drug addict,” Judi said. “He wasn’t and isn’t available.”

She was right, of course. She tended to be right.

I didn’t think I was cheating on my wife when I told D I wanted to date him monogamously, because my wife and I hadn’t had sex in years and were already starting to separate things into his and hers. We conceived our son, and then our daughter, through in-vitro fertilization. When D learned about the impending birth of our second child, he was as excited as I was. He only discovered I was married after the affair ended, and only because I wanted him to know how much I had been willing to give up for him.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

His not smoking pot all the time soon became several times a day. Soon after he started buying, and then he started selling, but only to his best friend. He never intended to become a dealer; it  just happened. He told me that he used to sleep with his roommate, and that this man listened outside the bedroom door when we were having sex, and I asked him if he had ever asked his roommate to stop. D hadn’t; he told me that knowing his roommate could be out there made our sex even better.

Ten weeks in, he gave me the key to his childhood bedroom door and asked me to wear it. I asked him why, and he said he would one day melt that key and turn it into my wedding band, so that the symbol of our future was his past, and that way I would know when he offered me everything he meant everything. Later, he gave me keys to his apartment, and then he made me his emergency medical contact.

I couldn’t tell anyone about D; maybe if I had, someone would have said what I only realize in retrospect: not only is 10 weeks too soon to talk marriage, but when you date an addict, you end up dating the addiction, not the person. 

D told me that he was beautiful and that if we broke up, he would mourn me only until he replaced me, but that he could easily replace me, and that I had been lucky to find him since he was willing to take me as is. Another time, he asked if I thought I could really do better than him, and I told him I thought I could do different, and he laughed and said that if I was planning to leave him, I should make sure to have an upgrade in mind.

About three months into the relationship, he promised to stop getting high and throw out his bong once I moved in with him. Until then, he warned, if I made him pick between me and the weed, I would lose.

I had been miserable in my marriage, certain I was—am—gay, but not willing to hurt my wife by coming out. D said he loved me and we had good sex several times a day and he was beautiful and I felt lucky, mostly because he told me I should feel lucky. I said I wouldn’t make him pick, but when he started canceling plans with me so he could get high with his friends, I thought the only thing to do was make good on my promise from our second date.

Without his knowledge, I recorded him buying an ounce of weed from his roommate, selling half of it to his best friend, smoking half of it with his best friend and another friend, and then snorting pills—opiates he was prescribed when he was suffering from unexplainable migraines.

On the recording, he told his friends that he was tired of dating someone who wouldn’t get high with him, and that he had just met someone he thought would get high with him, and he was going to offer to smoke him out, and if things went well, he would see where that would go.

When he found out I had recorded him, he broke up with me and took out a restraining order.

I came out to my wife and then tried to kill myself—swallowing a toxic brew of 70 pills, a mix of Tylenol PM and Melatonin. When I groggily awoke, still alive, I decided I would jump off of a bridge. My wife was outing me to her family and friends, and I couldn’t imagine constantly having to come out. 

So I drove to the bridge, and while gazing down at the scary rush of water below, I decided to call my wife. Luckily, she was there to answer the phone. I told her I didn’t want to die, but that I needed help. She told me she would help me get help. A day later, I checked myself into a local psychiatric hospital, where I was diagnosed with situational mania. I completed a two-week partial hospital program; started taking a low dose of Lamictal; and agreed to talk with a therapist. 

After Judi diagnosed me with codependency and told me it was a disease, I said nothing, because Judi was looking at me like she knew everything I was thinking, and she wanted me to say everything I was thinking because everything I was thinking only proved her point. 

“What’s the difference between codependency and love?” I finally asked.

“When you don’t have to ask,” she responded, “then you’ll know the difference.”

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William Henderson is a father of two, a full-time writer and the author of the memoir, Second Person, Possessive. He is also a contributor to Hippocampus Magazine.