When His Drug Addiction Drags You Down

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This woman’s experience is similar to the reader who discovered her boyfriend’s sex addiction and string of affairs while checking his email:

Hi, here’s my submission to the breakup story thread. I’ve also attached a song [that most resonates with the relationship].

Tyler and I had decided to move in together after two weeks of dating. At this point, he had already told me he loved me, retrieved his belongings that were being withheld by his crack-addicted roommate in East Oakland, and showed up at my doorstep the next day with a queen-sized mattress and a Maine Coon cat named Mona. As a 20-year-old living in San Francisco, somehow this all made sense.

It was only after he had developed a drug addiction and couldn’t hold down a job that things started to get complicated.

I was hopelessly in love with this person, and yet I got the nagging suspicion that he was somehow leading a double life in order to make ends meet. I cast the feeling aside. It felt cowardly. The evidence was all there, but I was in denial. I felt weak for ignoring the smell of burning hair in our bathroom, which I later learned was crack, and accepting Tyler’s lies even though his lips still were tinged with that offensive, bitter taste.

Eventually, between loving gazes and long wretches onto the sidewalk one night, he told me he wanted to get married and spend the rest of his life with me.

Then, we got into a serious fight after he had gotten me fired from my job, and I cheated on him out of spite and helplessness. The morning after, as I stumbled to West Oakland Bart to make my way back home, I knew that the right thing would be to end the relationship that day. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and so we stayed together for another four tumultuous months. He never found out.

During the final stages of our relationship, there was a lot that I questioned about Tyler and what he did while I was away at work. Because he had given his drug dealer his laptop in exchange for coke, as well as other drugs that he would flip for cash, he used my computer to supposedly apply for jobs. It was then when I was logging into my email that I found out about his Craigslist account.

The avatar in the top right corner was a benign, shirtless selfie—one that he had sent me earlier while he was at Ocean Beach. The email handle was “Pizzasssssslut916,” and there was an exchange between him and a stranger about giving handjobs for money. He listed our home address in the e-mail. There were already about 40 of these types of exchanges in his inbox.

A wave of nausea came over me. I turned on some thrashing, angry music, began to hyperventilate, and called him immediately. I screamed at him and called him a monster as he cried and told me that he was robbing people to make rent and that he was so sorry.

I called off the relationship and told him to never come back. Twenty minutes later, I hear him pounding at the door and calling my name. I turned up my music louder, and patiently waited for him to give up. That night, I packed a bag, drove to LA with one of my best friends at three in the morning, and met with my family in Venice Beach to talk about what happened before embarking on a trip alone to Berlin for eight days.

Since that night, I never saw Tyler again. He has tried numerous times to reach out over text, Instagram Direct, and by mail. He sent me comic books while he was in rehab, photos of the farm that he started working on in New Zealand, and told me how sorry he was and how badly he messed up. I never responded.

Months afterwards, I was paranoid about what strangers online potentially knew my address, whether or not there was drug debt to be atoned for, and who was actually living with me in that ground-level apartment for so many months. To this day, I am still unsure, but now I am happily living alone with Mona, who was my true soulmate all along. Finally, the girls are alright.