Loving a junkie nearly killed me

Testimony: Marc was a drug addict. He was self-destructive, vulnerable, dependent - and dangerous. Janet Phillips was mesmerised
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Indy Lifestyle Online
My ex-boyfriend is a junkie, every mother's worst nightmare. He makes his money from selling drugs and he's done time in prison. We were together for two years (I left him when I was expecting his baby), but up until then I was committed to Marc, he was my man. I accepted his Trainspotting world of syringes, tourniquets and needles because caring about him gave my life meaning.

I'm 28, a single parent, a creative professional who has achieved a healthy lifestyle, a million miles from his self-destructive world. It frightens me to think how screwed up I was, to have tolerated being with a man whose first love was his fix. But that's precisely what first drew me to him. I was hypnotised as he searched for an unpunctured vein, his anxiety raw and visible - he seemed the most vulnerable and open man I'd ever met. I felt privileged he did this intimate act in front of me, a non-user. He had tattoos on his muscular arms but he wasn't macho. Sex wasn't the bond (heroin lowers libido) and that endeared me even more, made me feel safe. I didn't realise until later that without his habit he was an average bloke, with quite conventional attitudes.

Caring for Marc made me feel special and important. I'd always seen myself as a shallow person, but his addiction pulled out of me painful chunks of caring and devotion. I was filled with his pain and my own life seemed empty without it. I thought I must love Marc very deeply to hurt so much. I lived and breathed his chaotic lifestyle. He'd often disappear to score and not come back for days. I'd get completely strung out, unable to do anything but wait for the phone to ring or his car to come round the corner, feeling agitated and abandoned. Just as he craved smack, I craved him to bring relief to the anxious gnawing in my gut. For both of us our needs were visceral and overpowering. But while his habit was chemical and tangible, mine manifested as romantic passion and couldn't be seen.

I thought having a baby would straighten him out. I fantasised about him walking proud next to his pregnant woman, and when the test came through positive, I felt pleased. But I wanted Marc to change and I pleaded with him to stop fixing, but he was using more than ever. He and his cronies would be up all night, their junkie paraphernalia littering the sitting- room. I tried hard not to nag; I wanted to be loyal and perfect.

But as the pregnancy advanced, I felt increasingly weird, as if I wasn't in my body. I knew something was wrong, I was hiding something from myself. But what? I sat on the edge of my bed trying to break through the fog in my mind. Thinking of my unborn baby gave me that extra impetus to be honest and then suddenly it hit me: the father of my baby is a junkie. I knew that already of course, but not in this way. It was as if I woke up and I really took on board my terrible situation. I started sobbing - it hurt, but looking back, that pain was part of a vital awakening.I carried on going through the motions of making our flat ready for the baby. But I was feeling trapped. This built to a crescendo and in my confusion I thought an abortion was the answer, even though I could feel the baby's movements. In despair I booked admittance to a clinic but on the evening before the operation, I had another revelation. I realised becoming a mother wasn't trapping me, it was living with Marc and his self-abusive lifestyle. When I saw how close I'd come to destroying my baby, I knew that my survival was at stake and I had to leave him.

Letting Marc down was the hardest thing I've ever done. I remember crying one night and at the end of the tears there was this discovery that he was responsible for himself. Painfully I was undoing the psychic knots that tied me to him.

After I moved out, I started living differently. It was like coming out into the sunshine after being in a subterranean world. For the first time as an adult I enjoyed simple pleasures like eating well or walking in a park. I'd had to hit rock-bottom before I could become this reasonably sane human being.

I still see Marc because he's the father of my child, who is four. We're friends but I also resent his presence because it's an unwelcome reminder of my past. These days I make an effort to be emotionally healthy and not let my neediness drive me. I'm aware that I still have a compulsive pull towards men who need rescuing, so I'm on my guard for tell-tale signs of danger. Like an addict in recovery, I can never afford to be complacent. Interview by Elisabeth Winkler. All names have been changed