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Ask Joe: Advice on Long-Distance Relationships and Drug Addicted Boyfriends

By Joe Weston

Welcome to "Ask Joe," our RealJock advice column, written by our regular contributor, Joe Weston. Joe is a life coach, workshop facilitator, lecturer and peace advocate who believes we all can find a desired level of personal fulfillment and inner peace through the practice of deepening, illuminating and integrating the various aspects of our lives. Looking for some clarity on tricky issues in your life? Share what's on your mind with Joe—concerning work, personal awareness, love and romance, meditation and spiritual exploration, or just about anything else that's on your mind.

Write to Joe:
Reaching Joe couldn't be simpler: just email your question to Your identity will be kept anonymous, but do note that questions may be edited for length and clarity.

Hi Joe,
My partner of 25 years recently admitted to having abused prescription drugs for the last two years. I noticed at about the same time every month that he would be acting strange to the point where I thought he had a neurological problem or, God forbid, some sort of brain malfunction or even tumor. I've come to find out he was taking a whole month's prescription of both zanex and vicodin in a one week period. How he functioned I don't know, though he did end up getting laid off from his job, and in retrospect I think it had to be from the pills. He would be like a walking zombie, almost falling asleep standing up. When I found out about this back in January I naturally threatened to leave him, and I was so relieved when he gave them up. Yet last month I discovered that he was back at it again. At the same time, he (coincidentally?) came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized for five days. He had a chest tube to clear his lungs. Even so, his doctors don't know of the abuse. Could this bout of pneumonia have been in some part caused by his drug abuse? Is he pulling a Michael Jackson on me where his organs are being effected by repeated drug use?
—His Better Half?

Dear Better,
So let me get this straight—your partner of 25 years is taking a whole month’s prescription of Xanax and Vicodin in one week, gets laid off from his job, gets pneumonia and is hospitalized. And you are asking me if he has a drug problem and if the drugs are causing his illnesses? What were you thinking? What have you been saying to him? What have you been putting up with? What has kept you from an intervention? If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time to get your head out of the sand and start taking action! It seems that your partner is not capable of taking care of himself at the moment. If I understand the facts correctly, your partner is a drug addict and needs some serious support. And so do you! Go immediately to an Al-Anon meeting, do not pass go, do not collect $200!

The first issue that needs to be addressed is saving your partner's life—both physically and emotionally. The next step is looking at how you have managed to stand by and watch the man you love spiral down to bottom. Not to mention all the pain and suffering this has probably caused you and all your own personal needs that have not been dealt with. You are probably a very caring and giving man. You probably put others before you. Well, sometimes speaking up and demanding action and taking care of your own needs is the most compassionate thing you can do for someone, even if it hurts them or pisses them off. Speak your truth, see the truth, dear, dear man!

Hi Joe,
My boyfriend lives abroad, but he has no way to move here right now since he owns his own business where he lives. If that business fails (unlikely but possible), he would want to move to the States, but we can't know that for a couple of years. In the meantime, I can theoretically move to be with him where he lives, since his country will allow me to legally immigrate if we marry there. But I also have a new career opportunity where I live. I care less about my career than he cares about his—but that's just it. He's a workaholic. I am worried that if I give up my career, which is not transportable, in order to be with him, I will be a widow to his work with a dull job that I don't like, feeling angry about all I gave up for him. But if I keep my career here it doesn't help to bring us closer, and I worry the distance will wear us down. I love him—he is an amazing man. But he believes work comes first. Should I be a victim of his work, or of mine?
—Long-distance Lover

Hey Lover,
I can really feel your dilemma. I lived abroad for many years and know from myself, and from many others, the challenges—and the beauty—of long-distance relationships. One advantage is that you have the luxury to get to know each other slowly and open up in a genuine way into deeper levels of intimacy. You also get to go through the sweet craving of wanting to see each other, which is delicious and adds depth to the time you do spend together. If you also value freedom, it is a great way to be in relationship and also have the time to be in your own life and continue to explore who you are as an individual.

However, the big issue here doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the distance. I think the question of career over relationship would be an issue even if you both lived in the same city. I have seen too many people moving to a new country for a lover and ending up being miserable because they didn’t come with any plan to create an empowered life for themselves. You ask me if you should be a victim of his work. My answer is that you should never be a victim of anything. This is a typical case of comparing values. How do you prioritize your values? How does he? It sounds like he values career over relationship. How about you? If you value relationship over career then maybe you can go live in his city. But this won’t change his choice to put career over relationship.

The distance might end up being a blessing in disguise. It gives you time. Let him follow his career and stay where he is. You stay where you are and do your own thing and see if you can make the relationship work. After a number of years of developing deeper connection, and after a number of years of your partner getting to establish himself in his work, a solution may present itself. Maybe he gets a promotion with the opportunity to move to your country. Maybe you are ready to start a new life somewhere, maybe you find a fabulous beach home somewhere in between that makes it easier to see each other more often. The possibilities are endless!

But remember one thing: Do not go against your own personal values. That is the direct road to victimhood and resentment and unhappiness. Stay true to your own feelings and needs.

About Joe Weston: Joe Weston is an international workshop facilitator and personal life coach. Born and educated in New York, Joe lived in Amsterdam for 17 years and now lives in California. He is committed to helping others embody spirituality and supports others on their journey towards personal fulfillment and empowerment. Joe brings a wealth of insight to his work based on many teachings, including Tai Chi Chuan and various spiritual tradition—plus his experience in theater and various organizational trainings. He also volunteers for the Liberation Prison Project, teaching Buddhism to inmates. To find out more about his workshops and his personal coaching, visit Joe will be offering a monthly class in Oakland Ca, Full Body Meditation, combining different physical disciplines as a preparation for a successful mediation. He is also offering a class in Oakland Ca, Respectful Confrontation, October 23 - 25, and in Washington, DC the weekend of November 20 - 22, as well as an evening seminar November 17. Check for details: Joe offers a discount to RealJock readers. For more info: