Why he only hurts you when he’s drunk (or high)

Are you convinced that your husband’s drug addiction is the reason he abuses you? Does your remorseful partner earnestly plead, ‘I only hit you when I’m drunk’? Do you struggle to understand why he won’t give up something which causes him to inflict so much hurt on you? Then there are FOUR FACTS that you need to know, right now.

Photo by aforero

Photo by aforero

Ignoring the elephant in the room

In my posts on ‘My Story’, I outlined the connection between my ex’s abusive behaviour and his cannabis use. For me, it seemed a no-brainer. He began smoking the drug (as far as I know) shortly after I became pregnant with our child. The abuse emerged at around the same time.

Everything seemed to point the finger of blame firmly toward cannabis: His paranoia and delusional jealousy, the emotional meltdowns, the gaslighting, the red mist rages, the fact that his ‘get up and go’ got up and went.

He appeared to think this too, on the few occasions he admitted to doing anything wrong. Cannabis became his go-to excuse for actions that he could not  justify. Once or twice, he told me he knew he had a problem, and planned to seek professional help.

I reasoned that if he kicked the habit, the abuse would stop. So, I focussed on supporting him to quit weed and ignored the elephant in the room: that I was being abused.

I left him a couple of times, citing his drug problem as the reason. I returned when he passed drug tests. I hit the road again when he tested positive. I couldn’t understand why he was able to kick weed into touch for long enough to pass a test, but then started again.

Unfortunately for me, I sidelined the biggest problem of all – the abuse. It was no coincidence that drug use and abuse emerged together, but I didn’t see that I was putting the cart before the horse. I failed to see that the real culprit was him, and he was playing his Get Out of Jail Free card over and over again.

FOUR FACTS we need to know

Photo by tourist_on_earth

Photo by tourist_on_earth

  1. ‘Domestic violence and drug and alcohol addiction frequently occur together, but no evidence suggests a causal relationship between substance abuse and domestic violence.’ (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
  2. ‘While problematic alcohol or drug use – by either the perpetrator or the victim – can make the situation worse, the use of substances does not in itself lead to violence: many men are abusive whether or not they have been drinking – and many people drink without becoming violent.’ (Women’s Aid)
  3. ‘Alcohol and drug abuse increase the likelihood of domestic violence; not only during periods of intoxication, but also during periods of sobriety’ (TAADAS)
  4. ‘Abusers believe it is their right to exert power & control over their partners – substance use does not cause a person to feel this way but may increase the risk that he/she will assault his/her partner.’ (A Woman’s Place)

So, what does this mean?

Photo by desi.italy

Photo by desi.italy

There is a link between substance abuse and domestic violence, but substance abuse DOES NOT cause domestic abuse. 

Alcohol and drugs simply make the abuse worse. As our abuser’s judgement is impaired, we are more likely to be seriously injured or killed.

Some abusers deliberately get tanked up in order to abuse us. This is a choice that they make, because they WANT to abuse us.

Don’t believe his promises to go ‘cold turkey’ or never drink again. In the unlikely event that the whiskey goes down the drain, the abuse won’t stop because – according to Pat Craven, “the real reason for their violence and abuse is the desire to keep women under control.” Not every drinker is violent, not every drug user is abusive. Some abusers are committed teetotalers.

The truth is, our partners abuse us because they want to. Alcohol and drugs simply enable them to dodge responsibility. It’s time to tear up the excuse book, today.

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013

11 responses to “Why he only hurts you when he’s drunk (or high)

  1. Where it is possible in some cases that drugs and alcohol create situations of abuse the initial cause was actually in their mind before drinking or drugging. As for my husband when he drinks or smokes pot he becomes more lethargic and sleepy which is to my benefit. If only he’d stay in that state 24/7.


    • You are right. Substance use doesn’t make someone behave abusively. You have abusers, and you have drunk / stoned / high abusers. They are still abusers.

      Drink or drugs simply make the abuse worse – even during sober periods. The problem is that sometimes we and the abuser and even services that are supposed to help us, think that if the drink/drugs stop, so will the abuse. It doesn’t.


      • Seeking help…why is it my mate was wonderful to me when she was not under the influence of drugs. Only hwhen she used drugs did she become violent. It was day/night difference. She treated me wonderfully until she decided to use. She began to abuse me when she got high on meth. when she was not high, it did not happen. For the first two years of our relationship, we had it all. then she used. I had no clue about drugs or what would occur. Off and on she used for about 6 months but abused became severe. She would never hurt me sober. Never. Why is this? Please help. She went to prison over it…she was a beautiful person before and is seeking help and says she never wants to use again. She will be 50 when she gets out and wants to make a beautiful life with me. I love her so much but my family is livid over my being back together with her and I have a decision to make…why only violence when high?


      • I’m so sorry you’ve been through all of that Charlotte. I think you can find the answer to your question in your comment: your mate ‘decided to use’ drugs. Think about why she made that choice. As the article says, domestic abuse is a choice, a decision the perpetrator makes to try to establish or retain control of their partner. Drug use provides the perfect excuse for them, because they can blame the substance rather than accept responsibility for their decision to abuse the person they claim to love.


  2. An abuser with a substance abuse problem was my nightmare. He didn’t like the way marijuana made him feel because of how it made him so lethargic. His choice was crack cocaine, and he always blamed me for causing him to use AND for an excuse for his abuse. I believe the only influence the drug use has is that is lowers their threshold to control their anger, making them lash out more. It is never the cause for what they do, much in the same way stress of being broke and worried about money isn’t the cause for domestic abuse as I saw posited in a blog about increasing DV in Greece. Just another cop-out.

    Thank you for addressing this issue in your post.


    • Hi sweetmarie, as you say – drink/ drugs / stress are all just attempts to excuse the inexcusable. Unfortunately, we can buy into this and so do service providers. These things seem fixable to those on the receiving end. Also, we don’t (I didn’t) always see right away that we are trying to resolve the wrong problem.


      • For a while, I think we are clouded by how well their ability to blame us for not only their drug abuse but their verbal/physical/sexual abuse of us as well makes it way into our minds. So much so that initially we may actually believe we ARE to blame. Being abuse by someone who also uses drugs is double dose of pain, because not only are we trying to shoulder the responsibility and jump through hoops to just make him happy enough that he will stop hitting us, we also feel that since we love him, we must help fix his addiction problem and then everything can be better…

        But it won’t be. The active addict is the one who must have enough of the chase and the consequences it brings to seek help. Until then, it just won’t change.

        In my situation, when he actually did go into a 30 day program, he became twice as verbally abusive and began stalking me by phone from the treatment center… so much so that the last several days he was there, he lost his phone privileges. And as soon as he came out after only 2 weeks (which I think he manipulated), he went right back out into the streets.

        I heard a few counselors of his, and even some in his NA group say that the abuse was a result of his addiction. But I knew better. He was monstrously evil without it. The only change in him when he was strung out was that it was twice as persistent, because he was twice as paranoid and obsessive.

        And I am so glad that I am free of it.

        Thank you again for posting this, because it such an important (and widely misunderstood) problem.


  3. hi im melody im 17 my boyfriend is 18 we have been together for 3years he has a drug poblum.well hes in jail now the day before he went to jail we were hanging at a friends house he was all fucked up tweeking out on spice and rocking back and forth i gently toched his arm and he went to hit me but he stoped hisself;( im so tired of him trying to hit me when hes high its not the first tiime he never contected to me but he always trys i feel like he will do it one day


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