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My past haunts me

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Aunty Julie,

As a student in the University, I used hard drugs. I graduated several years ago and have served in NYSC. I used to have an attitude when I was taking drugs but I no longer have them. I dated many ladies and dumped them and I was extremely extroverted.

My lifestyle has changed. Now that I do not go out to clubs or party, I am finding difficulty in relationships. Women do not understand why I do not drink. When they ask, I tell them where drugs and alcohol have gotten me in the past. This always seems to scare them off. I feel guilty not telling them that I used to be an intravenous drug user, but when they ask about the tattoo on my arm that symbolizes a promise to myself never to inject again, I am honest about what it stands for. I have been tested for AIDS/Hep-C and all of the tests have returned negative. 

I am having difficulty finding someone that understands. Please help me.
Sunday, Lagos

Dear Sunday,
You have made an incredible change in your life and stuck to it . And yet, some romantic interests decided to put the book back on the shelf without understanding what it’s really about. Unfortunately, a history of drug use is often accompanied by stigma, sometimes resulting in assumptions about a person that may not be accurate. When you mention you’ve been tested for HIV and hepatitis C, it’s clear that you are aware of both the health risks involved in intravenous drug use and the stigma placed on drug users both past and present. The good news is that not every person you’re interested in will rely on assumptions when you disclose your past drug use. It may be that a few negative reactions early on in your recovery have made it seem like more women will be “scared off” than really will be. When it comes to finding that connection, the places you go to meet people and disclose your past, and describe your present may ultimately help or hinder your romantic success.

To take some of the pressure off, first dates may be devised to be casual and easy to leave if things aren’t going well, such as meeting for a lunch. Meeting over lunch is a natural way for people to chat and get to know each other with food and people around. If you’re looking for opportunities to meet potential partners, consider pursuing interests you have where substances aren’t involved. 

While your story may have been previously met by with negative reaction, a few strategies might get the ball rolling in the right direction with a potential date. It may be helpful to acknowledge some of the negative associations with drug use and explain specifically how you do not fit the mold.

Sharing the positive steps you’ve made in your life may also help to correct any misbeliefs held by those you’re interested in dating. Don’t share your story immediately with a romantic interest. Get acquainted first before deciding to what extent you can open up. By preparing an approach that is both honest about the past and confident about the future, you may find that there are people out there who are able to look beyond the book’s cover and want to read every page.

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