In my early 20s, I came to appreciate what it means to fall head over heels. He was erudite, aloof and utterly unattainable. Or so I thought. When he finally looked my way, my heart literally skipped a beat. But my good sense ran a mile.
The cracks began to appear not long after we started dating. I tried desperately to maintain the façade. After all, we were would-be actors and poets. Artistes, if you don't mind. Conflict and drama were par for the creative cause.
What I didn't know was the tawdry life he had been building for himself away from our little hub. He had resumed an old love affair — with heroin.
This erstwhile episode returned to me last week as I sat glued to the unravelling of US television actor Charlie Sheen, which came to a head yesterday with the actor's sacking from the high-rating sitcom Two and A Half Men.
But it wasn't the actor's meltdown, as much as the drama being played off stage by his close friends and family, that had me compelled.
Theirs is the story of making mistakes, underestimating the power of addiction and loving too easily, if not judiciously. A drama with no script or guarantee of a happy ending, but with all the sorry hallmarks of a sequel.
When asked about his 45-year-old son's battle, Sheen's father, Martin Sheen, seemed strangely ebullient. 'He's an extraordinary man,' he told Sky News. 'He's doing well.'
It was an odd reply in the face of what appeared to be an all-too public cry for help, but read between the lines of the 70-year-old's reaction and you will find the very real complexities of loving an addict.
If there's one thing about drug dependency it's that it has no mercy. Take a stroll through Sydney's Kings Cross or down Melbourne's Victoria Street on the days when heroin flows freely, and tell me the drug doesn't get under the skin of its host; leeching life as they once knew it, one needle at a time.
Addiction changes a person. In place of transparency you will find stealth, secrecy, desperation and dishonesty. Where there was once light and shade, there now lurks only the shadow of doubt.
And, yet, the person you love is still there, somewhere. But how to reach them? And what to say to them when — or if — you do?
In the 2008 documentary Ben: Diary of a Heroin Addict — one of the most harrowing examples of the daily pressures of heroin addiction on family life — Ben's mum grapples with her 34-year-old son's compulsion. 'I think the hardest thing of all it is that you give us a little bit of hope, and then you snatch it back again.'
This to-ing and fro-ing. The conveyor belt of promises and lies. The glimmer of hope would be all too familiar to Martin Sheen. When asked how he was supporting his son, he told Sky: 'With prayer ... and we ask everyone who cares about him to lift him up, and lift up all those who are in the grip of drug and alcohol abuse, because they are looking for transcendence.'
As someone who once searched for that transcendence at the bottom of a bottle, Sheen speaks from experience. A major heart attack at the age of 38 forced him to reassess and, ultimately, turn his life around. But having stood in his son's shoes doesn't mean he can now take that next step for him.
It took several years (and many tears) for me to realise I was fighting a losing battle. Unlike me, my partner's mistress Heroin didn't get upset, hold a grudge or, worst of all, nag. I should have walked away sooner, but thought I could make a difference.
When I did finally sever ties, it was with a sigh of relief. I'd survived and could now finally live my life. I could and, in the end, did walk away.
But not his mother. Her face, on one of the last occasions we met, will be forever imprinted in my memory. Beneath that fixed smile of hers was an air of weary, unfathomable resignation.
Now, as a parent myself, I have some understanding of what that look means. It carries the weight of lost dreams and aspirations, and the realisation that not only is love alone often not enough to save your child, but perhaps, just perhaps, somewhere along the line it, too, had a hand in shaping their awful reality.
Jen Vuk is a freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including The Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Age and The Good Weekend.