I’m sorry you had such a tough beginning. Your parents apparently were able to love you and your brother even though they weren’t able to love each other. Sometimes the most loving thing a parent can do for their child is to let someone else care for them while they figure themselves out. I’m guessing that’s why you and your brother stayed with relatives for a while. I hope the aunts were kind to you.
You sought safety and security in a long relationship during your teen years. It helped you manage the difficult high school environment and gave you companionship and the love you had been seeking. But like most high school relationships, it came to an end just as high school does. The problem with such relationships is that often the two young people depend too much on each other and they get zero experience with managing the ups and downs of other relationships. So, yes, that relationship gave you safety. But it had a cost. You didn’t have the opportunity to get to know other people and to develop confidence in yourself as a friend and as a partner.
Turning to drugs blunted the pain but also deprived you of another opportunity to learn how to relate to others. I take it that you have quit drugs which is terrific. Like many people who have used and abused drugs, getting clean means finally facing what you were avoiding. Now you find yourself in many ways back to age 16 when you were so unsure of yourself.
One way to avoid your fear of negative judgment by others is to first judge yourself. You are like a salesman who presents his product by saying, “I know you won’t want to buy this thing I’m showing you.” It protects him from feeling rejected if people don’t buy because he has already told them that he doesn’t expect them to. Similarly, you have already decided someone won’t like you so you beat them to it by expecting rejection.
You are on an important quest. I hope this idea is helpful to you. If you can’t explore it further on your own, I hope you will consider making an appointment with a mental health counselor to help you delve more deeply into it.
I wish you well.