Skip

Is my boyfriend an alcoholic?
December 7, 2009 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I think I may have to leave the man I have made many sacrifices for, because he is an alcoholic. But I don't have the guts to do that, because it would kill all the faith I have in humanity, and because I love him, and care for him, so very much. He refuses to get help because he doesn't think he needs it. Am I being stupid if I decide to stay in this relationship?

I apologize if I am long-winded, but I think I have come to the realization that I have to leave the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and who I love deeply.

We just got back from a party at a bar where he ordered ten large bottles of beer. These people were my friends, and he was loud, obnoxious, and when they said that he had ordered ten bottles and needed to pay for them because no one else was really drinking, he was insulting to them. When I tried to talk to him outside, he threatened to smash my head into the wall - he wouldn't ever do that, but the fact is the he disrespected me all night, and didn't care what I thought of his behavior. He drinks non-stop every time we go out... but he's only obnoxious with my friends, not his - I am pretty sure he feels insecure... he's the kind of guy that prefers dive bars over quiet(er) dinner parties that my friends like to have. However, when we're home, he doesn't drink that much - maybe one beer or a glass of wine and that's it. I know him very well, and sometimes it feels like he is really insecure about himself, and wants to impress me, and that's what makes him drink. He is by nature contrary, and often says that I drive him to, when we're out and I tell him he should stop.

He has two DUIs. His conviction obligates him to go to AA meetings, he has to do jail time (96 hours), and he has to do community service. Our relationship started out in the worst way - long-distance and complicated - and he blames the downfall of his life on us... he got laid off, failed the MCATs. I was going through a rough time in my life (a divorce) when we first start dating after being friends for years, and he was there for me long-distance, but in that period his life suffered and he now resents me more than a little for it.

All this said, I love this man with all my heart. I know how intelligent he is, how capable of achievements (we both met in grad school while working towards our doctorates) he is, and I know above all that despite the crusty exterior, he would give the shirt off his back for a friend if he was asked to. I also knows he loves me... I won't go into it, but his actions when he's not drunk are mostly kind and caring. He's a fiercely independent person, and is extremely selfish at times... but he's a decent, good human being who would never intentionally hurt someone.

I am beginning to lose respect for myself, both because I want to stay with him, and because I can't bring myself to leave. He might ruin my life, but I keep telling myself things will get better. We both made sacrifices for the sake of this relationship, and while things haven't worked out for us professionally, I'm willing to overlook things and work for it... he doesn't have as much faith as I do. I know if I told him that I made the biggest mistake of my life with him, he would agree (he thinks his life has hit rock-bottom) and tell me I should find someone that can make me happy. Has anyone else had a similar experience? What do you do when you have burned bridges, made personal sacrifices, and go out of your way for someone only to be constantly reminded that they are too self-involved/ beat-down with their own issues to realize your devotion to them? Please help. My insides hurt, and the pain is taking my breath away.

Thank you for your input.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (60 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
A friend's divorce of her alcoholic husband and moving on (by online dating) to someone that he didn't respect but she loved was the balm that both of them needed in their lives -- for him to wake up and see how uncomfortable he was in his own skin, and for her to finally get the relief and reward of the relationship that she deserved. I can't offer advice because I've never been in your situation, but I can say that I have never heard of anything bad coming from leaving a situation like the one you describe. Make sure that you seek some counseling on your own to deal with making these decisions.
posted by SpecialK at 10:08 AM on December 7, 2009


This answer is going to seem curt, but it is not meant to be, it is just that there is a one sentence answer that will help the most. Go to an Al-Anon meeting.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:09 AM on December 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


When I tried to talk to him outside, he threatened to smash my head into the wall - he wouldn't ever do that, but the fact is the he disrespected me all night, and didn't care what I thought of his behavior....

...he blames the downfall of his life on us... he got laid off, failed the MCATs. I was going through a rough time in my life (a divorce) when we first start dating after being friends for years, and he was there for me long-distance, but in that period his life suffered and he now resents me more than a little for it


Whether or not you can tolerate his drinking, this shit you need to get away from. This sort of intimidation, blame and anger is abuse, even if he technically never hits you. He is taking advantage of your devotion, and you deserve much, much better.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:10 AM on December 7, 2009 [25 favorites]


His life hasn't hit rock bottom- you are still there. Sorry, but I'm afraid you'll have to be tough.

It's hard. My father was an alcoholic, and here, at 55 years old, I still pay the price for that.

My mother put up with his alcoholism for most of my childhood, due to her own self-image problems. It took her 18 years to get free, and his alcoholism shadows our own family to this day. I can point to various traits of my brothers and sisters now and draw a direct line to how my father's alcoholism created them in whole or in part.

Do you want to be at the other end of your life and be regretting all the damage this person had caused? If you don't leave, that's where you'll be.

MeMail me if you want to talk, I promise I'm not an ogre, and I have perspective.
posted by pjern at 10:11 AM on December 7, 2009 [12 favorites]


Your question here would make a hell of a letter. Maybe you should write him one?
posted by rokusan at 10:12 AM on December 7, 2009


he threatened to smash my head into the wall - he wouldn't ever do that

Please don't be so sure. Drunk people are capable of doing things they would never, ever do sober.
posted by jbickers at 10:12 AM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


he threatened to smash my head into the wall - he wouldn't ever do that

Perhaps not now, but some day he will. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. It never gets better, it only gets worse. Some alcoholics are full of rage (I speak from experience). It is important to either get help for him, or get away yourself, before the rage manifests itself in physical abuse.

in that period his life suffered and he now resents me more than a little for it

Resentments are like cancer to late-stage alcoholics. They will eat away at you until you either go insane, or die. If he cannot learn to forgive and forget, to accept the things he can't change as the prayer says, then that resentment and others like it will be the undoing of your relationship.

Please get yourself to Al-Anon meetings as soon as you can. They will help you understand why he is how he is, what you can and can't do to help him, and possible coping and escape strategies for moving forward.

Alcoholism is a family disease. It emotionally affects those who love the alcoholic just as much as the booze does to them. We the alcoholics always hurt the ones we love. It never fails. I wish you the very best. If I may be of any assistance, my email is in my profile.
posted by netbros at 10:13 AM on December 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


If ending your relationship with an alcoholic partner would "kill all your faith in humanity" you need a lot of help from other people who have been there themselves.

A) Al-Anon.

B) Please read Facing Codependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller.

And you know what? The received wisdom of AA is that many people have to hit bottom before they make the choice to recover. Perhaps leaving him would be the kindest thing you ever did for him.

Or, you know, you can keep dating him and having him drunkenly abuse your friends. Just don't have children with him--at least your friends have the choice to shun his drunk-ass shenanigans and your enabling, whereas kids wouldn't.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:13 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


You can't change his behavior. You've tried asking him to look at what he's doing, law enforcement has gotten involved twice with DUIs, he has faced legal consequences including jail time and mandatory alcohol counseling--and none of it is going to force him to change.

You can, however, change your own behavior: get yourself to Al-Anon or individual therapy. Figure out why you stay in this dysfunctional relationship, and then determine the steps you need to take in order to get yourself away from someone who "loves you" but threatens you with extreme physical violence and verbally abuses you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:16 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


What do you do when you have burned bridges, made personal sacrifices, and go out of your way for someone only to be constantly reminded that they are too self-involved/ beat-down with their own issues to realize your devotion to them?

I'll tell you what I don't do: I don't keep "throwing good money after bad," where "money" equals not only money but energy, love, respect, self-respect, and my own personal safety.

At some point you have to cut your losses with abusive partners. For me, that point would come with the "threatened to smash my head into the wall" if not before.

And I'm going to say this again--even if you don't care about your own dignity and integrity and safety, please never have children with someone who behaves like this. It's not fair to them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:17 AM on December 7, 2009


His life hasn't hit rock bottom- you are still there.

I really second this comment. I am married to a recovering alcoholic (25 plus years without a drink.) He had to hit bottom -- for him, being arrested and charged with DUI -- to go to treatment. This "bottom" place varies for each alcoholic, but loss or threat of loss seems to be a common descriptor of it.

I think Al Anon is a great idea. I also just recommend that you think about what is best for yourself here. It is very easy to slip into an enabling role with someone you love. And then both of you stay miserable. Think hard about this. If you take care of yourself, it is probably the best thing you can do for him too.
posted by bearwife at 10:22 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I notice that you've headlined this post, "Is my boyfriend an alcoholic?"

Yes. He's an alcoholic. He has multiple DUI's, he doesn't control his drinking, he "drinks nonstop when we're out," he claims you drive him to drink ... yep.
posted by musofire at 10:22 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


About a year ago I was in the same position. I decided to break up with her and she is still out there flailing around, blaming her troubles on others and doing everything she can to avoid seeking help. But here I am, in a new relationship, with my circle of friends intact, my home secure and my goals in reach. If you'd like to talk more about what to expect over the next few months when, send me a mefi-mail.

I'd also like to note how unhelpful it is to call someone's partner a motherfucker when that someone is clearly in pain over the loss of love, and has written a long, eloquent message for us to consider. And then to do that through the use of an acronym... just don't bother. Just don't bother.
posted by chrillsicka at 10:24 AM on December 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


These are why you think you should leave:
He's:
obviously got a drinking problem including DUIs
In denial about it despite court orders to attend AA
Acts as if he knows better than anyone telling him he has a problem
Threatens you with violence, verbally abuses you, disrespects you
Blames YOU for his drinking
Can't be with your friends w/out ruining it
Is insecure to the point of lashing out
Is extremely selfish

Here is why you want to stay:
He can be generous to his friends
He can sometimes be kind and caring
He loves you, you love him

Imagine looking at those lists if this were your friend. Wouldn't you tell her to get the hell out?
posted by fullofragerie at 10:26 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


More about resentment from the AA Big Book:

The moment you start to resent a person, you become his slave. He controls your dreams, absorbs your digestion, robs you of your peace of mind and goodwill, and takes away the pleasure of your work. You cannot take a vacation without his going along. He destroys your freedom of mind and hounds you wherever you go. There is no way to escape the person you resent. He is with you when you are awake. He invades your privacy when you sleep. He is close beside you when you drive your car and when you are on the job. You can never have efficiency or happiness. He influences even the tone of your voice. He requires you to take medicine for indigestion, headaches, and loss of energy. He even steals your last moment of consciousness before you go to sleep. So, if you want to be a slave, go ahead and harbor your resentment.

Is it apparent that this resentment has led you to unhappiness and futility? Have you indeed, squandered away many hours reliving this seeming injustice? Are you angry? Do you realize that your life is frozen in time if you continue to harbor such feelings? Do you realize the power over your life that you have given this hate, anger, and resentment?

Is it worth it? Ask yourself, what was my part in this situation and how am I at fault as well? Where am I perhaps also wrong?

The first thing you will see that becomes apparent is that this world and its people are often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong is as far as most of us ever get. The usual outcome is that you will figure out that people will likely continue to wrong you, that you will continue to be on the short end of the stick, and you will therefore continue to stay pissed. Sometimes it turns to remorse and then you will even be more sore at yourself. And the more you fight and try to have your own way, the worse matters get.

Hopefully, eventually it will become plain to you that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. The wrong doing of others, fancied or real, has the power to actually ruin your well-being.

People who wrong you are perhaps a mixed up mess with their own very serious problems. Though you do not like their symptoms and the way they distribute them to you, try to understand their imperfections, and if at all possible forgive them for being that way. Realize that they, like yourself are far, far from perfect and likely to remain so. When you can forgive them for being just one more bozo on that bus of life, you can begin more healthy communication that may lead to mutual resolution.

posted by netbros at 10:28 AM on December 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


I want to point out that leaving him now is not leaving him forever. But leaving him until he can get himself together is absolutely what you must do, if for no other reason than to ensure your personal safety.

Go to an Al-Anon meeting. Make that the first step you take. Probably the second step is moving out.
posted by anastasiav at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2009


First off - and I say this as a recovering alcoholic - anyone who threatens to smash your head in, regardless of whether he's sober or drunk at the time, is not someone you want to be with, much less someone who is well equipped to be in a relationship. There are no excuses for that type of behavior - ever.

Only your boyfriend can answer the question as to whether or not he's an alcoholic, but I will say that he definitely exhibits the textbook symptoms. Further, alcoholism is a progressive disease. If he is an alcoholic and he continues to drink, things will continue to get worse. If he thinks he's hit rock-bottom now (and I can guarantee you, he can always fall further), have him wait and see what happens when he continues to drink.

You are doing neither yourself nor him any favors by staying in this relationship if continues to refuse to seek help, and just by the general tenor of your question, I think you're coming to that realization as well. Remember, if nothing changes, nothing changes. One of you has to do something, and you can't help him with his alcohol problem. He has to do that himself. So, if you want things to improve on your end, I think you know what you need to do.

Lastly, this truck me as important....

and he blames the downfall of his life on us... he got laid off, failed the MCATs.

Do not buy into this for a second, and DO NOT let him take you hostage like that. People suffering from alcoholism blame everything except alcohol for all the problems in their life, when really the only place they need to look is in between their ears and in the bottle in their hand. The manipulation will continue as long as the drinking does.

One last thing. Look into attending Al-Anon meetings for yourself. They're different from AA in that they're for people whose lives are affected by others with alcoholism. I've known many people who found them extremely helpful.

Best of luck, and please feel free to MeFi Mail me if you feel the need to discuss further or have any questions.
posted by Rewind at 10:31 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry for the harshness of this statement: you're not helping him by staying. You want to do the kind and generous thing, and you've already made great sacrifices.... of course you don't want all that to be for nothing. But the only right thing to do is to hold him responsible for his antisocial and even dangerous actions. For a moment, forget the drinking and focus on what he's actually been doing. He's manipulating, intimidating, rationalizing, insulting, self-pitying. And he drives drunk, which is hideously dangerous. His work is going to suffer, and the same with all his relationships.

It's a disease, but enabling him won't help him get better. Do the right thing for him and yourself. Get some support at Al-Anon meetings or see a therapist, and gather your courage and determination. Leaving an alcoholic is very hard, because you want to be there for them... and also because he's going to push all your buttons to make you feel guilty and wrong for wanting to leave.
posted by wryly at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, the last paragraph above is mine, not from the Big Book. Forgot to turn off italics.
posted by netbros at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2009


In presenting him to us, you list all these truly terrible offenses, but each is followed by some sort of excuse or rationalization or apology. You're feeling bad, so he doesn't have to. You're protecting him from the real-life consequences of his actions, bearing as much of the brunt as you possibly can. You know what the tragedy of this is? He doesn't care. To the extent that he's even aware of your protection, he resents it.

You may continue to cover for him anyway out of love, but you aren't helping him, nor are you effectively salvaging your relationship. And no, you can't ride this out and count on him to just get better on his own.

When I tried to talk to him outside, he threatened to smash my head into the wall - he wouldn't ever do that, but the fact is the he disrespected me all night, and didn't care what I thought of his behavior.

He is already beginning to give himself permission to physically abuse you.

Hold him accountable for his words and deeds, whether sober or drunk. That's the best help you can give him at this point.
posted by hermitosis at 10:41 AM on December 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


I know what you're doing, because I was you.

"I think he feels insecure/wants to impress me/I drive him to[drinking]"

Excuses. You will never figure out the "why" of what makes an alcoholic drink.

"he's a decent, good human being who would never intentionally hurt someone"

Alcoholism doesn't mean someone is a bad person. He's sick.

"he blames the downfall of his life on us"

Oooh, yes, the blame game. I forgot how bad this fun "game" gets.

Anon, I beg you, get help. Not for him, for yourself. Your perceptions are distorted, which is pretty common for spouses/SOs of alcoholics. We often grow up in these kind of environments and think that we can somehow fix things or help the other person.

You can't. YOU CANNOT. I wish I could say this to you a thousand times, it's just that important.

Right now, you're not helping him, you're enabling him. This will only get worse. Making physical threats? Yep, he'll probably go through with them, and then beg your forgiveness later. It will get even more terrible as the months and years roll on.

And here's another little gem for you - once an alcoholic decides to quit, I mean really decides to quit, it's often said that they have to start maturing from the age when they started drinking. In other words, he's got a lot of work ahead of him, even assuming he would want to do it, which he's stated he does not.

As for myself, I got out, after five years of bullshit. Yes, my ex is a good man. But he's an alcoholic, and will never get help, and that's a way of life I've decided is not ok for me, and for any possible children I may have. I'm now with someone who's made the choice not to drink, and in addition, to do positive things for himself and those around him. I can't tell you how amazingly different it is.

Best to you. It looks awfully bleak now, I know - but stop looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Just take the emergency exit door over to your right.
posted by HopperFan at 10:41 AM on December 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


He's driving a wedge between you and your friends (classic spouse abuser sign). He's threatened physical violence. He's in trouble with the law. He cannot control his drinking and he resents you trying to control it for him.

If you were your friend what would you tell you to do? Do that.

Also, your rebound relationship is supposed to be fun and frivolous, not this. There are other fish in the sea; don't settle for this guy. He's poison.
posted by amanda at 10:48 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry. Yes: Go to Al-Anon.

My husband is a recovering addict, and for a time (when he was not yet in recovery), I thought I was going to have to leave as well. What helped me more than anything else was constantly reminding myself that things may not always be as they are right this second. You may have to leave him, yes, for your own sanity and safety - but that doesn't mean that at some point he won't find recovery, and maybe you can pick the relationship back up when that happens.

You can't cure him. Things may very well never get any better than they are today. Are you willing to live like this for the rest of your life? It took my mother thirty years of trying to make it work with an alcoholic before she realized she'd really prefer to have a happy life rather than one constantly fraught with drama and heartache. Don't do that to yourself if you can possibly help it. So much wasted time.
posted by something something at 10:51 AM on December 7, 2009


Have you considered couples therapy? It sounds as if you really love him and would like to make this work, and that may be a helpful option.

The thing that really stands out to me is the resentment. I've been resentful of a significant other before, and that type of thing really destroys a relationship. I'm not sure if that's something he can recover from, because I never did, but he has to at least be willing to try.

If you can't bring yourself to make a clean break right now, then tell him you need some time off. Get yourself into therapy, and maybe if he starts to sober up down the road you two might work out, but it isn't going anywhere as it stands.
posted by biochemist at 10:53 AM on December 7, 2009


I drank a lot. Messed up my marriage. Wife said: stop or end marriage. I loved my wife. Stopped. Haven't had a drink in over ten years. I buy wine for my wife and she drinks at dinner in and out of the house. I have come to love seltzer. But it must be chilled.
posted by Postroad at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


My father was an alcoholic, and here, at 55 years old, I still pay the price for that.

My mother put up with his alcoholism for most of my childhood, due to her own self-image problems. It took her 18 years to get free, and his alcoholism shadows our own family to this day. I can point to various traits of my brothers and sisters now and draw a direct line to how my father's alcoholism created them in whole or in part.


This is me, only my sentences are written with different numbers.

"My father was an alcoholic, and here, at 41 years old, I still pay the price for that.

My mother put up with his alcoholism for most of my childhood, due to her own self-image problems. It took her 19 years to get free, and his alcoholism shadows our own family to this day. I can point to various traits of my sister and me now and draw a direct line to how my father's alcoholism created them in whole or in part."

Notice how similar they are? Patterns of alcoholism are depressingly the same and very difficult to extract yourself from because there's so much self-doubt surrounding the whole "kicking someone [the alcoholic] when they're down" aprt. But guess what? They're always down. They're not getting better unless they decide to. Your boyfriend's behavior is unacceptable and well beyond what I would consider appropriate in a relationship that wasn't familial [i.e. one that I wasn't stuck with].

Let him get better, if this is possible, without you. You can always tell yourself you'll check in with him in six months and reconcile if things improve. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but they likely won't. Pull the bandaid off and get away from this toxic relationship.
posted by jessamyn at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


There is, floating around Western culture, the notion that love is the happy ending to a fairytale. It is a terrible disservice to humanity. Love is not enough and it never has been.

The woman who's husband beats her loves him. The man who's wife cheats on him over and over again loves him. The child who's mother is an alcoholic loves him. The child who's father is a drug addict loves him.

None of these are healthy relationships. None of these people are better off than they would be in a better relationship with better parents or better partners. Neither are you.

You cannot control who you love but you can control the choices you make. Recognise that people leave folks they love every single day because they choose a better life, and better love, for themselves. And as hard as it is to believe today, one day in the future you will fall out of love with this man just as easily as you fell into it, and you will look back and not be able to understand why you didn't leave earlier.

Go.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:05 AM on December 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


Change some details, and this was my situation. I found the forums at sober recovery helped me immensely.

I know how intelligent he is, how capable of achievements
This is his potential, what he used to be, what he may achieve again. This is not present reality. Which version of him are you in love with?

For yourself, talk to others, therapy, Al-Anon...anything. Asking on here is a good step. You can mail me if you want to...I have a lot more to say than I want to write here.

He doesn't own your wellbeing...you must do whatever you see fit to be a functioning, well adjusted adult.
posted by shinyshiny at 11:05 AM on December 7, 2009


+1 on the Al-Anon suggestion. Run, don't walk.

You do not have to leave him. But the most loving thing might be to draw some boundaries that say, "if you keep drinking I will not see you." Right now he needs some tough love. Al-Anon can help you figure that out and avoid enabling his problem. It will be tough because it may mean watching him suffer and hit his "bottom," leaving you to feel guilty because you refuse to step in and "save" him.

I am married in a 26 year covenant that means for-EVER-ever-ever no matter what. But if my wife started drinking or abusing drugs or what not, I would stay married to her but kick her out if she refused to get help. I know she loves me enough to do the same for me.
posted by cross_impact at 11:05 AM on December 7, 2009


It's totally reasonable in your case to give him an ultimatum. Either he stops drinking altogether immediately, or it's over.
posted by Electrius at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this is who I think it is, then the last text message I sent to you applies ever so emphatically.

If it isn't, DTMFA.
posted by milinar at 11:08 AM on December 7, 2009


Is your boyfriend an alcoholic? Yes. 10 large beers at one go plus violent talk plus 2 DUIs plus mandatory treatment that he doesn't think he needs. Plus jail. Equals alcoholic. Are you being stupid if you decide to stay in this relationship? As it stands? Yes you are. Nothing's going to make it better if he keeps drinking the way he obviously does frequently. Drunks don't get better they get worse. Lots of us are nice most of the time, okay, being nice most of the time does not win you any prizes. I've been with my wife for 14 years, married over 8 of them, and I have never spoken about about directing physical violence against her, and I consider that merely decent. That doesn't make me a laudable husband. Your boyfriend doesn't sound like he is near ready to quit yet so I'm sorry but yes, either you leave him or you suffer continued and probably escalating abuse. Whatever you have sacrificed to this relationship, whatever bridges you've burned, will stay sacrificed, will stay burned, regardless of whether you continue to suffer at the hands of this relationship, to suffer pain that takes your "breath away." You will sacrifice more if your boyfriend doesn't reform his life. You will sacrifice plenty even if he does but love might be worth that.
posted by nanojath at 11:11 AM on December 7, 2009


I've been in a similar situation. I know it's hard to think about leaving someone that you care about so much.

You're reading all of these comments and you might be thinking to yourself, "They don't know him like I do! They don't see the good things that I see!" You're right: we don't know him. And we Imaginary Internet People have a tendency to dismiss flawed significant others with a flippant 'DTMFA'. I've been guilty of doing the same.
He's the man you love, the man you want to want to fight for. Maybe you can see yourself, 10 or 15 years into the future, standing by his side as he thanks you for sticking with him all these years, through the highs and the lows. I know I had my Tammy Wynette moments whenever I nursed my ex back to sobriety after another night of binge drinking.

My friends told me to leave, but I felt that the whole world was already against him, and I didn't want to be yet another person who'd given up on him. I wanted to fight for him, and with him.

What I eventually realized---and what you, in your own time, must realize--is that it's not your fight; it's his. He's responsible for cleaning himself up. You can't win that battle for him. He has to learn of his own accord.

This is not to say that you should immediately dump him and never speak to him again. Let him know that you're concerned; tell him that you're worried about him, and that you want him to get his life together. If you must, give him an ultimatum: Get some help or I'm gone. This isn't a malicious ultimatum, it's about your own safety and mental well-being. You should not be in a destructive relationship. So either he straightens up and transforms back into the man you fell in love with, or you leave. If he's willing to recognize that he has a problem and equally as willing to take steps to fix it, then the relationship might be saved. If not, there's nothing left to save.
posted by chara at 11:16 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I just noticed this:

he's a decent, good human being who would never intentionally hurt someone

If I am told that I become verbally or physically abusive when I drink, and I continue to drink, it is not an accident when I hurt someone while drunk. It is not ok to think of him as two separate people (sober-boyfriend and drunk-boyfriend) and to say that his "true" nature is to be kind and loving. He has been informed, while sober, by you, by law enforcement, and by AA, that his behavior when he is drunk is unacceptable and harmful. When he gets drunk and is verbally or physically abusive toward you or anyone else, that is not an accident or something that "just happened" or was out of his control.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:19 AM on December 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


You are worth saving. It is time to go.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:31 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Go to Al-anon.

They won't tell you to leave him.

They won't tell you to stay with him.

(Or if someone DOES do these things, it's because of their own weird issues- ignore them and do what works for you. I'm not saying there aren't jerks in Al-anon.)

They won't tell you your boyfriend is evil- if the addicts in our lives were evil, it would be a no-brainer to leave. Everyone knows it's not so simple.

They WILL understand everything you're going through.

They WILL tell you what worked for them, which will likely include staying, leaving, and all sorts of combos and permutations. No one's situation is the same.

You didn't cause it. You can't control it. You can't cure it. No matter what your boyfriend tells you.

memail me if you want.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:36 AM on December 7, 2009


I need to reiterate this, said so eloquently by Meg_Murry above:

If I am told that I become verbally or physically abusive when I drink, and I continue to drink, it is not an accident when I hurt someone while drunk.

Even if he is not in control of himself when he's drunk, he chooses to abdicate that control. If he is powerless in the face of that choice because of his dependence on alcohol, well, that's what we call an alcoholic. If he is making that choice because he doesn't care about the consequences, we have other words for that kind of person, but I won't share them here because your letter is really heartfelt and you clearly love this man and it doesn't help.
posted by KathrynT at 12:09 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dear Anonymous,

I was you. Reading this post gave me goosebumps because it was so eerily similar.

My ex-boyfriend (who I still have casual contact with) is an alcoholic, although he won't admit it to himself. He never physically threatened me, but our relationship was complicated as well and because of how strongly I felt about him, I never wanted to admit that he had a problem and that I was enabling him. Regardless of how hard it was to let go, (I kinda just drifted away from him and into another disastrous relationship) I just thank my stars now that I did. He is a shadow of his former self and has been in a couple short, pathetic relationships with good women who don't put up with his bullshit all for the same reason: his stubbornness and refusal to quit drinking. Staying with him would have driven me mad, BECAUSE I loved him so much. Don't ever blame yourself or allow him to, for his problems, and for the downfall of your relationship. You've done enough. Focus on yourself, and building YOUR life back using some of the suggestions other people have made on this thread. If, like me, you've been through a divorce, you have enough you need to deal with emotionally without having to carry around HIS baggage.

I am grateful I have my sanity. You should be too.
posted by Everydayville at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Two things:

I think I may have to leave the man I have made many sacrifices for, because he is an alcoholic. But I don't have the guts to do that, because it would kill all the faith I have in humanity, and because I love him, and care for him, so very much. He refuses to get help because he doesn't think he needs it. Am I being stupid if I decide to stay in this relationship?

First: why are you allowing one single individual to define humanity for you? Human beings are all over the map. He's just one of millions that happen to be alive at this moment. You have far too many eggs in his basket.

Second: are you stupid? No, but you're taking on responsibility that ultimately isn't yours. If he can't step up to the plate, then you can try to get him help, but if he won't step up, you have to take care of yourself Your previous sacrifices are sunk costs; don't throw the good of your life after the bad, if he won't take the most fundamental steps to get his act together.
posted by davejay at 12:13 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Get out. Now. You know you should, that's why you're asking the question. And yes, it will hurt. It will hurt like hell.

But believe me, I know what I'm talking about. I could write the book on this situation. Hell, consider me your future self sending an emergency message back to you right now, in this moment: it's not going to get better; it's time to move on.
posted by Eicats at 12:15 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, YMMV on Beattie's Co Dependent No More. I can't stand the book myself. I like Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse's stuff better, in particular one called Choicemaking.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:27 PM on December 7, 2009


I've said it before and I'll say it again: Love is not enough to sustain a relationship, but it's often enough to wreck your life.

he threatened to smash my head into the wall

Your perspective is so skewed that you don't see that this is the breaking point beyond which there is no return to normalcy. If any guy said that to me, my bags would be packed in 5 minutes or less.

He might will ruin my life, but I keep telling myself things will get better worse.

FTFY. Listen to all these people telling you that it WILL NOT magically get better. Leave and get help, by whatever means necessary. You staying does not help either of you.
posted by desjardins at 12:28 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oops. Wrong Melody. I don' t remember Facing Co-Dependence well enough to give it a review.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:29 PM on December 7, 2009


You are in denial. A lot of us are. Believe that you are good enough not to live like this. Please.
posted by Fairchild at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2009


I think I may have to leave the man I have made many sacrifices for, because he is an alcoholic. But I don't have the guts to do that, because it would kill all the faith I have in humanity

Au contraire. Leaving will give you a whole new faith in humanity, because you'll be spending time around your friends and family and the new people you'll have time to meet, and if you've chosen those people well, you'll realize how good relationships can be.
posted by orange swan at 1:03 PM on December 7, 2009


I had a car with poor steering. Only I didn't know it because it happened so slowly. I got used to compensating for the flaw. Then a friend drove it and said, "Holy crap, your steering is screwed!"

Your post suggests that you love this man and that you have been trying to compensate for his problems and the problems with your relationship. I'm the friend who looks at the situation and says "This is dangerous; get out and save yourself; you don't deserve to be treated this way."

He is an alcoholic. A drunk. Please listen when people tell you that *you cannot fix him.* It's his very personal problem on emotional, physical and biological levels and it sounds like he is not willing to own it. Or even to admit that there's a problem (since he makes failures your fault).

It may be love, but it's also disrespect for you and your friends, emotional manipulation and selfishness. Is that what you want this relationship to be for the rest of your life? Are you willing to settle for the crumbs of love that are left over in the times when he is both sober and kind? Is this the quality of relationship that will thrive in stressful times (like dealing with aging parents or a serious illness)? Are you ready not to leave and to see everything ruined? Do you want to be that woman, getting the pitying looks? Does he need to hurt you before you're willing to consider ending things?

You are worth more than this unhappiness. If you want things to change, then you need to drive them: Al-Anon, moving out, moving on. It's going to hurt, hurt, hurt, and you will not be the same person you were before this experience. You're not deserting. You're saving yourself *because HE WILL NOT SAVE YOU OR YOUR RELATIONSHIP.*

You can leave. Go. At least make a plan, know what your options are. Your friends will help you and cheer you on. See if someone will check up on him after you're gone, if it eases your conscience. There is life after love. You can get there. With pain, with sorrow and with regret--but also with the promise that things have a good chance of getting better *for you* and your own heart.

I wish you strength, and I am so sorry for the pain you're experiencing right now.

Go. Please.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:29 PM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


He has threatened you with physical harm. He is rude and disrespectful to you. He is an alcoholic. He blames you for his actions. It will get worse.

Go to Al-Anon.
posted by theora55 at 1:33 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with the ultimatum that it should be you or the drinking. He definitely has a problem and if he's making threats of violence while drunk, you need to open your eyes.(sorry if that sounds mean, I don't intend it to) Is it really fair to you to stay in this relationship when you could be with someone who puts YOU first? Because he obviously doesn't it seems. Your role in life shouldn't have to be taking care of a grown man and defending his obnoxious behavior. You deserve better, and if he doesn't stop drinking run away as fast as you can. It only gets worse. Best of luck to you.
posted by iabide79 at 1:33 PM on December 7, 2009


I was you.
It hurt so, so much leaving my husband, the man I loved so deeply. He was so very smart and funny and gentle. And then he started drinking too much at parties (but never at home)
Then he drank too much at home. Then he got mean and blaming, and accusing when he drank. Then it got worse. He had multiple DUIs. And didn't think he needed help.
I mourned for the man he could have been (and was once upon a time) but it was harmful and dangerous for me to stay with the alcoholic he had become.
Please try Al-Anon, (as others have said, it will very likely get worse and it won't get better unless he gets serious help). I know I am a stranger on the internet and can't possibly know your whole situation, but I want to tell you as emphatically as possible to please, please get out now for your safety and sanity.

Life gets better. It takes a while, but it does. And you are worth so much more.
MeMail if you like. My thoughts are with you.
posted by pointystick at 1:55 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with the ultimatum that it should be you or the drinking.

If you give this ultimatum, be prepared for him to choose drinking over you. This does not mean he doesn't love you. It means he's an alcoholic.

Even if he SAYS he's choosing you, if he's not stopping because he's just done with it, he'll likely go back to it (sneakily) and then you'll think you're losing your mind because he's sober but acting like a drunk.

Also, him loving you and you loving him aren't good enough reasons for you to keep accepting unacceptable behavior (and you already know this unacceptable behavior.)

I'm not saying leave him. I'm saying go to Al-anon and figure out your options. If the first meeting you go to sucks, try another.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:56 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not even going to address the alcoholism issue because it's already been discussed fully. However, I would suggest that being with someone who resents you for the life choices they've made or messed up sucks and isn't worth it.
posted by ishotjr at 1:58 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Finally, if you're like me (like a lot of people) you think that if you could just find the right words... the right way to say or show how much this is fucking you up... that he'll see the light and change what he's doing.

Unfortunately, alcoholism doesn't work that way. There is nothing you can do or say that will work for longer than very very briefly. Don't beat yourself up for it.

The most useful thing you can do is to get yourself healthy and happy so that you're in a good emotional space when and if he tries to get sober. But do it for yourself. Don't do it for him.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:50 PM on December 7, 2009


An alcoholic and a drunk can be two totally different animals, though they can look and act identical, and can do so for many years.

The difference between the two?

A drunk, should he/she be given sufficient reason -- loss of health, loss of love, loss of employment, threat of legal problems -- a drunk can set it down, should they decide to do so. They may suffer from it, might need psychiatric help, might take him/her some time to catch their balance. But they can set it down.

An alcoholic cannot set it down, and leave it there, though he/she wants to with all their heart. Though they employ every last ounce of will they can muster. Though it is breaking their heart. And your heart. And their childrens lives. No matter that they decide to set it down, and leave it there, they are unable to do so. It's way bigger than they are. They're broken.

For most -- not all, but most -- the best chance they have at contented, long-term recovery seems to be through applying the principles practiced in AA.

They may not realize this -- denial -- or they may not care -- lost.

A good acronym for DENIAL -- Don't Even Notice I Am Lying.

I don't have an acronym for LOST, but I have a synonym -- FUCKED.

-------------------------

An AlAnon and a fool can be two totally different animals, though they can look and act identical, and can do so for many years.

The difference between the two?

A fool, should he/she be given sufficient reason -- loss of health, loss of love, loss of employment, threat of legal problems -- a fool can set that relationship down, should they decide to do so. They may suffer from it, might need psychiatric help, might take him/her some time to catch their balance. But they can set it down.

An AlAnon cannot set that relationship down, and leave it there, though he/she wants to with all their heart. Though they employ every last ounce of will they can muster. Though it is breaking their heart. And your heart. And their childrens lives. No matter that they decide to set it down, and leave it there, they are unable to do so. It's way bigger than they are. They're broken.

For most -- not all, but most -- the best chance they have at contented, long-term recovery seems to be through applying the principles practiced in AlAnon.

They may not realize this -- denial -- or they may not care -- lost.

A good acronym for DENIAL -- Don't Even Notice I Am Lying.

I don't have an acronym for LOST, but I have a synonym -- FUCKED.

--------------------------

I'll quote here the most comforting words that I have ever read -- they still make me cry -- spoken by Bill Wilson upon meeting for the first time a shaky, frightened, broken, lost alchoholic: "Do you think you are one of us?"
posted by dancestoblue at 3:51 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


He has two DUIs. His conviction obligates him to go to AA meetings, he has to do jail time (96 hours), and he has to do community service.

You make it sound as though he is currently on probation for DUI. Where I am from, a standard, unavoidable condition of DUI probation is that you are not allowed to drink alcohol while on probation. It sounds like your guy, in addition to all his other problems, is flouting his conditions of probation and opening himself up to significantly more incarceration than he would get if he complied. He sounds like real trouble.
posted by jayder at 4:24 PM on December 7, 2009


Imagine a dear friend has told you exactly what you just told us about her boyfriend. Here's the advice you give her: "You're super-duper special. You and only you can save him. You have to stay with him forever no matter what. The more awful he becomes, the more you need to stay. Your love will save him. What he could be potentially in the future is exactly the same as what he is now. If you leave him you're the bad person, not him. You are responsible for fixing him. He will never find anyone else who will take care of him. No one else will ever love you - especially in that smash your head into the wall, drive away all your friends sort of way that makes you know deep inside he loves you."

None of that sounds right, does it?

Previously.
posted by eccnineten at 4:45 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Serious answer:

My grandmother got fed up with my grandfather's daily drinking around age 65. She told him, I love you, I'll always be your wife, but you can't drink HERE.

So he got an apartment and went and drank by himself for about six months.

He came home one day, started AA, and never drank again. It took a while to get perfect, but he couldn't live without my grandmother. They didn't divorce... but she stopped tolerating the drink and associated behaviors. She stopped tolerating living in fear and waiting for the phone to ring.

Now, I'm not saying do exactly that; what I'm saying is, get some perspective.

The question isn't do you break up with this man. The question is... what can you yourself live with?

Right now you live in a constant state of worry, fear and as you said, physical pain. This isn't as much about him as it is about you.

You are unhappy, scared, drained and in pain, afraid of the unknown. Afraid of abandoning your current role as caretaker. Don't you deserve to have a life, to be happy and feel loved? You love someone who doesn't treat you the way you treat him.

Being alone is scary, and you think right now you've invested in a future that will correct itself from this deviant course automatically. But if you're alone, you at least know what you will be doing, what you're capable of and what you can live with. Alone, the only person who controls your life is YOU. Right now, you're allowing your man to control your emotions and your well-being.

I think I've said enough to at least make you see this another way, so please go to Al-Anon as soon as possible, as everyone suggested. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:19 PM on December 7, 2009


Don't stay where you are not appreciated.

Your bf has a stronger relationship with the substance than he does with you. Understand that. Understand that you will ALWAYS come 2nd, after the substance.

It's your choice to stay or go.
posted by flutable at 1:52 AM on December 8, 2009


I know how intelligent he is, how capable of achievements (we both met in grad school while working towards our doctorates) he is, and I know above all that despite the crusty exterior, he would give the shirt off his back for a friend if he was asked to. I also knows he loves me...

I believe you. My dad is a recovering alcoholic, and many of his old friends were alcoholics, and to a man they were all smart, capable and generous in nature. And they all loved their families very much. But it didn't stop them from drinking themselves and their families into all sorts of hurt and shame and danger and abuse. My mum and sisters and I still (20 years after he first tried to stop drinking) have to deal with the effects of it. Sometimes I think being smart makes it worse, because it allows a person to find so many more creative ways to hide and deny what's going on.

But this...

he threatened to smash my head into the wall

is the biggest red flag you're ever going to get. Women who are abused by their partners aren't usually surprised when the first blow comes, because the partner has often started talking about it long before they actually do it.

I don't mean to be flippant, but there's a comedy piece where a guy talks about Sober Dave and Drunk Dave - Drunk Dave is funny and charming right up until the point where he gets aggro with his friends and vomits all over the place. The punchline is that getting drunk was Sober Dave's idea, and he thinks it's a good idea every weekend.

Your man might be lovely when he's sober. But he keeps deciding to get drunk, even though that makes him hateful and aggressive, and even though he knows it hurts you to do it. Until he decides not to get drunk anymore, you're not really safe with him.
posted by harriet vane at 6:02 AM on December 8, 2009


Have you spoke to him about his threats when he's sober? Does he grasp how mental he is when drunk? My aunt was married to a fellow who we all thought was decent and nice, but he drank as well, and she has a scar from an iron on her arm. Clearly he needs to quit drinking. He's most definitely an alcoholic. Most normal people would rethink their drinking after 2 DUI convictions. I don't know if you should leave your husband, but you definitely need to change your situation.
posted by chunking express at 8:55 AM on December 8, 2009


This might sound like I am blaming you, I'm not. I really understand that you love this person but given everything that is going on you need to work on yourself. This man is important to you but you are so co-dependent that you are paralyzed to do what is best for him and you.

Get out of this situation and get some counseling. You need to figure out what is going on with you that you need to stay in this situation. Clearing that up for your self will allow you to be in a relationship based solely on love and intimacy minus the baggage.

I am being blunt here but this could be a matter of life and death for you, him, or some unfortunate human being who happens to be on the road next time he drinks and drives.

There is peace and healing for you and him. Your healing can only start with you, his can only start with him.
posted by empty vessel at 8:38 PM on December 8, 2009


« Older Where in San Francisco can I g...   |  I've decided to distance mysel... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post