When your life is a bad movie.
December 20, 2010 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Boyfriend. Drunk. Blacked out. Effed up. Over. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc.

Back in February, I posted this.

Boyfriend actually found the post and read it, did get help for a short period, and for a while he was doing pretty well. I distanced myself from situations where I knew he’d overdo it, and I kept tabs on him a lot when I suspected he might. Admittedly, after awhile, I started to feel like his babysitter. I couldn’t fully relax and enjoy an evening out because I feared I’d have to play responsible caretaker and deal with an impossible drunk at the end of the night. I feared this the most on Saturday night, on the way to a friend’s holiday party.

At the party, we were both mingling separately and when we reconvened, I saw that he was utterly wasted. Belligerent, making no sense, irrational wasted. If you read my prior question, you’ll learn that this isn’t new. I made sure we left immediately, nervous that he’d embarrass himself or me in my friend’s home. During our train ride home, he was everything I’d mentioned in my prior post – nonsensical, teetering between hostile and mean, and overly lovey and lashing out at me when I didn’t reciprocate. I was distraught, frustrated, and I’d had enough.

When we went to transfer trains (at 2am) he took off and abandoned me in the station, and I was forced to get home by myself. I called and called, worried about his state and whether he’d get home ok. He never answered or called me back.

I woke up worried. He still wasn’t answering his phone. He lives in my neighborhood and I had a spare set of keys to his place, so I decided to go over and check to make sure he was ok. If he was there, I would give him an ultimatum: quit drinking ENTIRELY or lose me for good. Well, he eliminated any need for that conversation, because when I got to his apartment, I found him in bed with another girl.

I’m not going to go into the shock and trauma of seeing that, or the immense, almost physically numbing pain I’m in, but needless to say, our relationship is over. Even at his worst, he never gave me any reason to believe he’d do something like this.

He ran over immediately after I stormed out, and we’ve sobbed over the phone. He is devastated and shocked at himself. He told me he doesn’t remember meeting the girl or how it happened, and the last thing he remembers is leaving the party with me and being angry. The girl told him that they met on the train (please kill me) and that they hadn’t had sex. (though, they were undressed.) He’s horrified that he doesn’t remember any of it. He’s blacked out before in my presence, so I’m inclined to believe his story, and believe that this is the first time he’s done anything of this magnitude. He admitted that he has a worse drinking problem than he thought, didn’t think he was capable of something like this, and is going to get help and quit. I know he is beside himself with regret and hates himself. He acknowledged that he took advantage of my constant help, understanding and forgiveness. Regardless, it’s done. Irreparable. Inexcusable.

Despite how unimaginably hurt I am, I see this for what it is – he’s an alcoholic. I know he can't believe he did what he did, and he didn't want to break up, especially not this way. I believe he was out of his mind and made a tremendous mistake. But I also know I don’t want to be dragged down with him anymore, and that it can no longer be my problem.

I talked to one of his closest friends and asked him to be supportive of his efforts to stop drinking since I can no longer be around. He’s relied on me a lot for emotional support and it pains me that I can’t be there for him anymore. (I know this screams codependency – I will be getting some help as well.) I know I need to move on, but a tiny part of me fantasizes that someday he’ll be clean and better and we’ll be able to work things out again – like once the symptom of drinking is gone, we can start over. I know how insane that sounds, but I feel insane. Or just desperate to feel something other than pain right now.

Any advice from someone who’s been in these shitty, shitty shoes - on either side - would be appreciated. (Similarly, any way to get the vision of my boyfriend in bed with someone else out of my head that does NOT include a lobotomy? No? Ok.) I’d really like to hate him, curse him, wish him harm. But I’m just overwhelmingly sad. For him and for us. His drinking has ruined years of love and friendship between us that neither of us have had with anyone else. We had so much good and I have loved him for so long. I couldn't have imagined it would end like this, not after so many years. I'm having trouble coping.

Thanks for listening.
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Human Relations (33 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you're codependent. I think you're lonely and trying too hard to make this work. He seems really screwed up and beyond help. You have to really know that the future you wish you could have with him (if he cut this one thing out) is impossible and a fantasy. He has friends, he has family. He won't stop drinking for you or your relationship. You have got to let him go.
posted by anniecat at 8:03 AM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Also, I realize you've asked for more specific on what to actually do to get through this, but do you have any close friends around who can be there for you and help you through these first few days?
posted by anniecat at 8:05 AM on December 20, 2010

Response by poster: My friends have been awesome. I do have great friends.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 8:07 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

A lot of people leave addicts because of their addiction, and many of them aren't angry about it at all. Sadness is totally appropriate, because this is something he either cannot or chooses not to address right now, and his bad behavior has forced your hand.

You may want to take advantage of groups for the loved ones of addicts, even though you've broken it off. They've been through what you have, and may be able to help you get your head to a place where you can heal yourself over this.
posted by xingcat at 8:09 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: First: Go to Al-Anon.

Second: Nothing you do or don't do is going to make him either quit drinking or keep drinking. If he's going to get sober, it will be because he sees that his life is a mess and wants to change it for his own self. If he needs you there in order to do it, it's not for real.

Third: The way things are today isn't the way things will always be. Maybe he will get sober and mentally healthy and you can be together again. Maybe you will both move on and you'll find happiness alone or with someone else. But I promise you: day by day, things will get easier and better. You can do this. You are making the right decision in putting some distance between the two of you. For someone getting sober, relationships - especially relationships with a lot of baggage - can actually make things harder. You are doing the right thing for him in letting him go for now, although I know neither of you probably feel that way at this very moment.

Hang in there.
posted by something something at 8:10 AM on December 20, 2010 [27 favorites]

Surround yourself with your friends and family. Tell them as much or as little as you wish. And be good to yourself for the next few weeks.

Change his name in your phone to DO NOT ANSWER or delete it. Filter his mail to your trash or a folder you won't see.
posted by canine epigram at 8:11 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

almost physically numbing pain I’m in

followed by

I will be getting some help as well.

You would do well to follow your own advice. Drag out your phonebook, or go on your insurance provider's website, and find a trained professional to talk to. TODAY. Consider this your official Gentle Nuge In The Right Direction.

"Numbing, physical pain" from emotional stress is not exactly the sort of thing that you should take lightly. There's nothing wrong with you -- given the circumstances, you seem to be taking this remarkably well. However, you are still human, and you do need to pay attention to what your needs are. The fact that you're concerned about your ex's recovery speaks highly of your character...however, if the very sight of him torments you so much that you cannot function in your everyday life, it's time to put some distance between the two of you.

Also, remember that he is in control of his own life. Although, again, it is honorable that you want to help him, he is ultimately responsible for himself, and you are ultimately responsible for himself. If you cannot avoid letting him drag you down with him, the only course of action is to walk away -- at least, then, one of you will be healthy.
posted by schmod at 8:21 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I said it on the previous thread, and I stand by it:
Define your involvement, stick to it, and prepare yourself for whatever you may need to do.
You've done that. I've walked away before, and I felt horrible, like I was failing in some way. I wasn't. I thought for a while that by finally getting out of that situation, I should be happy because my incredibly dormant sense of self-preservation finally kicked in. In reality, it was more the fact that I finally recognized the limits of my role in the whole thing, and my part in the drama was finally over.

If you have any close friends or family, especially close in proximity, be with them. I can't even think of what to say at this point, but if you want to MeFi mail me, please do so. I'd rather not get into the specifics of what I went through, but know that life gets better and that other people have definitely been in the place you are now.
posted by mikeh at 8:21 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: Nthing the notion that what you're feeling is totally normal. That being said, I'm so very sorry for this.

A couple years ago I had a relationship end with someone I loved very much hitting me after having drank enough to cause her to black out and not remember any of it. Leaving that relationship was the hardest thing I ever had to do relationship-wise. For many of the same reasons - I recognized the problem was the alcohol and I wanted to help with the solution. But I also knew that if I didn't take this hard line that things would never change. It sucks to be the functional adult at times like this.

I would agree that not being in contact for a good chunk of time is a really great idea. I'd even go so far as to take a vacation if you can.

There are lots of ways to get in touch with me if you'd like to chat about this.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2010

you are ultimately responsible for himself

Er. *yourself.

(And, really, do hang in there! *Hugs* all around.)
posted by schmod at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2010

Agreeing with canine epigram. I'd even come up with some kind of ultimatum: you may contact me again when you've been sober for 1 year. No exceptions.
posted by Melismata at 8:23 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I was in a situation very similar to yours. A person I loved more than I can possibly say just kept digging themselves in deeper via getting drunk and/or however they could manage to get wasted. Eventually it was the end of us.

I'd be lying if I said I were completely over it, even now. But here's what I can tell you, and what I wish I'd done back then - even after the breakup.

Go to Al-Anon, or something like it - a group for partners of alcoholics. Or ex-partners, in your (and my) case. It'll accomplish a few things, all of them handy. For one, it will give some structure to your time, and that's important right now. In addition to the horrible circumstances of your breakup, you also have to deal with the breakup itself. After years together, it will be some time before you have a sense of your own identity. This is okay, and this is normal.

More importantly, though: Even though you have accepted on an intellectual level that you cannot be with him and you can't be responsible for his problem anymore, on an emotional level it may take some time for your heart to come around fully on that. For me, it took a very long time to accept that there was never anything I could have done to help the person I loved so much. I suspect a support group might help you with that.

So expect your heart and head to outpace each other, sometimes; expect that some days will be worse than others; expect that your mood will affect your perspective, and that when the world seems awful and bleak and there's no point in going on, it's more important for you to accept that at that moment you're not in your right mind and should not make important decisions than it is that you tell yourself it will get better - because even though it will, that doesn't tend to help; expect that you will wish that he would stop drinking and everything would be okay and that one day you'll understand why this is not true. Expect that everything is gonna hurt for a while. That sucks, and I am so sorry, but I promise it won't be this way forever. Eventually you'll get a sense of who you are outside of this relationship and you'll be someone you like a lot.

Don't worry about whether or not what you're feeling is normal. Of all your considerations, that is the least important. Just worry about you.

Be good to yourself, and give yourself the time and space you need to heal. Feel free to send me a message on this site if you need anything.

You'll be okay. You'll be better than okay. It'll take a while, but you'll see.

posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

Also, please keep in mind that addicts have mastered the art of lying to an amazing degree. He could be totally in love with this other girl for all you know.
posted by Melismata at 8:27 AM on December 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

Something I wish I had done: printed out a poster-size sheet which said "HIS PROBLEMS ARE NOT YOUR FAULT" and stuck it on my bedroom wall.

My relationship with an alcoholic didn't get as bad as this before we broke up, but I was left with a horrible complex that "if I'd been a better girlfriend then he wouldn't have needed to drink so much/wanted to be drunk so often/etc".

It took a while to break out of the cycle of thinking that his problems were my fault. They weren't, and it wasn't my duty to fix them, it was his (he still hasn't unfortunately, so I hear).

Not your fault. Not who you were, or what you did or didn't do. *hugs*
posted by greenish at 8:27 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nothing that has happened so far is going to necessarily keep him from continuing to drink. I know that sounds crazy considering how bad it was, and how remorseful he is. But you can't trust him to do anything he says he's going to do about it. He needs time to do this on his own (if he's going to do it) without any input or pressure or support from you. Otherwise his ability to resist temptation is always going to be contingent on the issues in your relationship.

I had a friend who was with a really intense drunk; he'd seem fine for months at a time, and then one evening he just wouldn't come home when he normally did, and she'd spend days trying to find him, calling hospitals and friends of friends trying to track him down. He'd leave to go get ice cream after dinner and then return three days later, covered in bruises and missing his shoes.

I know this sounds rather extreme, but I really think your guy is only about a half-step down from there. His regret and remorse turns to self-loathing, which turns to feelings of futility or helplessness, which makes drinking again practically inevitable -- because why not, right? If he's already fucked?

Be strong, and take care of yourself one day at a time. Your sadness and regret will fade faster than your fear and resolve.
posted by hermitosis at 8:35 AM on December 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

Melismata: I'd even come up with some kind of ultimatum...

As I said in some other thread, make sure you understand that ultimatums and drawing lines is for your own sanity. They are not manipulations to make the addict do anything. Set up "laws" that are designed to protect yourself, and follow them rigidly. Their addiction means they have little control over certain parts of their lives, so they will most likely only fail to fulfill their promises. There isn't much they can do about it until they go through a successful treatment, but you don't need to be there for those failures. The addict can, and needs to, have the opportunity to fail on their own.

For example, two weeks ago I was at a family event, which included a family member of mine who has been a recovering alcoholic for decades. My family is close to her, and her alcoholism has caused a lot of pain, so years ago we decided the rule was that, if we even had the inkling that she was drunk, we need to trust that we're correct and we need to leave at that moment. At the event two weekends ago, there was enough evidence that she had been drinking, so me, wifey, and the kids got our coats, offered our apologies to the host (who was previously familar with our rule, and understood) and excused ourselves.

Now, this is in no way a punishment to anyone involved -- our 'rule' is designed to avoid the pain, discomfort, and manipulation that we had put up with for years before coming to terms with the fact that there is, simply, nothing we can do to change or influence an alcoholic's behavior. The only answer for me, my wife, and my young children is to not be a part of it.

In good news, yesterday the alcoholic stopped by my house to apologize for having arrived drunk for dinner and to let me know she had been inpatient for a week, and is now in addiction treatment as an outpatient. Now, I had long-ago lost count of how many times this same news has arrived in the past twenty years, but I know that is the problem of the alcoholic, so I accepted her apology, told her I was glad she was back in treatment, and now we both move forward. I and my family couldn't move forward when we were stuck being dragged along in her loop of self-destruction, so we stepped out of the morass and now we're healthier for it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:48 AM on December 20, 2010 [27 favorites]

I have experience from both sides as I am a recovering addict/alcoholic and I have loved ones who are active drinkers. I can tell you that those who have said that lying is a huge part of this disease are right. I lied to my loved ones constantly while in active addiction. I lied about things I didn't even have to lie about. I manipulated and strung people along and didn't care because I knew that I could numb out whenever I wanted to. No amount of begging or love from family or loved ones made any impact. Love does not cure this disease. It wasn't until I truly started experiencing consequences that I changed. When my family started walking away and people stopped bailing me out. I love my loved ones who remain in active addiction, but I hate this disease.
posted by heatherly at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Similarly, any way to get the vision of my boyfriend in bed with someone else out of my head that does NOT include a lobotomy?

No, but one of my all-time favourite Ask MetaFilter answers introduced me to the four R's, a technique for dealing with obsessive and repetitive thinking. I speak from painful experience when I say that you're going to have a hard time shaking those thoughts, but click through and read that comment: it literally changed my life.
posted by Zozo at 9:18 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just in case you're tallying votes: GO TO AL-ANON. You really, really need this kind of specific help for the partners/ex-partners/friends/family members of those who are addicted. You can find an al-anon meeting today. In almost every town. Please go today.

And then for the long term, please find yourself counseling or therapy or psychiatry. It's time to get to the bottom of why you felt that this was an acceptable relationship for you. He may get sober, you may get back together, or neither of those things may happen. But what's important for YOU is for YOU to understand what YOU need/want in a relationship and why YOU accepted so much less for so long. (Emphasis on YOU. YOU can never solve his problems.)

(And yes, I'm speaking from personal experience.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Kick him to the curb, try Al-Anon.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:45 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, go to Al-Anon. Make sure to find a meeting of Alanon that you like, there are many. People in the meetings are at different stages of personal recovery, so you will hear a lot of different stories. You didn't cause this, you can't fix it. Keep repeating that.

Also remember that alcoholics honestly mean what they say when they tell you that they want to change, because THEY feel bad. Only they can't do it without some help. they are liars, and they almost always revert to form once things improve even a little.

Alcoholics are totally, completely selfish and are all about getting their needs met. If that means being with you, then an alcoholic will manipulate to get that. They are complete masters at manipulation. Stay away from him. It will be good for both of you.

I have been that person he is. I have seen all the Christmas gifts go up in flames. (I used to have a photo of a half-eaten sandwich on a dirty fireplace hearth, that was Christmas dinner.) I don't live that way anymore, and I haven't for years.

Good luck.
posted by chocolatetiara at 9:51 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

This is going to sound like ridiculous advice, but if you're a reader, I suggest giving David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest a try. It's very long, so it will be a significatn distraction. It's also daunting enough that reading it counts as an accomplishment, and after a breakup is a good time to accomplish something. But it's also, among other things, a book about addiction by someone who really knows what he's talking about, and it will make you understand, completely and deeply, that there's nothing you can do for this guy.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:51 AM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

I just want to say that despite your sadness - sadness at what was, what wasn't, what this relationship could have been... You have to know and understand that you are doing the right thing. For yourself. You can't do anything for him. No matter what he says, even if he cries. People are talking about how good addicts are at lying. The thing is, I think that sometimes they are telling the truth, and they really mean what they're saying. The problem is that they aren't in control. And as long as you're with someone like this, the addiction come first.

Be happy that you don't live together, and that your finances aren't comingled, that you aren't married, and don't have kids. Maybe happy isn't the right word but I swear to you, you are so much better off doing this NOW, than looking back years down the road and wishing you had ripped the bandage off earlier.
posted by mokeydraws at 10:14 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really want to congratulate you on taking care of yourself and getting yourself out of a toxic situation.

If it helps you focus on what's at stake, you might want to find a picture of yourself as a little child and remind yourself that you're taking care of that person. For many of us it is easier to be fierce protectors of our five-year-old selves than our complicated adult incarnations, but of course we're the same person--we just forget how wholly we deserve to be cherished and supported.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:32 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

someday you will start over with him!?
Kill the thought NOW. Starting over is being co-dependent of his alcoholism.

There is no starting over here. There is only the destruction caused by alcohol.

The process he needs to go through before he himself can start over is very long and hard - and you can not wait for that without being co-dependent. That is assuming he has hit rock bottom - which almost certainly he has not. Rock bottom for a serious drink is much much deeper and darker than what you described. He has further down the rabbit hole to go before he sees the light.

You want to help him - and yourself? Then it is over. over, over. Not maybe over. Over.
posted by Flood at 12:06 PM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: On the bit about a tiny part of me fantasizes that someday he’ll be clean and better and we’ll be able to work things out again: I think it's okay to be in this mindspace for a little bit after such a jarring and saddening breakup. It's a palliative of sorts. A teddy bear for a broken heart. I don't think you need to beat yourself up for that at all, but the key is to not linger on this thought too long.

Perhaps it would be best to think about it in these terms: even if he started treatment now, really threw himself into it, it could be years before anything substantially changes. And that assumes 100% percent effort. In my most recent experience, it took close to three years of weekly AA Meetings, Individual Therapy, Group Therapy, and hardcore medication for a loved one to get on some sort of even emotional keel after her alcoholism caused her to hit rock bottom. And while she is hoping to repair our relationship, it's not working out the way she would like because I feel I don't really know her anymore. Too much happened, too much time passed, and I put too much space between us during that time (which was a good thing, because after protecting myself, I finally got to focus on my career, interests, and other relationships).

If we reconnect, it will have to come from a place of starting over.
And you know? That's kind of a good thing.

Know that even under the best, fantasy-fulfilling scenario, you won't see him for years and years. And if you do see him again, you might find yourself facing a stranger. That's not always a terrible thing. There's a weird sense of optimism in that. But only if you take care of yourself in the meantime and really start living your own life. It's okay for you to be totally sad right now. 100%. I would be surprised if you weren't.

But the next time you find yourself having a moment of stillness by yourself, like a Sunday morning listening to the birds outside your window while having a cup of coffee, remember that what you are experiencing is peacefulness and freedom. Not loneliness or disappointment. And you have all the time in the world now to do whatever would make you happy. Because you made a good decision, and because you are doing okay.

(Also: nthing the lying thing, as well as the suggestion to start looking into therapy)
posted by vivid postcard at 12:12 PM on December 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

In the event of sudden cabin decompression, always make sure to securely fasten your own mask before helping others.
posted by foobario at 12:31 PM on December 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

Consider getting tested for STDs.

I'm so sorry you're going through this.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:11 PM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Similarly, any way to get the vision of my boyfriend in bed with someone else out of my head that does NOT include a lobotomy?

I read about a technique somewhere (I think it was a Lawrence Block novel) that has worked for me in the past.

So you have this image in your head, right? Start leeching the color out of it, until it is black and white. Then start making it smaller and farther away. Keep working at making it smaller, and more distant. Over time, this method helped me get over the trauma of a car accident -- different kind of trauma I know, but maybe this will work for you too.

Good luck.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:26 PM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Ex-boyfriend in bed with another woman is a terrible image to have to deal with. But you can use it to help keep you strong and on the path away from him. Every time he wants to work it out and you start to actually consider it, you have that image to remind you of why that's a bad idea. And you can bring it up as much as necessary to remind him of why it's a bad idea and why he needs to leave you the hell alone. Good luck.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 6:37 PM on December 20, 2010

>Consider getting tested for STDs.

Seconding this. Definitely.
posted by blueberry at 10:33 PM on December 20, 2010

Following up on Zozo's advice about the four r's: One thing that helped me on the "refrain" part of the four Rs, when I went through a similar cycle of bad thoughts, was to write them all down. It was like a part of my brain wanted to catalog all the ways things were bad, and I was worried I'd forget them all, so it would run through them again and again to make sure I had internalized it all. By writing it down, I was able to tell myself, "You won't forget. It's all in that document there. If you need to, you can always go and review it later."
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:49 PM on December 22, 2010

Best answer: Despite the circumstances, you sound reasonably clear. It sounds like you recognize that you deserve better from a partnership and are allowing yourself to grieve the pain you've experienced in being with this man. Take good care of yourself, physically (pampering yourself in whatever way works for you is nurturing and will help calm your mind and keep you healthy under stress) and emotionally. Call on close friends for love and support when you need it. I think AL-ANON could help too - it may give you some insight into the patterns of alcoholism and help connect you with a group of people who can relate to your experience.

As for your thoughts on rekindling the relationship once he sobers up, I think these are totally natural thoughts to have immediately after a break up (particularly such a traumatic one), but they may (likely) change once you have given yourself some time and space to heal. I would suggest taking a few months to yourself to seek help and process your feelings before you consider anything further with him - you'll be in a better head space to make good decisions for yourself after some time has passed.

As for the image in the head... a trick I learned from my partner to change thought patterns is to wear an elastic band around your wrist and snap it (on the inside of your wrist - it stings! and it works...) whenever you find your mind drifting towards dwelling on a negative thought or image WHILE replacing the ugly image/thought with something more positive for you. That's not to say that you should not grieve the feelings that come with the image in your hear, but it will eventually help train your mind away from dwelling the painful image. Also, as much as it sucks to hear, time will help. In the mean time, when the painful moments come, find time to sit quietly and breathe.

Best of luck.
posted by sassy mae at 4:43 PM on December 27, 2010

« Older How do I proceed with this new relationship?   |   Christmas Lights in South Jersey and Philly Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.