How to cope with losing my fiance to alcohol, two weeks before our wedding?
October 13, 2012 3:41 PM   Subscribe

My fiance went on a massive alcohol binge this week, two weeks before our wedding, and has left me. Any suggestions for coping with the devastation and loss I am feeling? Portland, OR-specific suggestions are especially welcome.

Background: We are both in our late 30s, been together just under two years. Fiance is a recovering addict (alcohol and opiates) and had successfully been through inpatient treatment earlier this year. Prior to that he'd been sober for several years (and was when we met). He had seven months of sobriety up until earlier this week, when I came home from work to be completely blindsided by the sight of him in bed, drunk, surrounded by empty malt beverage cans. Every day this week I returned home to the same, even though he knew full well that I didn't allow any drinking in our home. He kept saying he wanted to stop, but clearly the alcohol had gotten too much of a hold on him. This morning he asked to be taken to the ER to detox, and I dropped him there. He ended up walking home after being discharged and immediately began scrounging for change around the house to buy booze. He told me this, meaning getting drunk, was more important than our life together. I asked him to leave my house and he did.

My question is: how can I help myself, especially in the coming weeks? I know about and go to Al Anon meetings on a sporadic basis and will be trying to go more often. If there is a way to get more out of the meetings, I would be interested in that. I usually end up crying a lot and not really sharing much. I would love to know about any other support groups or other resources, either online or where I live (Portland, OR). Or books. Anything, really! I am pretty desperate right now.

I am feeling a severe sense of loss, of the life we might have had. No doubt people may think I dodged a huge bullet, and I can see that. Trust me, things were incredibly good when he was sober and committed to recovery, which was most of our relationship. I am also feeling humiliated, thinking about going to work next week with people asking me about the upcoming wedding. And then there's canceling all the plans, returning our rings, all of that. Not to mention the thought of talking to my friends as well as my family who were going to fly out and be there. My self esteem is pretty much at an all time low. Finally, I know I am going to get extremely anxious, wondering where he is and how he is. I don't have health insurance quite yet, but when I do again, the plan is to get therapy to work through some of this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
When I have a crisis like that, I go to about 2 Al-anon meetings a day. They're fine with you crying and not doing anything else.

Also, don't forget that the humiliation is on his side, not yours, same as if you were in a car wreck or something. This is a thing that happened to you. It is not a moral failing on your part. Your coworkers and family will just be sad WITH you, not condemning you or anything. Or if they do, they suck and you should treat them accordingly.

He told me this, meaning getting drunk, was more important than our life together.

This is a dangerous way to think about it and will lead to nothing but hurt feelings. Think about "getting cancer was more important than our life together." I know that's silly, but it's is alcoholism doing this, not the part of him that loves you. I am not for one minute suggesting that you should forgive and forget etc etc. Losing you is a consequence of his alcoholism and obviously it's not your job to fix it or to sacrifice your own emotional well-being in anyway. But this is his alcoholism doing this. It's not personal, as absurd as that sounds, really it's not.

There have been some great threads on alcoholism on metafilter, and they're worth reading through if you're so inclined.

If you feel like venting, memail me and I'll give you my number.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:50 PM on October 13, 2012 [30 favorites]

I'm so sorry, honey.

This is not your fault. You are a good person, and you're doing the absolute best you can, and that's all anyone could ask, and no one blames you for this.

Tell yourself that, the way you would tell your best friend if they were going through the same situation. Don't let yourself feel guilty or anxious about the "inconvenience" of canceling the wedding. This is not your fault.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:51 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

This isn't your fault, so don't take it personally. It's only partially his fault, for that matter. He's got a disease. It's on him to keep it under control, but he's not exactly rational, you know?

Unfortunately, the only way to get through it is the same way you get through any other breakup, death, or loss of some other sort. Keep going through the motions and eventually you'll find your way back to an even keel. It's perfectly OK to go on crying jags for a while. We all do. Make sure you have people who you can talk to about this in a one on one setting. If nothing else, I suspect some better listeners than me will be along shortly to offer their virtual ear should you need it.

Personally, I don't get much out of group activities, but if you find it comforting to see people who are dealing well with their alcoholism, by all means visit more AlAnon meetings. Quite honestly, anything that helps is worth doing.
posted by wierdo at 3:51 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

First, don't be afraid to cry as much as you want to. If you can, take a couple of days off of work just to cry if you need to.

Second, if people ask you about the wedding, feel free to say "it was postponed" or "it was cancelled", and change the subject. Believe me, all but the most socially inept know better then to push someone to explain further.

Third, DO. NOT. BACKSLIDE. Even if you're hurt and really want to talk to/see him. You know better. The best way to make it through this is to cut him out of your life completely. You know this, you know that you dodged a bullet, and you also know that seeing/speaking/checking up on him will only hurt you even more long term. It's time to be selfish and care for yourself above all others for a while.

Bonus material (to quote myself*):

Everyone who says that time will heal you is correct, but I want to share two tricks that can help you immediately:

1) Give up on the secret feeling that you just lost "The One". "The One" doesn't exist, as we like to say on Mefi. There are many people who will make you happy and will be a good partner for you. If you can't make yourself give up on the concept, change the parameters. See The One as a relationship instead of a person. The one true relationship that you stay in for life (Hint: it won't be with someone who breaks up with you, but someone who loves you so much that the thought of leaving you is horrifying).

2) Assign all the pain you feel right now a value of 100%. Then categorize it based on its factors. Example:

20%: Fear that you lost The One.
10%: How much you hate being alone.
20%: Worry that you will never find someone else.
10%: Activities that you will have to give up because doing them without him/her would be horrible for you.
30%: Earth shattering pain of being rejected and associated wondering "what is wrong with me that made him/her leave me?"

And Finally, 10%: That you will miss hanging out and having access to him/her.

The point of this is to see that the majority of your pain has little to do with your partner specifically, and more to do with the feelings inside of you that the rejection has created. 90% of the pain in the example was a result of personal fears, not the loss of the actual person. You can control that 90%, they are issues that are about you, not your ex.

Good luck to you!
posted by Shouraku at 3:51 PM on October 13, 2012 [50 favorites]

I don't know anything about what you should be doing, except taking good care of yourself, but I did notice that you mentioned returning the ring. Oh hell no. You keep that ring lady. It's yours.

As for telling your aquaintences, a bland "we've decided to call off the wedding for now" is all they need to know. If they're rude enough to pry further, you have every right to say "it's none of your business".

I'm sorry, so sorry. All the best to you.
posted by windykites at 3:52 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think you need to start taking control of what's going on. As soon as you can, you should take a deep breath and let the distant relatives and friends know the wedding is off.

Do you have any close friends nearby? This is the time you get to lean on them a bit. Get some moral support with the technicalities of cancellations and ring-returning stuff. You might even get their help in rehearsing a few remarks to use on people at work.

If you were planning on taking some vacation time for a honeymoon, I say take it anyway, alone or not. Get away and think about other things and what comes next.

My sympathies, it's a rough thing.
posted by zadcat at 3:52 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not to mention the thought of talking to my friends as well as my family who were going to fly out and be there.

Do you know what your friends and family will think when you tell them?

"Goddamn, I better do everything I can right the hell now to help her because she is in a world of pain."

Reach out, through your embarrassment, as soon as you can. Get that support network going ASAP. A lot of people you are close with, literally, have plane tickets to come and see you and help you feel better.
posted by griphus at 3:53 PM on October 13, 2012 [23 favorites]

Having to tell so many people and cancel so many things is overwhelming. Find one or two good friends (bridesmaids?) and delegate them to spread the news. I am so sorry you are going through this.
posted by saucysault at 4:01 PM on October 13, 2012 [21 favorites]

Yes, make use of your bridesmaids.

I have to agree that you won't be humiliated here. You've done nothing wrong. Any reasonable person would sympathise with you.

I have nothing to add to anyone else's advice, other than to emphasise this point.
posted by tel3path at 4:13 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, I would advise getting someone on your side right now. Hopefully someone to stay with you, or you can go stay with them. I'm sorry to say so at this time, but I fear you haven't seen the last of him. Having some people in the house with you seems like it would be helpful for general support purposes and if he does come back.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:29 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I were in your shoes, I would envision that the person I knew had passed away. In a sense, isn't that what happened? For all intents and purposes, he died and was replaced by this unfamiliar stranger living in your fiance's body. I would try to be nice to him, since some scraps of the person you knew might still be in there, and being thoughtful to them is a respectful gesture of remembrance, like laying flowers on your loved one's grave. To me, that seems like the healthiest way to deal with it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:50 PM on October 13, 2012

Believe me, all but the most socially inept know better then to push someone to explain further.

Seriously, if people push at you for details, you are in no way wrong or rude or socially unacceptable if you just walk away.
posted by elizardbits at 4:53 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

When I broke my first engagement, my college suitemates took turns staying with me, talking-we literally stayed up all night.

My situation was in no way close to as traumatic as yours, but good friends alongside are a good thing.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:02 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know about and go to Al Anon meetings on a sporadic basis and will be trying to go more often. If there is a way to get more out of the meetings, I would be interested in that. I usually end up crying a lot and not really sharing much.

Look, internal dialogues like this just don't work. They are designed to tilt your mind into not going, and avoiding the solution. Don't "try" to go "more often," go to a meeting and raise your hand. Share. Cry. Ask for a little bit of help from living, breathing humans. This is a form of standing up for yourself. The first step of which is crawling.

Your dude sounds like a really great guy and I'm sorry that he relapsed. Anyone who has had a major drinking or using problem and relapses like this, I swear to you, he is picking up where he left off. There is no "pretty fun" stage. It is straight to the bottom and God only knows how much further down he will end up going.

If I have any wisdom to share here, it would be to allow yourself to realize that certain things cannot be done alone. You can't love yourself right now as much as a stranger might be able to. You can't help yourself as much as your family can, your friends can, and hopefully people you meet in Al-Anon with more time than you can. Lean on them. I know it's scary. This is the guiding principle of any 12-step program - even before there were books or literature for people to read - one person helping out another.

If you need to cancel something, ask someone to help you do it. If you need to drive somewhere to return something, ask someone to help you get there. Please don't cut yourself off from the world. It will serve you better than your head will. You are going through something that is very difficult and you have all my human sympathy.

And while I don't know the details of your situation, I strongly recommend you do not involve yourself in the recovery of your significant other.

I don't have health insurance quite yet, but when I do again, the plan is to get therapy...

The plan is I am almost positive there is a clinic or a facility in Portland that offers psychological counseling to those with limited income, regardless of insurance. If you cannot pull something up, call The Southern California Counseling Center in Los Angeles and ask them if they know of any similar facilities in the Portland area, or see if anyone else chimes in here.
posted by phaedon at 5:06 PM on October 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

You didn't dodge a bullet. You dodged a nuclear bomb and it seems you are way underestimating that. You are extremely fortunate that this happened before your wedding because his alcoholism likely would have caused you years of misery. I know it's hard, but just try to focus on the positive side of this because there's much to celebrate. You have literally been given a huge second chance in life. I think you can comfort yourself by telling yourself that right now you are not feeling cause for celebration, but once the hurts dissipates, you'll be sayings lots of thank goodnesses.
posted by Dansaman at 5:45 PM on October 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Something similar but different happened to mr. After the birth of our child, my partner fell off the wagon. I really needed his support, and wham, it was so shocking and confusing. He became a jealous bully and accused me of all sorts of abandonment. Well, let me just tell you, it's alarming how quickly you may will feel grounded again very soon. When it was happening, it felt like the world was ending and that the pain would never end, but that is just not the case, not at all. It still amazes me, four years later, how I was able to put it all into perspective and just start doing what was necessary to move on and get stuff done. Being in survival mode will get you through this, don't underestimate yourself and the power of a week or two.
posted by waving at 5:57 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am so sorry that this is happening to you.

My advice focuses on the "What should I do next?" practicalities for getting you through the next few days and weeks:


Every little wedding-cancellation-related phone call, email, errand, or other task is just one more opportunity for you to feel like shit again. Plus, right now it's likely that your memory and attention to detail have temporarily gone to crap and thus you run the risk of neglecting something important if you try to do it all yourself. Better to delegate it and then put it out of your mind.

If you've been working with a wedding planner then pay her/him to cancel the wedding. I'm sure you're not the first client to need help cancelling a wedding.

Even if you planned your wedding yourself, I strongly suggest that you consider hiring a local professional wedding planner to handle the cancellation for you. Not only do they have the right skills and experience for the job, but they probably also have working relationships with many of the local venues and vendors and thus might be able to get you a better deal than you could have gotten on your own.

If you're absolutely resistant to the idea of hiring a professional to handle it, then enlist the aid of your bestest local friend or relative who is both A) great at Getting Shit Done and B) is willing and able to spend a couple weekdays working through all the details.

Others have suggested your bridesmaids as helpers, and while your bridesmaids have the benefit of being already privy to the wedding planning details, depending on how close they are to you (and were to your ex-fiance) they might be too upset themselves to deal with it or be too distracted by trying to make you (and everyone else affected) to feel better to be effective at getting this wedding canceled quickly, cleanly, and cheaply.

You're going to need a lot of support over the next several days and weeks, so my advice is to avoid leaning on any one person too heavily. Save your emotionally supportive friends for emotional support, and delegate the wedding-cancellation tasks to the best "cold-hearted bitch" (in this context, a term of endearment) from your arsenal of friends. Again, I strongly recommend just hiring someone who deals with this sort of a drama for a living, if possible.

Delegating the cancellation of your wedding should include the chore of contacting everyone with news of the cancellation (starting with out-of-towners first). This saves you the stress and pain of having to have the same awful conversation over and over and over again. Although it may seem strange or rude to have someone else notify your guests on your behalf, right now you just need to put all the wedding bullshit behind you ASAP without going through being questioned and second-guessed by people who don't understand your situation. You can have personal conversations about "what happened" later, when you're ready.


You may think that your ex-fiance won't show up at your house to do something scary or cause unwanted drama, but you also thought that he'd kicked the booze for good and he deceived you about that too. (Please don't take this as criticism of your judgment -- what I'm trying to say is that his addiction makes his behavior very difficult to predict.)

The last thing you need right now are surprise visits, so change those locks ASAP.


This isn't just to avoid your ex-fiance, but also all the well-meaning friends and family whose first instincts will be to contact you to ask "ZOMG WHAT HAPPENED?!" Again, you don't need to have that conversation over and over and over again right now.

Email is relatively easy -- assuming you use Gmail or other major email service/software, you can find instructions online for setting up filters. Automatically move all non-vital emails to a "Read Later" folder until you feel up to slogging through them.

Calls and texts are a bit more difficult, unless your main number goes to a smartphone and then there are apps that can help you. I have a Droid and use an app called "Mr. Number." By default I don't want to talk to or even be bothered by the ring from 99% of the people who call me, so my default setting is for all calls to go straight to voicemail. I have a shortlist of people I don't mind talking to at their convenience (instead of at mine) and those are on my exceptions list so that their calls and text notifications always go through. Then there's a third list -- for persistent phone marketers and certain relatives -- that I set up to receive the "pick up and hang up" treatment (they can't even leave me a voicemail). There are other apps that might suit your needs and phone better; Mr. Number is just the one that I (and my Droid) have experience with and thus can specifically recommend.


Presumably you were planning to take time off for your wedding and honeymoon anyway -- find out if you can have the time off sooner. Like RIGHT NOW, if feasible. Then get out of town.

This is where the aforementioned bridesmaids could come in. Hopefully, you have some friend or relative who always makes you feel great. Go stay with her/him for a while. Or if your honeymoon plans are non-refundable, grab said friend/relative and take her/him in your ex-fiance's place. Even just go stay with a local friend or relative for a while, just make sure that you don't go to the same places and do the same things that you normally do.

The point is to get completely away from your old life with him for a little while and focus on spending time in the company of supportive, positive people, doing things that make you feel better. You've been through a huge emotional shock and need to give yourself and your heart some TLC before forcing yourself back into the toil of day-to-day life.

Feel free to consider the net savings from cancelling your wedding as your "make me feel better" budget. Even if it's not a lot, it's probably enough -- crashing on an unemployed friend's couch and marathoning an awesome TV series together via Netflix can be almost as therapeutic as the Eat-Pray-Love world tour.

Just figure out what works for you and make it happen, because you need some time to recuperate before you start trying to "get on with your life," and you deserve a palate-cleansing period of self-indulgence before you even begin to think about dealing with dating and relationships again.

Good luck, and I hope it all works out for the best.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:16 PM on October 13, 2012 [35 favorites]

You are allowed to ask for what you need from your friends and family; ask for someone to make the trip to see you, and someone to take on the task of informing service providers and invitees. Some people in your situation choose to go on the planned honeymoon anyway.
posted by Soliloquy at 7:06 PM on October 13, 2012

Wow, I'm so sorry.

I agree with everyone who has said to outsource contacting people to close friends/bridesmaids. However, if that's not possible, email blasts are your friend. Do you have email info for everyone that was going to come to your wedding? If yes, then draft two emails, one to your close family and friends, who you think will offer you active support right now, and one to slightly more removed guests. In the emails, decide how you want to present the news (I'm not good on advising you in this particular area, but be careful before you apologize to your guests. Remember this was NOT YOUR FAULT). Then be very clear about what you need from them (be it space, privacy, support, a sympathetic ear). This way you only have to tell the story once.

And Nthing forever what others have said re support. Lean on your loved ones. They WANT to help you. And you need them right now. Like oxygen. If out of town family still want to fly out to be with you, do not turn them away. These people will bring you back to life.

My sincere best wishes. This WILL pass. Just keep breathing. Put one foot in front of the other.
posted by dry white toast at 10:57 PM on October 13, 2012

My very best suggestion is:

Call you very closest friend and put her in charge of letting everyone know the wedding is off. Then go you ex-honeymoon with her.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:04 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

There are some great suggestions in here. Nthing that everyone will have compassion for you. I do think that finding a counselor would really help and that you should get on that as soon as possible (maybe after that trip Jacqueline was suggesting).

The William Temple House offers low-fee counseling for $5-$30/hour:

Portland Psychotherapy offers counseling as low as $15/hour:

Lewis and Clark Community Counseling Center (grad students) offers counseling for between $10-$50/hour

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare offers low-income (and often free) counseling if you qualify:

I'm so sorry this happened. Take care of yourself, anonymous.
posted by feets at 12:29 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

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