I want to decorate with my boyfriend but he'll kind of be ... away
November 12, 2012 2:37 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with preparing for a life with my boyfriend when I know he’s going to have to spend some time in jail for a DUI?

Me: Mid 40s female. BF: Mid 50s male

We have been together for two years. The first year and a half were fine with his drinking. He’d occasionally have too much and I would talk to him about it. He’d be fine for four, five months and then it would escalate again, usually in conjunction with a stressful time in his life. He was never violent/angry … Just a sad drunk. Other than that, our relationship is wonderful. He’s funny, smart, tender and thinks his girlfriend is the smartest, prettiest woman on the planet. My family adores him.

Recently, he got arrested for a DUI and hit his bottom. He’s been in AA, got a sponsor, got a therapist and decided to stop medicating his anxiety/depression with alcohol. His longtime doctor is working with him on anti-anxiety medication. We’re attending our local Unitarian Universalist church and he’s interested in their sobriety group as well. My family is also loving and supportive at this time.

Things are going great. Before all this happened, we had been planning to move in together in January and save money for a wedding. Obviously, we’ve mutually agreed to put the wedding off until he’s had at least a full year of sobriety. But we’re still moving in together because it makes much more sense for us financially. I’m not worried about his relapsing, though I know and understand addiction and its pitfalls. What’s gnawing at me is that I want to be excited and girly about combining our households but I can’t because I know that he’s going to have to do a couple of weeks in jail and possibly some house arrest for about 30 days. We live in a state with extremely stringent DUI laws and though BF has an attorney, we have to be prepared for the worst. We don’t know what that will be at this point. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of time but it will be both inconvenient and embarrassing (which I guess is the point.)

I guess my question is, how do I get through this time? We only know that he won’t have to serve any time before the holidays are up but other than that, the attorney can’t tell us much else. I know everyone is going to say Al-Anon but so far, I just can’t bring myself to go. I went to one meeting and it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever done. All I heard were stories like this: “He/She was sober for 10 years, then he relapsed, had an affair with his secretary, developed a gambling problem and we lost the house in a card game.” I wish I were exaggerating.

I might be willing to try a different Al-Anon meeting but I’d love to hear some other advice.

Thanks, everyone.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total)
It sounds like you are putting your happiness on hold for fear of a _potential_ 6 weeks of badness. That's 45 days at the most. Less than the amount of time between now and New Years.

What is it that really bothers you about this? If he gets off without any jail time/house arrest would you be really happy? Or is it the very fact of this DUI (and the drinking, and the sobriety process) that has you bothered? If it's the DUI itself, you don't have to wait on dealing with it -- and it sounds like you're not, which is good.

If it's the sentence then maybe don't plan a housewarming party until his sentence is up? Maybe set him to work getting projects finished around the house?
posted by sparklemotion at 2:59 PM on November 12, 2012

Yeah, it is depressing to hear about the actual consquences other people have experienced in your exact situation because you are convinced things will be different, but you are talking about moving in because "it makes sense financially". I would protect yourself with a pre-nup (for common-law partnerships), keep money seperate and even ask that there be an emergency fund of three months expenses from him that he cannot access so that if things do go pear-shaped you are at least protected. Harsh and unromantic, yep, but if things get stressful (which they probably will during his jail time/probation) it will ease some of the stress for you knowing that he has proactively put you and your needs first in terms of money. DUI's are taken seriously because they ARE serious, you really do not want to be responsible for his bills if he gets behind the wheel again and this time injures or kills someone.

Honestly, I think moving in together is already stressful, expensive and emotionally fraught for anyone. Planning to do so when you know an incredibly stressful, expensive emotional thing you have no control over is going to happen at the same time is not setting yourself up for success. Not moving into together in January does NOT mean you will never move in or get married but instead that you are delaying it to a more stable (and likely more successful) time.
posted by saucysault at 3:03 PM on November 12, 2012 [22 favorites]

He's got a therapist; you might want to get one too.

The relapse pattern can be pretty common; you might hear that same story again.

Take it one day at a time, seek your own treatment, and support him in his without holding your own life hostage. Have as happy a holiday season with him as you can; none of us know what the next year will be like, anyway.
posted by RainyJay at 3:04 PM on November 12, 2012

The first year and a half were fine with his drinking.

OK, so, what was his drinking like before? Was the cycle you describe, with periodic escalation, what he'd always done, or did that represent restraint for him, or what? Because what you're describing as "fine" sounds pretty bad and if this was a period where he was trying to control himself because of being in a new relationship... not good.
posted by BibiRose at 3:18 PM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

Don't worry about dissing alcoholics anonymous, it's certainly not for everyone, in fact it gets a lot of criticism from some quarters.

As for the time he will spend, never had to face that sort of challenge, but grit your teeth, buck up, don't talk about it with anyone who doesn't want to talk seriously about it, it wont be that bad, this too will pass.
posted by wilful at 3:19 PM on November 12, 2012

Moving in with someone because of financial reasons when I wasn't completely happy with my relationship was one of the worst decisions I've ever made. Had nothing to do with alcoholism, but it was a mess when the inevitable happened.
posted by empath at 3:31 PM on November 12, 2012 [20 favorites]

Check out some local AlAnon meetings. If possible, try different ones until you find one that feels comfortable. You'll get support, insight, perspective from others who have been through what you're going through. As others have said, a few weeks is no big deal. Don't worry about embarrassment, anyone who judges your partner for his drinking or you for standing by him is not worth keeping around, unless they're family. Most everyone these days knows someone who's had a substance abuse problem, it does not have the stigma it had when you and he were younger.
posted by mareli at 3:35 PM on November 12, 2012

Find an Al-anon meeting you can deal with. My friend goes (she fought it at first) and learned a lot that has helped her life immensely.
I'm thinking it will benefit the both of you immensely for you to have that particular education in your toolbox.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:38 PM on November 12, 2012

You attending a (good) Al-anon meeting could very likely help your guy's recovery, too. Mostly it's about navigating relationships.

I would hesitate to move in at the moment. Your guy is going to be going through some big big changes in the next 6 months to a year (many of them good ones, but changes nonetheless) and adding "newly cohabitating" to the pile might not be a great idea.

Is there any way you can put it off for a few months?

If he's seriously putting his sobriety first and foremost (which he ought to be, even over your relationship!) then figuring out with you where you guys should put the couch is not going to be a priority, nor should it be.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:03 PM on November 12, 2012

As a side benefit to Al-anon (and his AA meetings), you can end up with some great inside info on how best to navigate the court system, DUIs, clearing your record after, etc. Good networking!
posted by small_ruminant at 4:07 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You say that you aren't worried about his relapsing, although You know and understand addiction and its pitfalls.
If you are saying that you aren't *actively* worrying about him relapsing, but that you know it is a distinct possibility for someone his age going through recovery for the first time, then good for you.
But to me it reads as if you get that SOME people are known to relapse, but that it definitely won't happen with your guy and that all these depressing stories at Al-Anon are such a DRAG when all you want is for this ickyness to be over so you can get on to the important things like decorating.

I'm deeply concerned that you aren't letting yourself think about the realities of the situation. Please take the steps that saucysault recommends to protect yourself financially. Please take all the suggestions to try out other Al-Anon meeting until you find one that fits.

Part of what makes being the partner of someone with an addiction so tricky is just how good the good times are. It makes it easier to gloss over all the bad things the addiction brings.
posted by Brody's chum at 4:08 PM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

But we’re still moving in together because it makes much more sense for us financially.

This really isn't a strong argument. It kind of always makes more sense financially to split rent but just because something is easier financially doesn't mean that it's necessarily a good idea. It sort of sounds like you're avoiding Al Anon because it's a bummer and you want to be happy which is totally valid and probably the way many of us would feel, but because of the danger signs here it's about ten times more important that you go in with your eyes fully open even if it sort of sucks to sit there and have them opened and it seems like you're deliberately choosing not to.

how do I get through this time?

By taking a cold and clear eyed look at the present situation and resolving to protect your own feelings, financial health, and future before moving on to a partnership with someone who is entering at a severe deficit comparatively.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:15 PM on November 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

I appreciate your issues with the Alcoholics Anonymous model, but you need something. You sound like you're doing a lot of displacement of your larger concerns onto the fairly discrete issue of his sentence.

"Inconvenient and embarrassing" are really odd words to choose about the consequences of the DUI.

Agree with everyone who's suggesting another Al-Anon meeting, if individual therapy doesn't feel affordable or appealing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:20 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

fwiw, I got more out of Al-anon than individual therapy, just because there were so many stories, and so many people's reactions to the situation. It was helpful to see so many options, rather than just my therapists. I still got a lot out of therapy, but doing both therapy and Al-anon at the same time was the best when I was in the middle of stressful situations.

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting you not move in with your guy- just not for the next 6 months or so. I love addicts and alcoholics. I am in Al-anon partly because I don't want to have to ban them from my life, and helps me to live a full and happy life even when someone dear to me is crashing and burning. (Also, it means that when they're ready for a hand up and a stable place to be, I'm able to provide it, because I didn't crash and burn with them, though it doesn't sound like you're in a position like that.)
posted by small_ruminant at 4:31 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing Al-Anon. It took me forever to get there and then it took going every night to find a meeting I liked, but it got me through the worst of it, and for $1 a night and an hour of your time, you just can't beat it.

Honestly, my impulse is to tell you to run-don't-walk now, but I can appreciate why you won't. Al-Anon can give you some tools to use to keep yourself intact and grounded. You don't have to go forever, but it will always be there for you. It can really help (I swear) to hear from others who have been affected by an alcoholic in their lives, even if their situations aren't directly analogous to yours, and you may be surprised to hear that some folks have been just where you were and how they got through it.

Best of luck to you, I'm pulling for you.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:22 PM on November 12, 2012

One of the many, many red flags in this is that he is not putting the brakes on the moving-in-together-for-terrible-reasons thing... I think it might have been a happier Ask if it was the same story but with "...so now he wants to delay co-habitating because he wants to focus more on his recovery."

Your question isn't quite answerable because this isn't an 'exciting and girly' situation. This is a tragedy and an overall damn rotten situation for both of you. I am very sorry.

That this feels bad, and 'inconvenient and embarrassing,' and that you are having trouble getting excited, are quite reasonable things that you should be paying attention to. Look, I have an alcoholic ex, and "Just a sad drunk. Other than that, our relationship is wonderful" made me wince; you are in denial. THAT IS your relationship -- you have a relationship with a drunk -- there isn't an 'other than that.' Again, it sucks, and I am sorry. But do not artificially accelerate the relationship because: $

As for your family adoring a drunk driver, I think you need friends who are more supportive of any choice to let ties with this guy weaken. His sobriety is so ridiculously new that it's really not worth thinking of him as 'sober' just yet and it is amazing that loved ones would back your plans to hurry up and live together after something as sick and messed-up as drunk driving, which is "inconvenient" and "embarrassing" and also symptomatic of both a problem with alcohol and a problem with morality and self-control while under the influence of alcohol.

Please take saucysault's advice about the financial issues if you go ahead with this now or years from now. Have a clear escape plan. Talk to a therapist about your own boundaries. What will constitute enough of a relapse for you to get out? Any alcohol? Getting drunk. Getting drunk twice. Getting drunk regularly for months. Another DUI charge? Figure out where your line is and work on a way to keep it there.
posted by kmennie at 6:24 PM on November 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

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