My anxiety about my anxiety about your drinking
February 13, 2013 11:08 AM   Subscribe

So. Either my boyfriend's drinking or my anxiety about his drinking is going to ruin our (extremely awesome, otherwise very solid) relationship. I can't tell if I'm being crazy or not.

My boyfriend has been a moderate- to heavy-drinker for much of his adult life. This tendency has been amplified since he moved to our current location, which has a bit of a hard-drinkin' reputation. When he's single, he drinks a lot because he's sad; he's also been in less-than-healthy reputations that involved lots of drinking. (This is all based on what he's told me.)

I expressed reservations about his drinking early on. He was drinking alone, drinking to drunkenness almost always (in that he rarely has just two beers), and drinking most days of the week. That said, he never turned mean or nasty when drunk -- he remained the same thoughtful, gentle, supportive guy; just got a little slurrier, and a little more bleary-eyed.

Personally, though I had some wild times when I was younger, I don't tend to drink all that much these days; maybe a glass or two of wine at dinner. I like to go out with my friends & have a night on the town every now and then, but I don't have any close friends in this town, and the idea of drinking with acquaintances isn't appealing enough to battle with hangovers, so my consumption is WAY down since I've moved here.

Oh, and he has a health condition that means he probably shouldn't be drinking. People with this health condition do drink all the time, though, so I'm not sure how big a deal it is -- but the last time he saw his doctor, he [doctor] said that Boyfriend should stop drinking tomorrow if possible. Boyfriend said he'd cut down.

Since we've been dating (1 year!), Boyfriend and I have had a couple conversations about his drinking. He'll say he doesn't like doing it, doesn't like how it makes him feel, etc. He'll promise to cut down -- and will for a while! -- and then it'll start creeping back up. Even then, though, it's significantly less than when I first met him.

After he behaved moderately atrociously back in January (he was depressed & was drinking kind of a lot then), he apologized profusely and proactively suggested he quit drinking for a month. I supported this decision. Throughout the month, he would make vague comments about the future -- he'd tell people he "quit drinking," would say that he thought he'd probably drink on his one-month anniversary, then re-up for another month. I tried really, really hard to be non-judgmentally supportive; I know he's felt judged by me for his drinking before, and I try to tamp down on this tendency in myself, but can't always help myself. (I don't say anything snippy, but he can tell that I am, say, mentally keeping track of how many beers he drinks in the course of a night or something.) The non-drinking month was AMAZING -- we got along so well, and I felt incredibly close to him. Bu

Then the month was up, and he told me he had plans for 3 days of drinking and then he'd evaluate what he'd do for the next month. He got drunk alone on one night, and had plans to drink with me the next night. It was a moderate disaster; I thought we were going to split a bottle of wine, but he wanted to drink that bottle of wine + another half-full bottle of wine I had + some whiskey. He didn't get wasted, but he was drunker than me. I was sad that we couldn't have a night of moderate drinking; he said he thought that I knew that he liked to get drunk when he drank, and he thought I was being controlling/manipulative for seeming disappointed that he wanted to drink more; after all, he'd spent the whole month not drinking at all!

On day 3, he had plans to drink with friends, but they fizzled; he drank a couple beers at home, and then we went out to a bar and he drank only mineral water. Today, he drank the beer that he'd bought to have with his friends. He now says that he has no plans not to drink this month, but he plans on "significantly cutting down" and only drinking on special occasions.

We had a fight about this. I am anxious because in the past I feel like he's cut down, then the drinking has slowly crept up. To be fair: I get totally anxious and monitor-y (mentally counting the beer bottles in the trash, trying to judge from his voice on the phone if he's been drinking), which I hate in myself. I asked him if he could set some guidelines for the month, just to help me feel less anxious -- say, not drinking for 3 weeks and then drinking for 1, or drinking only on the weekends, or drinking M/W/F only, or whatever. He got frustrated & said that he felt like I was trying to control him. Which, I suppose I am. He thinks he's made the point that he's serious about working on his drinking by quitting for a month and committing to cutting down significantly this month. I feel like unless I know what "cutting down significantly" means, I'll be anxiously looking for signs that his drinking is on the uptick again. I don't want to tell him how much to drink; I want HIM to tell ME how much he's going to drink. But this makes him feel controlled and manipulated by me. And it makes me feel alone, and crazy.

I saw that study that made the rounds recently about how couples with different drinking habits are more likely to divorce & I was depressed all day. We have a really wonderful relationship in every other way -- this is the only thing that we seem somehow unable to communicate about. Advice? Techniques? Do I just need to completely ignore his drinking until it creates an actual, unavoidable problem (like it did in January)? If so, how can I train myself out of the monitoring habit? Or is there another way of dealing with this that we haven't come up with yet?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (57 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your boyfriend regularly gets drunk, recently did something atrocious while drunk, and has a health issue where his doctor has advised him to stop? He is an alcoholic. He's not going to stop this unless he realizes this and seriously stops drinking. You cannot fix this. And while he may have many other wonderful qualities, I don't think this relationship will work as long as alcohol is his first priority.
posted by florencetnoa at 11:19 AM on February 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


If a person has a serious drinking problem, quitting "for a month" is totally useless. All it does is help them persuade themselves that they are fine because, hey, I can quit for a month. And then go straight back to binge drinking.....


I know this because I did it myself.
posted by thelonius at 11:19 AM on February 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Do I just need to completely ignore his drinking until it creates an actual, unavoidable problem (like it did in January)? If so, how can I train myself out of the monitoring habit?

Don't do this. It is really not healthy, and you know it.

If you are not comfortable with his drinking habits, take some time off from the relationship. He will or will not change.
posted by little_c at 11:20 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


He clearly has trouble stopping himself from over drinking once he starts, so why would you agree to sit down and split a bottle of wine with him if you hate his drinking? I'm not sure if you are partly hoping he'll prove himself to have more self control then you fear he does, or if you are in denial about it. He can not have a night of moderate drinking. He just can't.

If he refuses to address this, there's really nothing you can do to force him to. It's not your responsibility to count his drinks and monitor his alcohol intake. You are not responsible for his drinking.

You may benefit from attending Al-Anon.
posted by Dynex at 11:20 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you hope to have children someday, this should be a deal breaker; you cannot have kids with someone who drinks this much.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:21 AM on February 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


"Do I just need to completely ignore his drinking until it creates an actual, unavoidable problem (like it did in January)?"

You mean, until it creates ANOTHER actual, unavoidable problem.

Your boyfriend has issues with alcohol, and doesn't see the problem yet. He's an alcoholic. If you don't want to spend your life with an alcoholic, get out now. He has to be committed to being sober for his own sake; your monitoring is just stressing you out.

If you aren't ready to get out now, I would strongly recommend finding an Al-Anon meeting for yourself. You need to learn how to deal with his alcoholism on your own terms.

Please be kind to yourself; being tied to someone with substance abuse issues is never peaches and cream.
posted by tigerjade at 11:21 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


This guy has a serious problem. Alarm bells were going off for me throughout your entire post, particularly the inability to just have one or two drinks, the quitting for a month and then a specific plan to drink for three days (!!), the doctor telling him to quit immediately and him just not doing it... you know he has a problem or you wouldn't have written this post.

You don't have to ignore anything you're uncomfortable with. I would personally not be comfortable in a relationship with this person. Until he stops, completely, you are never going to get to be with the person you actually want to be with - that is, the person he was during that month off from the booze. You're holding on to him hoping that he will become that person full-time, but the odds are not good that he will. He's trying to rationalize his drinking as okay in a hundred different ways and it's clearly not working. His situation is unhealthy and untenable, and by extension, so is yours. Your life is going to be filled with confusion, hurt, loneliness, and periodic chaos if you stay in this relationship.

Al-Anon can help you get clarity on this, both on the reality of his drinking and what you have the power to change and not change.
posted by something something at 11:24 AM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think he needs to have a "road to Damascus" moment about this, and in some ways, so do you. He needs to realize that his drinking is a problem for his partner. You need to recognize that your feelings about this are not going to change. So, either he's going to cut back or your relationship is going to be miserable.

This is not to make a moral judgment about what specific quantities of drinking are acceptable, or at what ages, or on what occasions, but simply recognizing that the two people in the relationship have wildly differing views as to what a healthy relationship with alcohol is. It seems unlikely in the extreme that you are going to one day decide drinking to the amount he does is perfectly fine with you, so either he needs to cut back or you both need to move on.

You can't "not be anxious" about it any more than you could not be anxious about him riding a motorcyle on the highway with no helmet.

I'm not a believer in ultimatums in a relationship, but this may be one of those times where you have little option.
posted by modernnomad at 11:26 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Al-Anon for you, so you can understand and process what your eyes and gut are telling you.

This isn't a good foundation for a relationship. Hence, this is not good for you.

Were I you, I'd suggest a breakup. This is a compatibility issue. You're not comfortable with his drinking and there's no way you ever will be.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:33 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't change anyone but yourself, you can only support people in battles they've chosen to fight. Until he decides, for himself, that he's done, his drinking will continue.

Can you live with him, as is he is now, with the assumption that he will continue drinking this much much? I don't think so, from the sound of it, and I don't think that's being unreasonable.

The only way of dealing with this is to tell him honestly that this is not a tenable situation, and ask him how, in quantifiable terms (not vague ones) what "less drinking" is for him, and how that squares with the fact that so far he has been unable to restrain himself once he starts drinking. He needs help you cannot provide. If he doesn't recognize this, then you need to step away before this gets worse. Much worse.
posted by canine epigram at 11:33 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and he has a health condition that means he probably shouldn't be drinking. People with this health condition do drink all the time, though, so I'm not sure how big a deal it is -- but the last time he saw his doctor, he [doctor] said that Boyfriend should stop drinking tomorrow if possible. Boyfriend said he'd cut down.

This is a really big deal.

People with diabetes eat sugar (and other things they shouldn't eat) all the time. Does that mean it's okay for a Type II diabetic to have a slice of cake? No. I know asthmatics that smoke. Is a smoking asthmatic a fucking idiot? Yes.

If your boyfriend is drinking at the expense of his health, that's a serious problem. I have a pretty liberal attitude toward drinking, but when your doctor tells you to quit and you won't/can't, that's a problem.

That said, he never turned mean or nasty when drunk -- he remained the same thoughtful, gentle, supportive guy; just got a little slurrier, and a little more bleary-eyed.

Oh, well at least he's a nice alcoholic.

When he's single, he drinks a lot because he's sad

Yikes.

It's been thrown around a lot that letters to advice columns that start with a wonderful boyfriend reveal a really not-so-wonderful boyfriend. You say that you have a super awesome relationship, but you've only been dating for a year, he's an alcoholic, and you don't sound happy.

I'm not sure if there's a way to work this out, but seriously, think about why you are clinging to this relationship. From an outside perspective, it doesn't sound great. Are you afraid to be alone? Were your previous relationships really terrible and something less terrible seems really great in comparison?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


If you are not compatible with his drinking lifestyle then you should gracefully exit and leave him to it.

He is not drinking because it's fun and he's just a party type brotastic dude. Nope.
Drinking is his number one hobby (priority) during good times, sad times, alone times, free time he could be spending with you, etc. It is what he looks forward to.

Lovingly point this out to him. If he says anything other than "oh, holy shit, you are right, I love you and I will work the rest of my life to fix this" then run.
posted by skrozidile at 11:36 AM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also, anon, even if you don't go to Al-Anon I encourage you to talk about this with someone close to you, whether a friend or family member - just someone you can trust and who will give you honest feedback. My mom spent a lot of years with an alcoholic that everyone thought was the greatest guy in the world, rationalizing his periodic horrible behavior because he was a nice person in other ways and, like your boyfriend, was never a mean or violent drunk. It wasn't until she finally opened up about it that she really came to understand she had other options than staying with someone who was dysfunctional emotionally in every major way. Please feel free to memail me, as well.
posted by something something at 11:39 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think maybe the whole "Look, I can go one month without drinking--I'm totally not an alcoholic" has (understandably) thrown you off. It can be much easier to abstain entirely than drink moderately. It bears repeating that one of the stereotypes about alcoholism is that "you can never have just one." It sounds like your boyfriend is an alcoholic and doesn't want to admit it.

If you have to set a timetable for when you can drink and when you can't (3 weeks on, 1 off, etc.) that is a problem.

I'm sorry, but I believe that unless your boyfriend actually addresses this problem, your relationship is going to continue to suffer.
posted by dysh at 11:42 AM on February 13, 2013


I would also suggest Al-Anon, but I know it can be super hard to get there, so here's a freebie:
Remember that you do not cause his drinking; you can't control it; and you can't cure it.
These things are not in your power.

Your post -- especially your anxiety about his drinking -- set off all sorts of warning bells for me. I have been there. (Reader, I married her. And then left her when nothing got better.) It is not great. One of the most helpful things about Al-Anon is finding that other people have been in your situation and have evolved the same responses and the same attempts to control the situation as you have. You can go from feeling like no one has a clue what's going on to being in a roomful of people who know exactly what you're dealing with. And whether the boyfriend stops drinking or not and whether you leave him or not, feeling sane about it is a great gift you can give yourself.

Please feel free to MeMail me if you need an ear.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:43 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Please go to Al-Anon. When they ask if there are any newcomers, please raise your hand. Share a little. If you don't like the first meeting, try another. Try a few. They're all different, the vibes are different, the people are different. It could end up being really helpful for you.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:43 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like unless I know what "cutting down significantly" means, I'll be anxiously looking for signs that his drinking is on the uptick again. I don't want to tell him how much to drink; I want HIM to tell ME how much he's going to drink. But this makes him feel controlled and manipulated by me. And it makes me feel alone, and crazy.

He's an alcoholic. I'm sorry. He's going to continue to choose alcohol over you and there's nothing you can do about it.

I was in this relationship. We broke up, and it was fucking awful, but now I'm in therapy and starting to feel better. I suggest the same for you.
posted by justjess at 11:53 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


He's an alcoholic. I'm sorry. It is true you cannot control or change it.
Is he drinking and driving? If so, that is even more serious.

Al-Anon was a lifesaver for me. Please check them out if you can.
posted by pointystick at 11:54 AM on February 13, 2013


Yeah, just to add another voice to the chorus, he seems to me to have a very real drinking problem, and I say that as someone who very much enjoys alcohol. It's troubling that he drank a bottle and a half of wine and then some whiskey, but it's more troubling that all that booze wasn't even enough to get him wasted. A tolerance like that suggests a truly heroic level of regular consumption, unless he's very, very large.

Look, here's the thing. People who have healthy relationships with alcohol don't take a month off from drinking. That's something that only people who drink too much do. To him, the fact that he succeeded is proof that he has his drinking under control. In reality, the very fact that he tried to do it in the first place indicates that he does not.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:00 PM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think you should dump his ass instead of going to a 12-step support group (Al-Anon) yourself. Find someone to date who isn't a drunk.
posted by thelonius at 12:06 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I'm worried you might be reading this and going "Oh, no, Al-Anon, ew." For whatever reason. Not a fan of religion. Not a fan of support groups. None that are convenient to you. Whatever.

And so I'd like to continue that recommendation, but also say: Go once. You may not ever go back. Or you may go to a different group, if that one has a vibe that's not for you. But try to commit to going once. Al-Anon as an ongoing thing is not for me; but the couple of times I went were really eye-opening, and really helpful, and for all that I dragged my feet I'm so glad I went. It helped me to get some clarity and to feel so much less alone in what I was going through.

You also sound like you're on the verge of a nasty codependency spiral. I have been there, too. You do not want to be in the position of Enforcer of the Arbitrary Rules Set By The Alcoholic About His Drinking - not only can you not do it, because no one could do it. But you will likely find it actively harmful and upsetting to you to be in that position. If you want to try to make this work, you need support and you need to do some reading on codependency and detachment to figure out how to set some boundaries to keep yourself healthy and safe.

All of that said: My situation is my situation. In your situation, just one year in? With a boyfriend who was not admitting his problems and worse, blaming you and calling you controlling? I would not stay. And I would encourage a friend in that situation to break it off now. And I would encourage you to break it off. And then still go to Al-Anon. Once. Because you may be left with some lingering questions/issues around alcohol and relationships that you'll need to work through in a supportive environment.

But whatever you do - take care of you, first and foremost.
posted by Stacey at 12:09 PM on February 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think you should dump his ass instead of going to a 12-step support group
Or you can do both.

People who have healthy relationships with alcohol don't take a month off from drinking. That's something that only people who drink too much do.
I think this is a little much, I know people who do a month without alcohol to break up their habits around it, the same way they do a month without meat or caffeine. I don't think the OPs boyfriend sounds like one of them however.
posted by jacalata at 12:15 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems like his drinking is taking up an enormous amount of space in your head- endless conversations about his drinking, how much he had yesterday, is having today, his plans to drink tomorrow, is he going to drink this month, etc. His drinking certainly sounds unhealthy for him- but geez, look at what it's doing to you.

You need to detach yourself from his choices in this matter- I would definitely check out Al-Anon.
posted by aviatrix at 12:16 PM on February 13, 2013


Every single person I know with a drinking problem has done the "quit for a month" thing. It's kind of a red flag in my mind now.

I hope it's not the case, but based on the trajectory of this question I think you will start to not like yourself on the road to not respecting him. Already this issue makes you feel "crazy", "controlling", "manipulative", and "alone."
posted by Katine at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your boyfriend is wonderful when he's not drinking? This boyfriend is fictional. He doesn't exist, he's a fairytale, he's a figment of your imagination. I'm sorry and I'm not kidding - your boyfriend is an alcoholic. As long as he is an alcoholic, drinking will always, always be central to who he is, foremost in his priorities, and the third wheel in your relationship.

My father was an alcoholic, and at his very worst moments he'd retort, "I can stop ANYTIME I want to!" Then he would stop for maybe a week, smugly rub it in our faces, and resume drinking. Once he'd done that a few times, he didn't even need to stop anymore - he'd just refer to the last time that he took a break from drinking and maintain that he was still in complete control.

You don't want this future for yourself or your children, believe me. Even a "nice" drunk father is not a capable or fit parent.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:18 PM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do I just need to completely ignore his drinking until it creates an actual, unavoidable problem (like it did in January)?

Being unhappy in your relationship is an actual problem. Not unavoidable, however.

If so, how can I train myself out of the monitoring habit?

By not becoming his mother or his warden. He's an adult. If he can't stop drinking, and you're unhappy with his drinking, you're at an impasse. As soon as one person starts monitoring, the other person starts hiding. You don't want to go there.

Or is there another way of dealing with this that we haven't come up with yet?

Separately.
posted by headnsouth at 12:18 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I lived through this. In many ways, I remain inexorably bound to the process of living through it -- the constant wheedling and bargaining, the claims of quitting followed by the slow (or fast) ratcheting right back up, the endless accusations that I was being controlling/bitchy/manipulative if I dared bring up the fact that getting drunk every day and blacking out every weekend might not be the best course of action, anxiously/nervously checking for any signs of increased/disproportionate intoxication, counting bottles/measuring liquid levels therein, finally deciding to not bring it up at all so as to not provoke yet another pointless argument, etc.

So if I sound angry here, OP, I am only angry on your behalf. Your boyfriend has a drinking problem and it sucks but it is not your fault and it is not under your control at all. At all. At this point, it may not even be under his control. I'm sorry. First and foremost -- you're not being crazy. The situation you are in is most assuredly crazy-making, but you're not being crazy.

Your boyfriend:
* Regularly drinks alone (not that this is DTMFA material in and of itself, but it does mean he can and will put away any amount of booze he'd like without anyone in the world knowing how much)
* Regularly drinks most days of the week
* Regularly lies about his drinking -- he says he doesn't like doing it, but he still does it, right? so he's lying to you or himself (or both)
* Regularly eschews both professional medical advice and your well-reasoned pleas in order to continue a habit he disingenuously claims to dislike
* Regularly sets very easy to accomplish goals for himself w/r/t alcohol (not drinking for a month? a month?! talk about amateur hour), then claims an unimpeachable moral high ground when he manages to meet these gallingly low expectations

You:
* Regularly make excuses for your boyfriend's drinking/drunken behavior
* Regularly monitor his alcohol consumption in hopes that it will somehow manage to align with your ideal amount
* Regularly allow him to overstep the clearly-defined boundaries of the type of behavior you have a right to expect from your partner
* Guilt-trip yourself about all of this because your boyfriend regularly makes you feel as though your boundaries and expectations are inherently unreasonable
* Are clearly and understandably uncomfortable with the way things are right now
* Have fully internalized/normalized the "walk on eggshells and tiptoe around the drinking problem" part of living with an alcoholic
* Need to do something about this by yourself, for yourself -- preferably before his drinking problem progresses any further, because as it stands, your boyfriend has shown himself to be unwilling to own his shit and fix it himself

Do I just need to completely ignore his drinking until it creates an actual, unavoidable problem (like it did in January)?
NO. No! This is like saying, "I have this infected wound on my leg, and it's pretty big, but it only hurts when I press on it. Will the wound go away if I stop pressing on it?" or "Should I see a doctor now, or should I wait until after gangrene has set in?"

If so, how can I train myself out of the monitoring habit?
Please, please do not do this. Your monitoring habit is a little part of your subconscious self-preservation made manifest; it has realized something is wrong here, and recognizes the drinking as something you are likely to need to keep an eye on for your own benefit. It is, for all intents and purposes, a survival mechanism; it is a tiny klaxon alerting the brain-troops that danger is active and/or imminent. The actual monitoring/counting itself is useless, as you have repeatedly learned, but you should not feel pressured to cede ground on this issue.

Or is there another way of dealing with this that we haven't come up with yet?
The way you say your boyfriend behaves when drunk -- gentle, supportive, thoughtful -- does not align with the behavior with which you are living on a daily basis. He is flat-out ignoring your understandable discomfort with his boundary-pushing, manipulative, dishonest behavior. Rather than addressing it in any meaningful way, as both his partner and his doctor have reasonably and repeatedly asked him to do, he is choosing to ignore it all in favor of... wait for it... drinking more alcohol! That is the bottom line. Booze takes precedence over everything else in his life, including you, his health, your relationship, etc. Sit with that for a moment. Can you handle it?

Honestly, my only real advice is to a) stop drinking with him, period, b) try to detach from his drinking as much as you can, and c) get thee to Al-Anon, ASAP, so you can see how situations like this can and do end up progressing. Ignore all the prayer garbage and listen to stories from the partners, friends, and families of people who have chosen the drink over all else. It will be enlightening, instructive, and scary as hell. Good luck.
posted by divined by radio at 12:20 PM on February 13, 2013 [32 favorites]


I saw that study that made the rounds recently about how couples with different drinking habits

See, this is a bit different than that. Different drinking habits - even when both sets of habits are healthy - can cause conflict, but your boyfriend is an alcoholic.

Alcoholism isn't necessarily about how much or how often a person drinks. It's about what happens when they drink, and their relationship with alcohol. It's possible to drink every day for a year and not be an alcoholic. It's possible to drink once that whole year (or not at all) and be an alcoholic. But your boyfriend is an alcoholic. Here are some huge blaring klaxons:

the last time he saw his doctor, he [doctor] said that Boyfriend should stop drinking tomorrow if possible. Boyfriend said he'd cut down.

Huge warning. Huge. A doctor said his health is at risk and he said he'd cut down (note: "I'll cut down" is code for "I will not alter my drinking habits in any way, or will drink a little less for a short while") and didn't.

He'll say he doesn't like doing it, doesn't like how it makes him feel, etc.

If you're drinking, but not having fun, but you're still drinking, you have a giant problem.

Then the month was up, and he told me he had plans for 3 days of drinking and then he'd evaluate what he'd do for the next month. He got drunk alone on one night, and had plans to drink with me the next night. It was a moderate disaster; I thought we were going to split a bottle of wine, but he wanted to drink that bottle of wine + another half-full bottle of wine I had + some whiskey. He didn't get wasted, but he was drunker than me. I was sad that we couldn't have a night of moderate drinking; he said he thought that I knew that he liked to get drunk when he drank, and he thought I was being controlling/manipulative for seeming disappointed that he wanted to drink more; after all, he'd spent the whole month not drinking at all!

He's bargaining with alcohol, and he's saying you're being controlling for seeming - not being, but seeming - disappointed. If you have to bargain, you're fucked.

After he behaved moderately atrociously back in January (he was depressed & was drinking kind of a lot then)

Again: Alcoholism is in part about what happens when you drink. If he does shitty things when he drinks, he shouldn't be drinking. You know this. He knows this. He won't stop.

Let me tell you a story.

A long time ago, I was sort of in the first blush of the new freedom to drink. I was quite young, but legal age (or close to it). I'd go to parties, drink, whatever. At some point, I realized that I was drinking but I was not having fun. I didn't know why, I thought maybe it was because of where I was in my life, but I knew this was bad, so I stopped drinking.

I stopped for a couple years. Years. And I didn't miss it. I noticed something I didn't like, I thought it might lead somewhere bad if given the chance, so I stopped. A few years later, I was at a party and I felt like I was in a different place in my life, I was overall happier and healthier, so maybe I'd have a couple beers and see if it was fun again. And if it wasn't, then okay, I thought, I guess I just can't be drinking. No huge loss.

It was fun, and it's been fun since then, and I've been keeping an eye out for unhealthy patterns and found none.

I stopped drinking for years, with no set date to start again, and I didn't miss it.

Your boyfriend stopped drinking (as far as you know) for a month, and made plans for the month's end. He was counting the minutes until he could drink again.

You can't fix this. You can't help him with it if he doesn't want help. I know you're really likely to disagree with that, but please at least consider the advice you're getting in this thread. If I were in your situation, I'd leave. This whole train is headed for shitsville, you might as well not be a passenger on it when it gets there.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:27 PM on February 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


He's going to continue to choose alcohol over you and there's nothing you can do about it.

I'll nth the "this guy has a serious alcohol problem and you can't just pretend it's not there" line, but I will also add that these claims that he's on a sure and certain path to Leaving Las Vegas are overstatements. People can and do quit drinking. I have a family member whose drinking was a lot like your boyfriend's (worse, actually) for decades and he's been sober now also for decades.

Of course, you'd be taking a huge risk staying with him even if he says all the right things (and that goes double, of course, if you think about planning a family some time). It might definitely be the prudent thing to just quit. But it's not actually impossible that he could straighten out and kick this thing.
posted by yoink at 12:37 PM on February 13, 2013


I think there may be more fundamental problems beneath the drinking and anxiety: "When he's single, he drinks a lot because he's sad...". Two big red flags right there: (1) if being single makes him sad, that means that's he's going to be making his partner (you) responsible for his happiness. So if he starts to feel unhappy in his life, that's going to be your fault (in his mind). There are an infinite number of ways that can go sour. (2) When he's sad, his way of dealing with that is to drink. Alcohol is a lousy solution for sadness. And it also seems that when he's happy, his way of dealing with that is to drink. Single and sad? Drink! In a great relationship and happy? Drink! That's what alcoholism looks like.

I was married to a guy like this for 11 years. It never, ever got any better, just more miserable. Ending it and walking away was the saddest, hardest thing I ever did, and also the best. I just wish I had had the strength and courage to do it after one year instead of eleven.
posted by Corvid at 12:42 PM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why are you doubting yourself? This guy has a serious problem. You aren't crazy, controlling or manipulative and it's abusive of him to accuse you of that and gaslight you. Your boyfriend is an alcoholic. Just leave him. If you stay, you are going to start believing you are crazy and abnormal because its convenient for him to make you think you are when he's got a serious issue.

This guy is going to crater your sense of self if you don't get out of the relationship.
posted by discopolo at 12:49 PM on February 13, 2013


I'm certainly no kind of expert, and my own situation was much different from your boyfriend's, but I will tell you that when my wife expressed reservations about my drinking patterns a few years ago and explained what she would and would not accept I listened to her and immediately changed my behaviour because there was no damn way I was going to put drinking above her on my list of priorities.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:51 PM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


On day 3, he had plans to drink with friends, but they fizzled;

Just want to say something about this. When I was in a relationship with... someone who really liked drinking (to me figuring out whether or not the "alcoholic" label could be applied was a distraction from the point) at first he would go out with his good, lifelong friends to drink. But they started getting older, and slowing down, and really were not interested in it anymore like he was. I thought this would be a good thing, but instead he got these NEW friends, all of whom were much younger than he was and whose entire lives were centered around drinking and doing drugs. So then what I started hearing was "you just don't like my friends! You never make the effort to get to know my friends!"

As long as he really, really likes drinking and drinking is something he still looks forward to doing with anticipation and relief, I think these problems will only keep getting worse and worse, regardless of whether you "monitor" or not.
posted by cairdeas at 12:52 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


All he did by going off of alcohol for a month was build up the anticipation of how great it would be once he got to drink again. He was like Pavlov's dog, drooling in anticipation of that ringing dinner bell. He locked into that comforting thought of having huge amounts of alcohol to make up for all the time he'd lost, and fantasized about what he'd binge on, and with whom. He did it this way because limiting himself each night was too hard a route. Alcohol is like potato chips; he really cannot stop at just one.

What motivates your boyfriend to start drinking in the first place if each time he does he binges until he's sick? What does he get out of alcohol that makes all of that drama worth it? I'd ask him that. I suspect from his drinking patterns that he associates drinking with happy, social fun times. He drinks when alone and depressed because he wishes he was with his friends, and he drinks with his friends because drinking = being social. That's why during the month he didn't drink he peppered the conversations with explanations of how he was just taking a month off, was going to start back up again soon, etc.

My Dad was like this as a young man, and he ended up quitting cold turkey when he realized it. It was tough for him, because he really was a "social drinker", and quitting meant that he couldn't spend any time with his old buddies. Drinking was what they did when they were together; all the other activities centered around the availability of alcohol. They would keep at him to have "Just one little drink, what's the harm?" and he was smart enough to realize he couldn't do that.

Thirty-some odd years later, my Dad is fine with anyone drinking around him, because he has completely emotionally divorced himself from drinking. He has other interests to pass the time. It's interesting that not only have some of his old friends come back into his life, also having given up alcohol entirely, but that when they talk about those days they will laugh about how they didn't even particularly like the taste of alcohol! Back then, socializing = drinking, and they didn't know how to buck that and just say nope, not going to do it. It takes some maturity to get to that point.

Your boyfriend needs to grow up and have this revelation, too. He is an alcoholic, and he has to stop drinking, period.

I'm sorry at how blunt that sounds, but he already has a health issue that drinking could exacerbate. I don't know about you, but my doctor has never said to me, "You need to stop doing this NOW." That's serious stuff. If he did, I'd be scared, and you'd bet I'd listen! I'd ask for help or advice if it was something I was worried I couldn't do, too.

Your boyfriend's doctor said stop drinking NOW to him, though, and he hasn't stopped. There's no way he can rationalize that away, not even with the "But I took a month off!" The binge afterward might have been even worse for his health than drinking in moderation the whole month.

He has to quit, period.

He's not going to want to hear that. Quitting is TOUGH. It is crazy how many former alcoholics become chain smokers and vice versa. A lot of people just end up trading one addiction for the other. He is going to have to go the trite but true one day at a time rather than looking at the big picture, because he will feel depressed and hopeless if he concentrates on Life Without Alcohol.

Can you do that, too? Quit with him, and not drink at all yourself, not even a glass of wine (do not let him tell you that he is okay with you drinking, because he is in denial about his own limits). Can you both stay away from your friends, or better yet get them to "go dry" occasionally with you, so your boyfriend stops associating having fun with alcohol? This should not be such a hardship for those who genuinely care about your boyfriend's well-being.

I'd also suggest, even though it's overdone in AskMe, some counseling for the two of you, because you really have to be a team throughout this, and that means understanding how your backgrounds affect the way the two of you interact.

If your boyfriend won't agree to stop drinking today, right now, for the sake of his health and the health of the relationship, walk away now. It's only been a year. It will not get better down the line, I promise you.
posted by misha at 12:57 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are not being crazy. At all. I cannot stress this enough. If anything, you are minimizing the situation and its effect on you. I advise you to get out of this relationship and give this man space get the help he needs (it will be on his own timeline, it will take awhile). It doesn't mean you are writing him off forever or ruling out the possibility of someday having some kind of relationship with him.

Reading your question reminds me of my ex, so very much. The way you are thinking and feeling about this mirrors my experience. I wish I would have gotten out after a year. It is painful to be in a relationship with an alcoholic and you really don't see it until you are out of the relationship. You and your needs will never come first. Ever. I can't overstate this enough. Please memail me if you'd like some support...please do.

Please listen to those of us who have been there.
posted by retrofitted at 1:03 PM on February 13, 2013


Trust yourself. You are anxious because this is a bad situation. Get out before you get too used to it.
posted by pizzazz at 1:05 PM on February 13, 2013


Monitoring him is most likely a way to manage your own anxiety over his unpredictable behavior. It's not controlling or manipulative and you're not crazy. You have observed his behavior and have noticed that drinking leads to certain, undesirable outcomes and that is that. In fact, anxiety over a partner's drinking is pretty common in these situations. Never second guess your feelings.

I really, honestly have no empathy for problem drinkers (I don't know what constitutes an alcoholic) but I have had too much sympathy in the past. I don't know anyone who is OKAY with being around someone who is drunk on a daily basis, but you shouldn't ALLOW yourself to meet the threshold that many people do by ignoring it or condoning it: that is, to the point where his drinking will cause you to resent him or outright hate him.

Give him an ultimatum. Demand he stop drinking FOR YOU and your relationship. Recommend that you see a therapist together or attend an AA meeting together. Offer to set it up. Actually if it were me I'd demand HE set it up as a gesture of good faith. If he chooses alcohol over you then you're better off in the long run because most likely he chooses alcohol over EVERYTHING. The anxiety will get worse, it will affect your relationship, and depending on whether he uses drinking to cope with traumatic/disappointing life events (which you've indicated he does) it may end in verbal or physical abuse.
posted by Young Kullervo at 1:05 PM on February 13, 2013


This is kind of heartbreaking to read.

I was prepared to see at least some replies telling you his drinking is normal and OK, and I'm surprised not to see any at all. If there's any culture in which this level of drinking is normal, nobody here is speaking from that position.

I was also expecting to say that if you find his level of drinking really distasteful and anxiety-provoking, then it doesn't really matter whether he has a problem or not, because he has a right to drink and you have a right to not like it, and it's my belief that incompatible drinking styles = fundamental relationship incompatibility. That's just my opinion, though, based on my personal set of dealbreakers.

Then I see you asking a bunch of questions about what you can do and how this is going to turn out and whether you're wrong to feel as you do, and my heart sort of breaks. I feel like I was born knowing two things: 1) it's a hard, hard thing for an alcoholic to stop drinking; they have to make it their life's work. 2) there is no part of this work that you can do for them.

I remember visiting a family with an alcoholic father and a grown son coming to visit. The mother had to go away unexpectedly; the son went out on a day trip, and I was left alone in the company of the father. The poor man couldn't even make a ham sandwich - requiring him to slice a bread roll in half and put ham in between - without stopping to take a drink. When it was time for the son to go back home, he and the mother reassured themselves that the son's visit had induced the father to cut back on his drinking. This is the kind of monitoring and wishful thinking they must have been engaging in all the time. They seemed to have lived their whole lives without ever grasping that there was nothing they could do about his addiction. It's just so sad to think about.

Even if your bf didn't have a problem, there wouldn't be anything you could do to affect his drinking, because it's something he's doing, not something you're doing. And since your bf does seem to have a problem, there's nothing you can do about it to the power of 100.

There's him, and there's you. Focus on the one of these two people you can take care of.
posted by tel3path at 1:12 PM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


None of us can tell you whether or not he's an alcoholic, no matter how well-meaning those answers may be. Some people like to drink. Some people don't. Some people drink too much. Some people are alcoholics. You can only control what you do. If your boyfriend's drinking makes you uncomfortable, once you've made that clear to him you can only manage your own actions:

1. leave him
2. don't be around him when he's drinking
3. stay & do nothing

That's it. Those are your options.

Please do not give him an ultimatum unless you are prepared to see it through. Forcing him to not drink on certain days, no drinking during the week, making him go to AA meetings with you, that's all useless stuff and will make the situation between you worse. This is his thing to deal with, not yours.

Good luck!
posted by lyssabee at 1:18 PM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was you. I couldn't bring myself to leave him even though I knew I had to. He called me from another state saying he moved and ... I felt so relieved. It was finally done. I told my friends and family (after hiding his drinking from them because I was embarrassed and knew they would dislike him if they knew the truth) what had been going on and I was amazed by how much support I got. After we broke up I started therapy with someone familiar with addiction. I learned so, so much. I am single now, working on myself, and so, so much happier. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, but only if you leave him. I suspect you know you need to leave him, but are scared to. Don't be. Your life will be better.

Bottom line, you know this man has deep emotional issues. The drinking is the tip of the iceberg. And as someone who has an addict father, please don't ever have a baby with this man.
posted by saltwater at 1:42 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


lyssabee, I don't know if you're right, I mean, I've never met the man but based on the information anon has posted, their boyfriend is probably an alcoholic.

Having spent some up-close time with an alcoholic, honestly, anon, my advice would be to break away from this relationship. Some alcoholics do get sober, and your boyfriend maybe could, but it doesn't sound like that's something he wants to do right now. I know you love him and you're probably scared for him but the thing is - you can't make him fix this, he has to want to do it himself.

To answer your question: I don't think there's a healthy way of being in a relationship with a currently-drinking alcoholic, and if you do decide to stay, definitely seek out a support group or therapy or something for yourself because you need to know you're not crazy and not alone.
posted by SoftRain at 1:54 PM on February 13, 2013


I lived through this. In many ways, I remain inexorably bound to the process of living through it -- the constant wheedling and bargaining, the claims of quitting followed by the slow (or fast) ratcheting right back up, the endless accusations that I was being controlling/bitchy/manipulative if I dared bring up the fact that getting drunk every day and blacking out every weekend might not be the best course of action, anxiously/nervously checking for any signs of increased/disproportionate intoxication, counting bottles/measuring liquid levels therein, finally deciding to not bring it up at all so as to not provoke yet another pointless argument, etc.

So if I sound angry here, OP, I am only angry on your behalf.


Me too. Once you've been on the inside of this situation you realize how depressingly similar all of these "I am in a relationship with someone who likes alcohol and it's affecting our otherwise terrific relationship; how can I be more understanding and help them?" questions are.

Your boyfriend does not seem to be able to make rational choices about his relationship with alcohol and seems to have a problem with alcohol. You and he fight about alcohol and he makes promises that he does not keep, because of alcohol. He claims to want to make changes that he does not make, because of alcohol. Basically you have a crappy boyfriend with (what you feel is) a good excuse. Except really his excuse is not that good. Someone who is bad at being your boyfriend, and bad at taking care of himself because of alcohol is actually just bad at being your boyfriend and bad at taking care of himself. You're not unreasonably anxious, you're in a relationship with someone treating you poorly who basically has another mistress who he lies to you about and says he wants to get rid of and then doesn't.

This story is so sadly typical. You're already at the unavoidable problem stage, you just keep moving the goalposts for your own reasons to make yourself feel like you aren't. I'd go read up on Al-Anon or just go to an AA meeting or two. Full of well-meaning people who can't keep it together. I would not try to make this work another minute, because you have a chance to build your own life without this nonsense.
posted by jessamyn at 2:18 PM on February 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


He either A) needs to admit that he's an alcoholic. Get serious about quitting for good, forever. Like join AA, or SMART recovery, start seeing a therapist, find an online support group or do something that shows he is seriously for serious about quitting. For good. Forever.

Or B) You need to leave him NOW.
posted by hannahelastic at 2:22 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As others have said, he's an alcoholic. So do not beat yourself up over monitoring him. In my experience of having been in a relationship with an alcoholic, they can be manipulative, emotionally abusive, self-interested liars. "You think I'm a drunk, don't you!" etc.

Also, you do not have 'different drinking habits.' You enjoy a drink, and he abuses alcohol. They're different things.

So you need to take care of yourself and be strong. You have to realise that you have every right to be concerned, that he should be grateful that you are concerned (he's probably not). Then you should think about extricating yourself. Alcoholics never stop being alcoholics; they may stop drinking, but that's not the same thing. Best of luck to you.
posted by carter at 3:00 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I of course agree with everyone above that he has a problem.

I read somewhere once that you don't need 'rules' (like I won't drink before 5, or I will not drink for a month, or I will just get drunk for three days (?!)) unless you have a problem. That kind of stuck with me. It's his problem, it's serious and you get to decide whether you want it to be your problem as well. Having dated an alcoholic (high functioning etc), I would advise against this. His first priority is NEVER going to be you until he (decides to, and sticks to it with outside support) stops drinking.

(And I wouldn't wait around for him to decide this as many people will be able to attest to, it might take years and many more than moderately atrocious things could happen before then.)
posted by bquarters at 3:05 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry. He is an alcoholic. There's very little, if anything, you can do to stop his drinking, and until he decides on his own to get better the problem will probably get worse and worse. Seconding the suggestion to seek out an Al-Anon meeting - meeting people with other stories can help you figure out what to do.

Also on preview - what hannahelastic said.
posted by walla at 3:07 PM on February 13, 2013


I read somewhere once that you don't need 'rules' (like I won't drink before 5, or I will not drink for a month, or I will just get drunk for three days (?!)) unless you have a problem.

Oh man, bquarters just perfectly articulated why I cringe when I hear someone announce that they are not going to drink for a set period of time and that will prove how they don't have problems with alcohol. I don't get cravings for alcohol but I get them for super unhealthy sweets, guess which of those two things has ever had rules on it in my life.
posted by cairdeas at 3:46 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have been in this relationship twice. Once it was as disastrous as everyone above has mentioned.

The other time, I was able to manage my anxiety and separate our relationship from his personal issues with alcohol.

Things that made it possible the second time around:

1) I didn't have a time table for the relationship. No strong pull to get married or have kids, both of which I wouldn't consider while he was still struggling with his relationship with alcohol.

2) I didn't think that he was bad person for dealing with this issue. My reticence for upping the commitment wasn't based on the fact that he wasn't good enough or not marriage material. It's similar to being young and in college. He was eventually going to hit rock bottom and need to turn things around. And recovery is such a transformative process, it would be unreasonable to think that he's in a place to make those sorts of long term commitments. The life he envisioned then could be vastly different than the life he'll envision in recovery.

3) I have enough experience with alcoholism, we were able to discuss my anxiety about his drinking without it being "You're doing it wrong". Likewise, his family has a history of substance abuse, so we could discuss where he thought the lines were, and where he stood in relation to those lines.

4) While I was sad that we lost so much time to him choosing to drink, we never picked fights about it. I would always explain that I was worried. And he would defend his choices, and do what he thought was best. Which was often not what I thought was best. But he never blamed me or said that I was controlling whenever I would suggest he switch to soda. So while the drinking affected our relationship, it wasn't quite a relationship problem. If we had gotten adversarial about the drinking (as you two are), I don't think it would have been sustainable.

It was about a year and a half before he finally got through the bargaining and decided to give up drinking. And honestly, it was kind of a sad moment for me, because I realized he was always going to struggle with it, in the exact same way that I struggle with my mental health issues. The person who needs to do the heavy lifting is the person least equipped to recognize and undertake that heavy lifting. And that fact is extremely hard on people close to them.

I don't mean for this to be a fairy tale, contradicting the responses above me. It is work. It is extremely hard work with only a year under your belt and no experience with mental health or substance abuse issues. For most folks, it's more than they would want to put into a relationship. If you want to fix the problem and move on, you're never going to have that and you should consider separating. But if you love him, flaws and all, and you can understand that this burden of his might get more manageable with time but will never go away, it's possible to manage your anxiety and make your relationship work.
posted by politikitty at 3:48 PM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


lyssabee: None of us can tell you whether or not he's an alcoholic, no matter how well-meaning those answers may be. Some people like to drink. Some people don't.

That's just not true. OP, there are specific criteria to determine this. These are 7 symptoms that, according to the DSMIV, are indicative of the most severe form of alcohol dependence, also known as alcoholism.

You should judge on the last year, so that's about the time you and your boyfriend have been dating. Ready?

Neglect of other Activities--This one wasn't addressed specifically, though you do mention that you did a lot more together when he wasn't drinking for that one month. Still, to be scrupulously fair, we'll score this as a No.
Excessive Use--excessive is defined only as consuming more alcohol than intended, over a longer period of time than intended. Yes. Your BF has done this several times (drinking more in certain relationships than he knew he should, the horrible January, drinking "to get drunk" rather than just sharing a bottle of wine, planning to drink for 3 days(!) and then quit for a month and failing on both of those resolutions).
Impaired control--Ongoing, unsuccessful efforts to cut down on alcohol consumption. Yes, obviously! This is why you are posting! Your boyfriend's use keeps "creeping up", even though he has indicated he's unhappy with his drinking as well and wants to change.
Persistence of Use--Using alcohol despite having a mental or physical condition exacerbated by it. Yes. Your boyfriend has a health issue where he shouldn't drink, his doctor told him to stop, he drinks when depressed, etc.
Large Amounts of Time Spent in Alcohol Related Activities--Yes. This one is pretty obvious. He drinks when he's alone, he drinks when he's sad, he drinks in relationships where heavy drinking is the norm, he drinks with these hard-hitting drinking friends of his.
Withdrawal--You don't mention any physical signs when he took that month off. I'll score this one as a No.
Tolerance--The need for increasing amounts of alcohol to get the same effects. This one is a judgment call, because his insistence that he drinks "to get drunk" sure sounds like him rationalizing needing more alcohol to me, but since he did quit for that one month, I'll go ahead and give it a No, to be totally fair.

Okay, so do you feel that this was an accurate assessment? Your BF, based just on what you've written here in your post, got 4 positive responses.

Breathing a sigh of relief because your boyfriend didn't meet all seven?

According to the DSM IV, just 3 positives are what it takes for a diagnosis of alcoholism.

There's also a screening test of 20 questions you might find helpful.
posted by misha at 3:49 PM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


apology for my second comment - that was knee-jerk and not helpful
posted by thelonius at 6:42 PM on February 13, 2013


Unless you are okay with it; he will never stop. He has no reason to because your essentially content.

To me, it doesn't sound like you are.

This is not a unreasonable request.

If he doesn't quiet then leave and don't look back (again unless your are okay with it)

Have a backup plan and save money. Cut your ties.

Good luck. (And I'm sorry you had to deal with this; I did too. He quit and is totally sober but the thought still lingers )
posted by Bun Surnt at 7:02 PM on February 13, 2013


I think everyone has covered the fact that your boyfriend is an alcoholic. I just want to stress this: drinking like that does not get sexier with age. He really doesn't sound close to rock bottom or wanting to change his own habits. I'm sorry to say that I don't see a future here. Move on before you're even more enmeshed and beating yourself up for his dependency.
posted by amanda at 7:41 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your post made me feel so much anguish I had to back away for a while. There is much I could say but I will try to be brief.

You should not continue this relationship--there is absolutely no hope for happiness here because this man is an alcoholic. It will only get worse; it never gets better unless the alcoholic chooses to stop drinking and pursues a diligent course of self-discovery and therapy. The alcoholic who drinks will wreck his (or her) own life and that of any person who joins with him (or her).

I know that alcoholics can be lovable, charming, sensitive, wonderful people. I do not blame you for trying to find a way to keep this love in your life. I did the same, ignorant of the danger, and can tell you the sad end of that path, as can so many others. Please pay attention to the advice you have received here and to the warnings in your own head. You can recover from one year -- please break it off now.

If you are not convinced, please read more about alcoholism and about what it is like being married to an alcoholic, and being the child of an alcoholic. Go to open AA meetings on your own just to hear what alcoholics say about their own lives, and go to Al-Anon to learn about relationships with alcoholics. You need a lot more information than you have now if you are still considering staying in this relationship.

Don't stay, don't marry him, don't have a child with him--alcoholism is a guarantee of wrecked relationships. It is so much easier to heed the warning signs than to spend years and years trying to make it work, only to have it end in divorce, death and the cruelest loss of all--the irreparable damage to your children.

MeMail me any time. I would gladly answer questions.
posted by Anitanola at 8:49 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Folks please direct answers towards the OP and answer the question she is asking, don't just argue with other commenters, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:54 PM on February 13, 2013


Just throwing this out there as well - there is a questionnaire that medical professionals use a a quick screen for alcoholism and your boyfriend gets a positive on that as well.

It's called the CAGE questionnaire:
- Have you ever had to Cut down on your drinking? (yes)
- Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? (yes)
- Have you ever felt Guilty or bad about your drinking? (yes)
- Have you ever needed to have an Eye-Opener to get rid of a hangover or steady your nerves in the morning? (I wasn't sure of the answer here, I guessed no)

You only need 2 of 4 of these to be positive to get a red flag for problem drinking. And anyone who tries to rationalize their CAGE questionnaire answers, in my opinion, gets an extra red flag (i.e. "well, I have had to have an eye-opener before but it was just that one time where there were those extenuating circumstances", etc)

Now of course everyone's already mentioned a number of concerning things in your post that already suggest your boyfriend's a "problem drinker", regardless of what this screening test says, but I did want to point out that this is another piece of proof, if you need one, that your concerns are valid.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:30 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I've posted elsewhere, my brother is an alcoholic and I could relate to many of the points you shared in your post. I'm not going to make the determination over the internet as to whether or not your boyfriend is an alcoholic; I will tell you that I can empathize with your discomfort over his use of alcohol.

As I've posted other times, a friend of mine (whose father is an alcoholic) once told me, "It's not their drinking that kills you; it's the hope." The hope that this time will be the time the person quits for good. The hope that the truly good person they are when they are sober will come home to stay. That's what makes dealing with this truly hard.

Many have suggested AA and AlAnon, and they're good suggestions. I prefer to deal with things alone or one-on-one, so I specifically went to a therapist to learn about how to create and enforce boundaries around this. I found it useful, especially to role-play scenarios with her ahead of time to become comfortable with enforcing those boundaries. Seeing a therapist would also give you a neutral third party to bounce your "Is this normal? Am I overreacting?" questions off of.

Right now, my brother is sober. He got his one year chip in July, and I couldn't have been more proud of him. But there's a fundamental part of our relationship that is broken and may always be broken. I love him, but he's not part of my inner circle anymore, and I don't trust him. Every day he could start drinking again, and go back to being an asshole. The difference is, this time he realizes it and knows how close he is to that ledge every day. I hope it sticks. I have no idea if it will. And I can't deal with that uncertainly and unknowing, so I keep my distance. And I hate it.

Boundaries are good, and I have them in my relationship with my husband too, but when I look at the boundaries I have with my brother - how immutable they are, how distant I have to be from him - compared to the boundaries I have with my husband (we're very close and my boundaries are easy for him to work with) - well, I'd have a hard time being in a romantic relationship that required such hard, distant boundaries. I'd rather be with someone who could fully be with me, instead of half with me and half in an alcohol haze.

I wish you the best of luck. Make the best decision you can, for you, and don't hesitate to ask for support from your close friends and family regardless of which way you decide to go. One of the things that helps alcohol issues to thrive is the secrecy and shame and hiding in the shadows. Cast the light, be truthful and open.
posted by RogueTech at 9:15 AM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I come from a culture where attitudes towards heavy drinking are significantly more relaxed than they are in the US. (I'm English) I hardly drink at all myself, and often find drunk people a bore to be around, but I often read AskMe questions about alcohol and think 'This person is overreacting.' This is not one of those questions. If your boyfriend were my friend, I'd be really worried about him. If you were my friend, I'd be really worried about you too. At this point, this is the best chance you have of helping him: maybe, maybe losing you will be the wake-up call he needs to properly address his drinking. It might not work, but you staying with him patiently while this spirals more and more out of control definitely won't help him.
posted by Acheman at 3:12 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


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