Your problems ruined our relationship. Here, read this.
April 1, 2013 11:59 AM   Subscribe

I recently broke up with my long-term girlfriend because of her refusal to seek treatment for alcohol abuse, and, in my opinion, the maladaptive behavior that causes it. She (now) says that she wants to work on these issues for herself and her future, but I have my reservations (read: she didn't work on any of these issues in our relationship, so I doubt she's going to work on them now). Is it appropriate to send her links that describe these disorders, symptoms and treatment options? I realize that this may result in resentment, utter hatred, and most likely her resorting to the same old tendencies (maybe even worse???), but I do still care for her and want her to be the best person she can be.
posted by mrrisotto to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Don't send her anything, don't do anything. Wish her luck and walk on by.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:01 PM on April 1, 2013 [9 favorites]

The best thing to do is let her find her own path and stay out of it.
posted by something something at 12:03 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is it appropriate to send her links that describe these disorders

Nope. Tell her to call you when she's been sober for six months and wish her well until then.
posted by jessamyn at 12:03 PM on April 1, 2013 [22 favorites]

I think it's a bad idea because she seems like she's trying to bargain about the end of the relationship (I'll get sober if you come back) and it puts you in the position of being the authority figure or source of approval for her efforts to deal with alcohol abuse. That's not good for either of you.
posted by thelonius at 12:05 PM on April 1, 2013 [13 favorites]

No, this is the work that she should be doing. A great way to help someone be a better person is to let them be the agent of their own change.
posted by sm1tten at 12:07 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, she needs to help herself, but on the other hand having the support of a good friend is also important. If you are willing to risk losing all relationship with her, I would send her the links with a note that says you are willing to help her or support her in her recovery.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:10 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless she asks for your help specifically (i.e. "can you please help me find information or a psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist in my area"), I wouldn't bother. I am also not sure what disorders (maladaptive behaviors, you say?) you have in mind to send her information regarding. Since you're not her psychiatrist/psychologist/etc., you'd also be better off not diagnosing her, as that can lead to more resentment and unfair stigmatization of her or others with whom you think she shares a common disorder. Even if you believe she has issues with alcohol (alcoholism, problem drinking, or otherwise) that is for a professional to determine.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:10 PM on April 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Tell her to call you when she's been sober for six months and wish her well until then.

Don't put a finish line on it. For most alcoholics, a finish line allows them to go back to their old habits once they've crossed it.
posted by Etrigan at 12:12 PM on April 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, the six-months deadline is ok, but I'd be very strict about it. I'd make it a year, personally, and then add strict guidelines: "I won't even consider talking to you even for a minute until I hear from a reliable person that you have been sober for a year." That shows her that you're extremely serious about not being around her until she's started to actually tackle her problems, for real.

I like JohnnyGunn's idea, too--send her the links once, with the note that you don't want to hear from her for at least a year. Best of luck to you.
posted by Melismata at 12:19 PM on April 1, 2013

She may be dysfunctional and an addict, but there's nothing you can do for her that she can't do for herself if she wants to. You found some links? Well she knows how to use Google too, doesn't she?

I second Young Kullervo's warning about armchair diagnosing her with mental disorders. Labeling her without the backing of professional expertise or any real resources for treatment will not help, and will likely cause further confusion and harm.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:21 PM on April 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

I should clarify my statement somewhat. I had an alcoholic for a parent who went through this same sort of thing. His partner left him, in part because of his drinking and in part because of all the other crappy things his drinking brought along with it. He became surly and withdrawn over that (it's very hard being a reclusive alcoholic when you don't have someone to do your food shopping and cooking and laundry for you) and angry. His interpretation of their last days was that he offered, finally when he realized she was serious about leaving him, to go into rehab and she said "No. That won't help." And so, to the end of his days, he basically used the "I offered, she said no" line as a way to explain why he was still not getting any help or treatment for his drinking. So, as an extended more complete answer, I agree with thelonius. Do not put yourself in a position where what she chooses to do as far as getting sober has anything to do with you at all. Alcoholics are disempowered by their addictions and you don't want to introduce yourself as some sort of authority figure who then becomes "responsible" in some fucked up way for the course of her recovery. I'm sorry, this is all so difficult.
posted by jessamyn at 12:30 PM on April 1, 2013 [13 favorites]

Please go to an Al-Anon meeting. That is the very best thing you can do for her.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:30 PM on April 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

alcohol abuse, and, in my opinion, the maladaptive behavior that causes it. She (now) says that she wants to work on these issues

Evidently you already identified these issues with sufficient precision to get her started (even if she's faking it). Now stand clear, for her sake as well as yours.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:51 PM on April 1, 2013

Is it appropriate to send her links that describe these disorders, symptoms and treatment options?

Christ no. It would barely be okay if you were in a relationship with her; it's definitely not okay with you not only not in a relationship with her but not wanting to be in a relationship with her.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:59 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't create some 24 type count down, end it like a meet up for coffee with an old friend that didn't go well. Diplomatically, but giving you both the possibility to opt out from ever seeing each other again, leaving no expectations of such, and definitely barring it being any time soon.

I'd bolt that on to the end of whatever i wrote, which should be like a few sentences and one paragraph max. No links, none of that. just something like "I'm happy you're finally working on bettering yourself, good for you!" maybe a bit of filler, and then here's the linchpin... I'd phrase the "maybe we can talk in X amount of time thing" nebulously in the long sense. As in "maybe in a couple years when you're feeling better we can chat, best of luck". Nothing about the relationship, no "you really hurt me and i can't really talk right now"(even though THAT IS VALID, this is not the time or place for it) kinda shit, nothing.

Slam dunk, backboard shatters. Delete her contact from your email program and go ride your bike to the smoothie store. No further barnacling on you for support allowed. You're super busy with like, your project to land a gerbil on the moon and your related PHD thesis paper on rocket guidance with a cheap smartphone.

I'd seriously ignore any further messages that you didn't feel like you had an obligation to report to the cops/EMTs(IE: suicide threats/attempts). Make sure you phrase your message with some serious finality.
posted by emptythought at 1:30 PM on April 1, 2013

This is when you say, "I hope you can find professional help so you can be happy in the future" and then back out politely.
posted by epanalepsis at 1:40 PM on April 1, 2013

The links sound kind of condescending to me.

I'm positive that especially if you and she talked about it she knows this is an issue. Furthermore, I bet she's Googled for information and other resources. Ultimately this has to be a journey she embarks on when she decides it's time. The problem isn't finding resources for help - those are easy to find - and you can't be her support system. At this point let it go. Don't blame yourself, you've done everything you can.
posted by bendy at 1:58 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nope, leave it alone. No one is more manipulative than an addict. nth getting to Al-Anon.

You're out, stay out. An addict is always in a Polyamorous relationship, one of the folks is their drug of choice.

"This is your journey and for now, you need to concentrate on getting well, on your own. Good Luck."

Then hang up, change your number, de-friend, and move if you can.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:12 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

No, don't do this.

What did she actually say? Just a heads up that she took the breakup to heart and wanted to let you know that she's heading down a better path? Does she want to get back together? Did she ask for help?

And yes, deadlines and ultimatums are a horrible idea. Addicts need support, but they want co-dependence. Deadlines and ultimatums are just excuses to fail. You have to give them what they *need*, which are things more like boundaries. Don't put your relationship on the line (whatever the relationship currently is). Rather, you put your participation on the line. You won't talk to them when they are drunk. They can't come in the house when they are drunk. You will not abide their addiction. You will continue the discussion when they sober up. Addicts need to know that failure to try is not an option, but failure to succeed is not a dealbreaker.

You are free to offer as much or as little support as you want to give, but Let Me Google That For You is not support.
posted by gjc at 5:22 PM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

What thelonius and jessamyn said. I had a five-year relationship with an alcoholic, and kept negotiating sobriety pacts when he'd try to keep me from breaking up. Mistake. I had to stop talking with him completely in order to successfully negotiate my own healthy future without him. Part of me still thinks that was "mean," but the smart part of me knows it was for the best.
posted by tizzie at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2013

Nothing you do or say will matter to her now if it didn't matter to her while you were in a relationship together. Ask me how I know... The addict has to want to address their problems and until that time has arrived, nothing else matters. I ended a 12 year relationship for this very reason. Ultimately his love of alcohol was greater than his love for me. So be it. I'm sorry.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 12:25 PM on April 2, 2013

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