I asked him to leave. He left. Now I'm crushed.
May 22, 2015 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I'll try to keep this brief. My boyfriend and I have been together for over 2 years. In this time, I found out he was a recovering alcoholic. I didn't know this until months into our relationship. After dating 15 months, we moved into together. That's when the fun starts...

Everything was great...for a while. Then last Thankgsgiving, I caught him drinking. Many excuses later, I let it go. Argh! Fast forward to December and he loses his job. Many excuses again, which I believe. At that time, we were working for companies that were closely intertwined (and in the same building), so I was in the know about the culture in his office being very tense. So I made up all these reasons in my head why him getting fired was actually a good thing. I figured he'd be less tense. Less tension=no drinking. Right?!?! How stupid can I get!
After being fired, I realize he's drinking more and more and I confront him. He admits himself to rehab and completes a 21 day stay. Yay, but no. Things are better for a time until two nights ago. While I'm at work, he gets a DUI. When I get home and ask where his car is, he says he got into a little accident and it's at the shop. I speak to his mom and she tells me that he admitted to her it was a DUI. I asked him to leave yesterday and he did. He came back briefly by cab to get some belongings, and as I watch him leave I realize there's a woman with him who I realize is someone he was with in rehab. He swore they were "just friends", but man that sucks to see.

So I sit here alone among all our things not sleeping or eating. Yes, I know it's the right thing, but it hurts like hell. I can't lay down long enough to sleep because I get so anxious I can't breathe. Not sure how to get through the days ahead without losing it. I've spoken to some close friends and family, but that's not getting me through. Al Anon has been suggested but it's really not my thing. Any books, tips or ideas anyone can offer specific to alcoholism or just a shitty break-up would be super.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I would take some Benadryl or something to help fall asleep. Sleep is important, but you probably are going to need some help getting there temporarily.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:39 AM on May 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

Sorry Al-Anon is not your thing- they are the experts. However if you are not going to be involved with your ex there is no need to dwell on this. Just know this- an active alcoholic has only one love- the bottle. No matter how much they care for you, love you, adore you or want to be with you the overwhelming desire to drink will always take precedence unless he is in recovery.
I am so sorry the rehab did not take for him. He is on a fast track to nowhere if he is still drinking and nothing anyone can say or do will change that unless he wants to take the steps to stay sober.
Hard to hear I know.
posted by shaarog at 7:40 AM on May 22, 2015 [14 favorites]

Reading Codependent No More really helped me with establishing healthy boundaries with people in my life who are alcoholics. You can probably check it out from your local library or order a use copy from Amazon for really cheap!

Do you have a therapist you could schedule an appointment with? If you went in and told him/her that you want to work on processing that this decision is "the right thing", those appointments might give you a safe, confidential space to talk through your feelings.

In the past, I also found it really helpful to take some time to figure out what I really wanted in a relationship and to start detailing in a journal any experiences with my ex that were negative. It was sobering to read it through later and confront what I had tolerated. It really helped me raise my standards (and it kept me from sugarcoating what had happened the next time I saw him).
posted by pinetree at 7:47 AM on May 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

Can you afford to stay at a hotel for a night or two? It would help you to escape the environment that has a lot of reminders of him and therefore let you sleep, but also would be a bit of a treat for you, a little refuge escape time. Buy some candy, order in a pizza, hang out in the hotel room in your jammies watching infomercials and ridiculous shows like "Storage Wars", maybe schedule a massage or manicure if that is your thing.

I don't have any specific suggestions re. the alcoholism, but that all sounds really really hard and I'm sorry you're going through this, but please trust that you can get through this. You made the right choice.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

A break up is never easy but do know that the intense anxiety will lessen. You will get over it and you will move on. Alcoholism is a nightmare. I have a close family member that is afflicted and it sucks. She's a good person, a lovable, wonderful, intelligent human being but she has frequent relapses. It's a complex problem. Your boyfriend is lovable and great, too but it doesn't mean you should suffer the consequences. Life is very closed off and painful when living with an alcoholic. Each day will get easier and your life will open up and you will be searching for more joy instead of focusing on your pain. Good luck and take care.
posted by Fairchild at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

You have absolutely nothing to lose by going to an Al-Anon meeting. I didn't think it was my thing, either, but it transformed my life and has given me some of the most important relationships I've ever had. If nothing else, it's a safe place to sit and be quiet and take an hour just for yourself.

You're doing the right thing by extricating yourself from this situation. I know it's hard, but it will get easier. Hugs.
posted by something something at 7:56 AM on May 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

Massive amounts of self-care, to start with. Get sleep somehow and a little exercise, try to find a compromise between comfort food and decent nutrition, watch some weepy movies (or binge a series that isn't romantic-relationship-oriented, like The X-Files or one of the Star Trek franchises) or fall down a book hole - my "things are really bad" comfort read are the James Herriot books, but I've also gotten through a bad patch on Harry Potter. Get some sunlight into your eyeballs early in the day every day, so your brain doesn't go into Cave Mode too bad.

Do write it out, in a journal format or letters-never-sent style. You need to vent.

The initial period where you feel shocked and betrayed and your life is completely upheaved isn't something you can intellect your way out of. You are going to hurt because you have been hurt, you're going to grieve because you have something to grieve, and you are going to have a hard time getting through days because your routine and rhythm and normal operating procedures are completely fucked. That's just how it is, and there's not a book you can buy or magic spell or macaroni and cheese that'll make you a shortcut to two weeks from now when you're semi-homicidally furious but not hurting so bad anymore. You will get there, though, even though it doesn't feel like it today.

The pain will start to subside in a couple of days, but if you're worried about what you might do call the national suicide prevention hotline 1 (800) 273-8255 in the US, and go to NAMI to find additional mental health resources in your area.

Take care of yourself best you can. If you can recruit some other people to help you do that, even just to get you out of the house for an ice cream run for a few minutes, do.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:03 AM on May 22, 2015 [28 favorites]

I have one alcoholic parent and it is shitty, so I have a strong certainty that you made the better choice.
posted by puddledork at 8:11 AM on May 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Can't favorite Lyn Never's comment enough. The pain is excruciating, and it needs to run its course. Don't worry about anything right now except the basics to survive (going to the bathroom, eating a minimum amount, etc.).

You're doing the right thing

posted by Melismata at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2015 [12 favorites]

Oh, I am so sorry. I have so been there. You do whatever you need to do to get through the next couple weeks. Then you sell off anything that reminds you of him and buy something else. That table you bought together? Out. That art print he picked up somewhere? Gone. Make your space about YOU. Paint the walls, rearrange the furniture, take ownership of your new space.

Also, and please disregard if this doesn't apply, HIS DRINKING IS NOT ABOUT YOU. He didn't start drinking again because of anything you did or didn't do. Even if you kind of feel like its sort of your fault...it's simply not true. Not even a little bit. Alcoholics don't really have a 'because' for drinking that's related to their immediate present experience. It's rooted way deeper than that, and by the time it gets to alcoholism, the drinking is a compulsive symptom of much deeper trauma.

Believe me when I tell you that getting out of this relationship is a blessing in disguise. You absolutely did the right thing!! There is no end to the hurt, the pain, the fear, the disappointment that is being in a relationship with an alcoholic. I know it doesn't feel like this now, but trust me, you dodged a bullet here. You are going to be just fine. Be gentle with yourself.
posted by ananci at 8:21 AM on May 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

I know you said Al Anon is not your thing, but it might not hurt to just go to one meeting and see what it's all about. You can even just go to listen and not speak at all.

One thing about alcoholism is that it's really isolating and it's kind of easy to start believing that you're the only one who's going through what you're going through. I say that as someone who grew up with an alcoholic parent and truly believed that our family was the only family going through what we went through. It completely blew my mind when I found a book on adult children of alcoholics and found that many other families have faced similar situations.

All that to say that it might help to go to Al Anon. At this point you feel like your boyfriend did this horrible thing to you and treated you badly and he did. However, from an alcoholic's point of view, it wasn't really anything personal directed at you. He's going to do whatever it takes to continue drinking and he's going to spin a bunch of stories in his own head to justify all the things he's doing. There's nothing you could have said or done or not done to fix him or make him better or make him treat you better. At this point, it's much better that he's gone because he only would have continued hurting you.
posted by Lingasol at 8:22 AM on May 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Shew. I am sorry that you are going through this--I can only imagine how painful it must be. Do take care of yourself, get some good crying and sleeping time in, get your nails done (or something) if you feel up to it. Externalize your thoughts, via journaling or talking aloud or some creative output.

Also, I would urge you to reconsider Al-Anon. I didn't think it was my thing, either (and it still isn't 100%, but take what you like and leave the rest) but it has been exceedingly helpful during my relationship with a recovering alcoholic. The perspective and empathy from total strangers is really comforting and often moving. It's really worth your time, if you feel even a tiny bit like reconsidering.
posted by witchen at 8:27 AM on May 22, 2015

Yeah, sorry that Al-Anon's not your thing, but if you actually went to a few meetings you might realize that it's EXACTLY the thing that is expressly designed to help you right now. You don't have to talk. Every meeting is different -- try a few. Try a women's-only meeting. Try one early in the morning, or late at night. 'Cause sister, you got a "pressing problem" and Al-Anon is where you can go to get help. (Ask me how I know.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

How about an online group? This one looks pretty official, but if it's anything like AA, there are also some splinter groups online. A lot less of a commitment than hauling yourself out to a meeting.

Good luck! You already know this is a step in the right direction for you.
posted by BibiRose at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2015

If you don't want to go to an Al-Anon meeting, how about a subreddit? What you no doubt already know about Reddit doesn't necessarily apply to their recovery communities. The reason people keep suggesting this route is because these are exactly the people who are in your position, and who have the tools to help others who find themselves there.

FWIW, you did the right thing. I have a very similar story in my past, though I was the asshole. : ( Several years later, I can tell you that had things not gone the way they did, I would have kept riding that elevator to the basement for a lot longer than I did, and I would have dragged her right down with me.
posted by Gilbert at 9:04 AM on May 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am so sorry this is happening to you. I went through hell last year when my DH started drinking after over 25 yrs of sobriety, and I never even knew him when he drank back then-I wouldn't have dated him for sure, he's a severe alcoholic and I had an alcoholic father, DH seemed worse to me in some ways than my father was. You did absolutely the right thing, painful as it is now. Life will get better, but it's not going to quick or easy, you need to grieve the relationship and that takes time and some more pain too.

I know for me, things did not improve until I decided to make my own decisions and act in my own interest, which you've already done. Al-Anon wasn't for me either, it actually made me feel worse when I went to a meeting, but maybe try one to see if it helps. Their online info was good for me but not meetings.

That woman he was with? Forget her, she more likely is not involved with him other than to give him a place to stay or a drinking buddy. If they are involved so soon after or during rehab, thank your lucky stars, you dodged a bullet. Nobody deserves a cheater and alcoholic.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 10:17 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sometimes it can help to do something painfully constructive. IN this case, may I suggest packing, spring cleaning, and revitalizing your nest?

Sort out the stuff that is his--pack that up, put it by the front door, and give a solid-and-reasonable timeline to him on when it needs to be gone. (This has the added benefit of making the inevitable pick-up-the-things moment as brief and non-awkward as possible).

Go through the stuff that reminds you of the two of you. Pick out a few things that hold cherished happy memories (no matter how sour now)--and put them in a box in your attic/basement/wherever. Open it again in a year; if they don't cause you any pain, keep 'em. If they do cause you pain, decide then whether to throw them out or keep them around just in case. The urge to salt the earth after an ugly breakup is totally normal, I feel, and speaking only for myself, has led me to throw away some things that in retrospect I wish I had kept.

Go through your stuff. Prune. Toss out stuff you truly don't want or need anymore. Rearrange your furniture. Dust behind pictures and then put them in new places.

Doing all this stuff can, I think, maybe have two benefits for you: first, it gets you doing something instead of only sitting with your pain; the pain's going to be there regardless, may as well let it be from time to time, and sit with it at other times. Second, it lets you mark a concrete outward change to an internal reality. Kind of the home equivalent of "gonna wash that man right outta my hair."

For anxiety, some of these skills may be of use to you. For me, radical acceptance has been incredibly useful; "I feel this way right now, and it sucks, and that's okay. I will not feel this way forever."

Scheduling your grief moments can be useful, too. Set a timer for ten minutes or something. Sit with your pain for those ten minutes--cry, scream, punch a pillow, live with it in the moment. When the timer goes off, pack those feelings into a box and put it on a mental shelf marked 'later.' Go do something self-soothing, whatever is healthy and makes you feel better. Then, when later comes, do it again. Repeat at whatever intervals make sense for you.

A course of therapy might also be useful if it fits in your budget.

And, nthing: you did the best thing for you. It may help to repeat that to yourself: "I feel like crap now, and I have made the most effective decision for my long-term self."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:21 AM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ugh this sounds like a particularly tough break up, but I promise you that in a few months (if not sooner) you will feel so much better for standing up for your needs. You are much better off alone and happy, than with him and dealing with his bullshit.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this will help you get out of the bad place you are in right now, but please hear me out. Your brain is malfunctioning. For some ridiculous reason, human brains have evolved to treat all breakups (even ones initiated by yourself) or withdrawals of affection as a reason to go into a state of anxiety and depression. This is truly just a chemical reaction that has very little to do with logic, reality, or how much you cared about the person. Studies have shown that it is similar to a drug withdrawal. The only cure is time and distance from the person in question.

Next, I want to congratulate you on one of the smartest decisions you will ever make in your lifetime. Please listen to the advice of someone who has dated an alcoholic more than once. They only get worse, much worse. If he he is already at the stage of getting a DUI, you can be sure that there will be more in the future. I have never actually seen an alcoholic get better. Yes, I am sure some people are able to turn their lives around but I am convinced that they are in a very small minority. Most of the alcoholics I know personally are now dying or seriously ill in their early 50s. Most of them have a significant other who has been through hell so many times that she/he has lost all track of what is normal.

Feel pity for him, feel compassion but cut off all ties. You have saved yourself a lifetime of hell.
posted by Ariadne at 11:32 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think this clean break is also a positive thing that you can hold on to. With an alcoholic, you could get sucked in endlessly in a cycle of lies and promises, and failures, and be in the same situation over and over. Acting decisively to end it is such a good thing for you in the long term. Your healing is beginning now, every 24-hours will make you one day stronger, one day better. Your head will clear, you will see the path forward. An alcoholic always makes the people around them question themselves, but you're free from that second guessing, that guilty feeling that it's your fault (which they are quite could at conjuring up in those around them).
posted by feste at 11:36 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

feckless fecal is right on
you did the best thing for you. It may help to repeat that to yourself: "I feel like crap now, and I have made the most effective decision for my long-term self."

Several inherently difficult things happened all at once: a breakup with someone you shared two years with, a (series of) betrayal(s), a messy parting. They hurt, but tell yourself that this was just an episode in your life and won't define how you feel forever. Also, when traumatic things like this happened to people, we have a natural tendency to relive them over and over again in our heads as a way of processing; when you find yourself thinking about the breakup and what happened and you feel that grief and despair, counter it with the positive self messages that everyone has been mentioning:

"I did a good job protecting myself from a lifetime of hurt."; "I should be proud at how I stood up for myself."; "I am a really strong and capable person."

Keeping these kinds of statements in the mix help kickstart the healing and prevent you from spiraling lower than you really need or deserve to go. Healing is like a sawtooth graph; it goes up, down, up, down, and over months or years steadily rises.
posted by incolorinred at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

There are many, many excellent suggestions above. I might also add, as hard it may seem during this difficult time, watch something funny, something so funny you're able to come out of yourself for a bit. I was having a nearly paralyzing anxiety attack a couple of nights ago and had the idea to watch a couple episodes of Nevermind the Buzzocks, which I find completely absorbing and hilarious. I made some tea, and it was the fastest, most effective "stop" button I've ever experienced. It took me out of the spiral of panic and self-loathing and fear and gave my brain a break.

It won't make the situation any better, but laughter CAN help us cope with horrible situations. And yes, in case it helps to hear it, you made exactly the right decision. It sucks that the right decision is going to cause you pain for a bit, but you will definitely be better off in the long run. In the short term, be kind to yourself.
posted by smirkette at 2:59 PM on May 22, 2015

Seconding Codependency No More.

Feeling like an idiot because you saw this coming, or didn't see this coming. I can relate to that being a huge obstacle and I would recommend just not fighting that fight. Do anything else but that. You did good. You are totally lucky this didn't get much worse. One day, this is all going to sit very well with you, and I know you know this to be true. Finally, you're not the only person that has had to endure such an experience. Every other song on the radio is about a broken heart.

Now get out of the house. Stop overcooking your head. There is no "correct reaction" to this sort of thing. Water the relationships that are working in your life today. It's okay to have your feelings hurt, and to pass on making any major decisions today, other than loving yourself. If you're the religious type, pray for grace. Al-Anon's actually a pretty good program and you can go and just listen for a while; take what you like and leave the rest.
posted by phaedon at 3:22 PM on May 22, 2015

Al Anon has been suggested but it's really not my thing.

That's too bad, because...

Any books, tips or ideas anyone can offer specific to alcoholism or just a shitty break-up would be super.

...that's kind of Al-Anon's specialty. I had a bit of a different situation but similar in that (a) I ignored my partner's drinking and the other problems that went with it for way too long, made excuses and hoped for the best, and (b) gave him his walking papers, and only THEN went to Al-Anon to figure out what the hell landed me in that place. Al Anon is technically for "anyone affected by someone else's drinking" and even if he's not in the picture any longer, you were affected. I recommend just trying it out. Go and listen. It's a lot different from its pop culture impression.

If you can't bring yourself to do that, I agree Codependent No More is a lifesaver of a book. It was for me, anyway. Now is a good time to very gently and very selfishly focus on you, on listening to yourself and being honest with yourself and a friend to yourself and figuring out what you really want and need. Good luck. Don't look back.
posted by Miko at 7:30 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I know some people who prefer CoDA to Al-Anon, so you may want to check that out. I don't know how applicable it is for you long term, as based on this post it doesn't seem like you have a pattern of getting involved with addicted personality types, but it may be a good place to go near term if you just want some understanding people to talk to.
posted by ill3 at 11:44 PM on May 22, 2015

CoDa might be more appropriate, and I tried to find a CoDa when I needed it, but just a heads-up, they're a lot rarer than Al-Anon. Chances are there's an AL-Anon near everybody just about every day of the week. The CoDa groups are less frequent and more scattered. ANd they have a lot of overlap, so I found Al-Anon did me well, especially because my problem,too, came to ahead around partner's drinking.
posted by Miko at 5:44 AM on May 23, 2015

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