Living with an alcoholic boyfriend
June 30, 2016 1:50 PM   Subscribe

I am in a pickle. My boyfriend is an alcoholic (probably the functioning kind- whatever that is,) and we live together. We have been together for almost two years. I can't stand the drinking anymore, and I have tried nearly every avenue to remedy it within the relationship. The only thing I can think to do now, is move out so that I can distance myself from his alcoholism.

I could be one of those people that says 'When he is not drinking, everything is great,' but I would probably be lying. On one hand: the only time that he has been 'not drinking' since we have been together, was for a few weeks within the first two months of our relationship. So maybe he was great then, but maybe it was the beginning of our relationship, and even bad people tend to be great that early on. He is emotionally abusive, even when he hasn't had anything to drink that day. So I suppose that is another problem. I have basically pinned all of our problems on his drinking. If he didn't drink, he wouldn't be so tired, and when it came time to have an argument, he would be less apt to lash out at me because he wouldn't be feeling shitty from drinking excessively the day before. If he didn't drink, he would be more clear-headed, we would connect better, he would realize what he has been doing to himself/me/our relationship/his son/his relationship with his son- all this time. ETC...

Name a problem, and I can name why alcohol has played a part.

In the beginning, I told him candidly what I thought of it. He told me that he had been drinking more than usual, that he was sorry, and that he would stop. And he did. For a couple of weeks. Then he started again, and I thought 'well, at least it isn't as much as last time,' and then it became 'as much as last time,' and then I brought it up again, candidly. He said he would work on it. He didn't. Then, he started drinking more, I started becoming more upset about it- realizing that it is more than just the 'we just met, and it is the holiday season' kind of drinking. He drives around with beer in his cup holder. He starts drinking as early as 8am. He shirks responsibilities due to drinking.

As our relationship (and his alcoholism) progressed, our conversations about it changed drastically. He began taking the approach of: the more you point out my flaws, the more difficult it is for me, the more I want to drink. He began to get very, very angry when I brought it up.

At one point, I said: I just don't want you to drink around me. Which he took to mean: I want you to sneak around, hide beer in your car, and lie to me. So that didn't work.

We have gone to therapy, we have had angry conversations about it, we have had open conversations about it. I am now to the point where I have realized that my happiness is contingent upon his drinking. He admits that he has a problem, but is not planning to get any help for it in the near future. He wants to do it his own way, but that isn't working for me. I can literally feel my blood pressure raise when I hear the sound of a beer can opening. My heart beats faster when I look into the recycling bin and see that it is full of beer cans. I smell it on his breath, and it gives me anxiety.

I need a break from it. I need a break from seeing beer cans, honestly. We do have a good relationship in some ways- we have a very good, solid friendship. We really enjoy talking to each other, and we have a good physical relationship. He is progressing in controlling his anger during conversations/arguments.

Today is June 29th, and I have found a place which I already put a hold fee on. I have to sign the lease by July 1st, and due to various obstacles, I have not had an opportunity to talk to him about this. So now:

Knowing that he gets very angry during arguments, and knowing that talking about drinking sets him off especially- basically, what should I do? I want to be with him, but I need to do something to make myself happy, right? I can't keep waiting around for him to make a change so that I can feel good in my every day life, right? So how should I bring it up? I need some advice on how to communicate this in a way that will incapacitate his defense system, because he gets VERY defensive.
posted by Wizzow to Human Relations (66 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
He is going to get defensive no matter what you do or say. You should focus on your own safety; your talk about his anger raises red flags for me. If possible, move out when he is not there. At least have a burly friend help you do it. Don't tell him until just before you do it. When you do, don't get drawn into an emotional argument over your decision. Tell him calmly that this is what you have decided to do, and don't engage further with what will likely be a lot of anger.

You can't fix your boyfriend's alcoholism (nor are you the cause of it). Only he can decide to seek and continue treatment. You have a right to live somewhere else than under a pyramid of beer cans.
posted by praemunire at 1:58 PM on June 30, 2016 [14 favorites]

I am more than a little worried about your physical safety here. Please contact a domestic violence hotline before talking to him, because moving out is probably the highest-risk point in a relationship like this.
posted by SMPA at 2:02 PM on June 30, 2016 [30 favorites]

Honestly? If I were in your position, I'd sign the lease and get everything set to move without informing him at all. Once you have access to the new place, I'd figure out a time when he was definitely going to be out for several hours, conscript as many of my friends as possible into doing an emergency move, and get yourself and as many belongings as possible secure in your new home. I'd ask a friend to be present with me when he returned and have your set of keys and a post-dated check for your portion of the rent for the next month ready to hand over to him. Keep it as concise and discussion-free as possible. "This relationship is not working. Your drinking only exacerbates the problems in our relationship. I am moving out. Here are my keys, and here is the rent for next month. If you want to discuss this, it will need to happen in a public place or over the phone." And then leave. Do not tell him where you're moving to. Someone who reacts in an angry, overly emotional way during arguments is really not someone you want to try major life changes on without an escape route.

The ball is 100% in his court to get his life together--you can't take responsibility for him anymore. If, in several months, he's addressed his problems with alcohol and you still want to be with him, then go from there. But he's the one who has to get better. You need to keep yourself safe and healthy.
posted by phunniemee at 2:03 PM on June 30, 2016 [110 favorites]

Absolutely, first priority - sign the lease and get that apartment of your own. Don't let your fear of telling him or your hope that he will magically listen to you and change get in the way of what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Second, when you tell, you need to be prepared for him to get "defensive", no matter what you do or say and you need to have plans in place to protect yourself. If you have any thoughts that he might get physical with you or try to stop you moving (which sounds from your description as highly likely) then see if you can pack when he isn't home, get moved out and meet him in a safe neutral place to break the news. If there is going to be any hope in this relationship, there will be more conversations later where you can really explain yourself. Don't try to do it all now - just get out safely first.

Finally, you are in love with an alcoholic. The reality is that there is no hope at all for this relationship while he is drinking and there is no sign that he has any serious interest in stopping. PLEASE check out Ala-Anon - its people whose lives are impacted by their loved ones drinking. You will learn so much about alcoholism and what it is like to love an alcoholic and how to focus your energy where it will do the most good - taking care of yourself. I, an internet stranger, can tell you that you deserve better (you do) but you probably need the chance to have your own space and figure out your own needs and desires before you will know what to do. Moving out is the first step - do it safely and don't worry about how he takes it.
posted by metahawk at 2:03 PM on June 30, 2016 [10 favorites]

I agree with focusing on your own safety. The most likely time for women to be injured or even killed in abusive relationships is when they try to leave. Although you don't mention physical violence here, it's a short step from everything else you mention. I would move everything out at a time when he is not at home, and then let him know either via some sort of remote method (leaving a letter?) or at the very least with some male backup present (do you have a brother or dad in the area?). Do not give him your new address.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:03 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Knowing that he gets very angry during arguments, and knowing that talking about drinking sets him off especially- basically, what should I do?

Does signing the lease on July 1 mean that you can be in the apartment on July 1? If so, don't talk to him before you go. Move all of your stuff to the new place as soon as possible. Preferably, during a time when he is not home so that you don't have to confront him. Leave him a note telling him that you've left, and that you will contact him in a week. Do not share your new address yet. If you want to go the extra step, your note can also include a list of AA meetings nearby in the next week.

If you don't get the place until August 1, I would still make arrangements to move valuables/important documents to a safe place (work? a trusted friends?) so that you can be out on a moment's notice if necessary. I would also hold off on telling him that you are leaving until you are pretty much gone.

I looked at your previous post -- can you confirm that you aren't caring for a baby right now?

I want to be with him, but I need to do something to make myself happy, right? I can't keep waiting around for him to make a change so that I can feel good in my every day life, right?

As soon as is reasonable for you, look into attending an Al-Anon meeting. What you're feeling is pretty normal for people who realize that a loved one's problem is hurting their life.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:05 PM on June 30, 2016 [9 favorites]

In order:
1. Sign the lease
2. move out all your stuff (do it while he's at work or something else that'll keep him away from home for a while.)
3. Then, and only then, after you and your belongings are out of his reach, do you tell him you've moved out. Even better: if you insist on telling him in person, have a trusted friend there to back you. Tell him in a phone call or text if that feels safer.

And just to be extra-safe, do not let him (or anyone who might tell him) where your new address is.
posted by easily confused at 2:08 PM on June 30, 2016 [11 favorites]

[my guess is you wrote this yesterday and hesitated until today to post, but you say "today is June 29" in the post -- today is June 30. July 1 is tomorrow. If that changes anything for you, make sure that you are aware of it.]
posted by brainmouse at 2:08 PM on June 30, 2016

It's basically unanimous, but yea, i'm on team sign the lease and just get ready to move. I'm on the fence about it being a stealth move, but definitely go ahead and turn the key on that escape route.

And i say this as someone who has struggled with drinking, has an alcoholic parent, and has dealt with other alcoholics as roommates/live in landlords/etc. You are on the event horizon here of shit getting really bad. If you don't close the door on this guy, at least move out and get some distance.
posted by emptythought at 2:11 PM on June 30, 2016 [10 favorites]

Unless there is a legal emergency that forces things to come to a head, addicts almost never enthusiastically (and therefore chance-of-success-fully) choose to pursue recovery from inside a relationship. It just requires a certain amount of free-fall to find the internal resources to get help, and at this point that means either being alone or facing jail time.

That's not to say he'll go get better if you leave, but he almost certainly will not for as long as you stay.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:13 PM on June 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

At least in my city, the police will be present during your move-out if you have concerns for your safety. This is an option open to you if you can't move when he's not home.
posted by epj at 2:15 PM on June 30, 2016 [18 favorites]

You are living together, you are not married. I'm assuming that you don't have kids. Move out. Don't argue with him about it, just do it.

You can't fix him and he is turning you into someone that you don't want to be. His drinking isn't actually the problem. It's your need to control one or more of his behaviors that is the problem. That's not healthy love. It's not a relationship problem that is fixable. Stop fighting with him and trying to explain yourself. Just let it all go.
posted by myselfasme at 2:35 PM on June 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

You need to break up with this guy. The drinking thing is a red herring. I mean, I'm sure he's an alcoholic. But all the "if he wasn't so tired, he wouldn't be such a dick, and he's tired because he's hungover, and etc etc etc"? What this reduces to is that this dude is a gigantic asshole who treats you like garbage.

You should sign the lease on this new place, and then you should tell him you're moving out and it's over. In that order. Don't make this a conversation about whether you should break up or move out. Inform him that this is what you are doing.
posted by Sara C. at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2016 [21 favorites]

Sign the lease. Move out when he isn't home. Leave a note (and a check for your part of the rent, if necessary) saying only that you have left and that the relationship is over. Make sure he does not know your new address. Block all phone calls/texts.

His behavior is what ended the relationship. He has broken the social contract by being abusive. You have no obligation to put yourself in danger by telling him why you are leaving.

Your first and only task in this situation is to be as overly protective of your safety as is possible.
posted by mcduff at 2:46 PM on June 30, 2016 [16 favorites]

Sign that lease ASAP, don't attempt to talk it out with him beforehand. I agree that the alcoholism is secondary, that first and foremost he is abusive and dangerous. However...

I am now to the point where I have realized that my happiness is contingent upon his drinking. He admits that he has a problem, but is not planning to get any help for it in the near future. He wants to do it his own way, but that isn't working for me. I can literally feel my blood pressure raise when I hear the sound of a beer can opening. My heart beats faster when I look into the recycling bin and see that it is full of beer cans. I smell it on his breath, and it gives me anxiety.

This was me. Each of these points. The recycling bin, my god. The breath. All the detective work I used to do to determine if and how much my partner was drinking. It is so familiar to me, and it helped so much to learn that I wasn't alone in that crazy-making cycle.

Find an Al-Anon meeting and go. The first one scared the shit out of me but I felt 100000% better at the end of it. Al-Anon was so key to restoring my sanity and helping me let go of the sense that my happiness depended on whether someone else was/n't drinking.

And we, so far, have a happy ending. My partner had to realize on his own that drinking was destroying parts of his life that he loved--not just our relationship, but his relationship to family members, friends, his career, his own health. He came to that conclusion on his own, and he's stuck with it. Every day is its own thing, and humans stumble from time to time, but it is possible for your guy to turn it around.

But in the meantime, take care of yourself and get some distance from the situation. Sending so many hugs your way.
posted by witchen at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

I work in a profession that has male clients who are quite similar to your boyfriend. Take Phunniemee's advice. Like a lot of the people responding above, I'm worried about your physical safety. Once that becomes an element, set aside being "polite" or "kind" or worrying about his feelings and his emotional reaction, and ONLY WORRY ABOUT GETTING YOURSELF OUT SAFELY.

Al-Anon meetings are good, for after you've moved out.
posted by zdravo at 3:01 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

The thing is this guy has been drunk your whole relationship. You don't know him at all. Sober him is a complete stranger to you and drunk him is a poorly pixelated photo of real him. All the things you like about him may not exist if he's sober, and really you have no idea who he really is or how he acts. You can't predict his reaction to your leaving because it'll depend on how drunk he is. Just take your stuff and leave, you don't owe him anything. Your feeling that you should do something for yourself is spot on.

Keep reminding yourself that you're not even in a relationship if he's drinking that much, it's not possible to be a fulltime addict and be in a real relationship. He can pretend but whoever you think your boyfriend is, he's not there.
posted by fshgrl at 3:01 PM on June 30, 2016 [16 favorites]

Also, good job deciding that your deserve more than this. For what it's worth, this internet stranger is proud of you! You've already done the hardest part.
posted by mcduff at 3:03 PM on June 30, 2016 [19 favorites]

Find an Al-Anon meeting and go.

Agree agree agree. I am unclear from your post if you are simply moving out and staying in the relationship or breaking up and moving out. I also agree with people who say to be concerned about your safety (and that of pets/possessions) so keep that in the front of your mind. Just use a lot of "I" language

- I need to be somewhere else
- I need to be in a car where people aren't drinking
- I need to take care of me

You're not doing this TO him (no matter what he says) you're doing this FOR you. Sign the lease and, if you have to, go no contact with him. Don't try to be friends with him through this because he needs it, just tell him what you need and he can do it or not do it. People suggest the Gift of Fear as reading material and it's got some good suggestions for dealing with other people's rage and boundary pushing. You have every right to live in a safe environment and be with people who don't treat you badly. He's a grown up who can make choices and so can you. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 3:05 PM on June 30, 2016 [12 favorites]

the functioning kind- whatever that is

It's a stage, not a kind.
posted by thelonius at 3:07 PM on June 30, 2016 [11 favorites]

Al-Anon: you will learn much about yourself as well, things (and tools) that will help you in your own future. I speak from experience. Good luck; it's a sign of strength that you're asking for help.
posted by soakimbo at 3:11 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think it is really great that you have taken concrete steps to move out! It sounds like it required a lot of introspection about your situation and a lot of planning and willpower. Good for you.

Like jessamyn, I'm not sure if you are still staying in a relationship with him even though you're not going to live with him anymore. If you are not actually going to break up with him when you move out, I urge you to consider how you will maintain your safety. I think phunniemee's advice is very good, and I agree it's important that you not tell him your new address. Be aware he might be able to find out anyway, of course.

It's probably worth thinking about the fact that you have been with him for two years and have been distressed about his drinking for all but two months of this time. You also say that when he is drinking (which again has been all but 2 months of your relationship), he's emotionally abusive. That's not acceptable.

You only have one life and you deserve to spend it free of abuse. Good luck to you and stay safe. Please update if you are able to--we are all rooting for you here.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:21 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

At least in my city, the police will be present during your move-out if you have concerns for your safety. This is an option open to you if you can't move when he's not home.

As a note for you(OP), i've done this, and they were extremely courteous and cool about it. They didn't even ask many questions at all, i just said that i had concerns for my safety. It really wasn't a big deal.

Is it a pretty adversarial move? yea, but if you think about it and feel like it would be worthwhile or you need it, go for it.
posted by emptythought at 3:24 PM on June 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

Echoing what everyone else said, and also, after you leave, end all contact for a while, and limit conversations afterwards- preferably never talk to him alone.Delete his emails, block his calls and texts.

He WILL try to get back with you. He WILL make promises, he will make threats, he may try to work things out. He WILL do all kinds if emotional blackmail. Protect yourself. Do not assume he will change any time in the next year, and possibly never.

And good luck. I'm rooting for you.
posted by happyroach at 3:31 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm chiming in to say that I agree that you should go too. It's impossible to have a relationship when you are the only one who is really in it. I'm sorry, but your boyfriend chooses alcohol over you every time. He's not in a relationship with you, he's in one with alcohol and you're just there to keep him company.

If you do think you want to stay with him, still consider have a period of no-contact. Maybe give him a week and then after that 3-months of no-contact. Without that you really can't see what the relationship is doing to you. Being away from him for at least that long can show you that there is much more in life than what you have now.

Wishing you all the best.
posted by dawkins_7 at 3:31 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I want to be with him, but I need to do something to make myself happy, right? I can't keep waiting around for him to make a change so that I can feel good in my every day life, right? So how should I bring it up?

Why would you want to be with him? In your own words, he's emotionally abusive even when sober and the relationship is not great even when he isn't drinking.

You don't need to "bring this up" because you have already brought this up, approximately 4 million times in 2 years. You take the day off and move in. Then you send him a text or leave him a note that says "I have moved out. I cannot be with you until you get treatment for you alcoholism and can stay sober."

And then you turn your phone off and go to an Al-Anon meeting.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

His addiction that he loves but hurts him and others- is booze.

Your addiction that you love but hurts you and others- is him.

You both have to quit your respective temptations or it's going to end badly. More badly than it's ending now.
posted by taff at 3:42 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can access Smart Recovery materials online, free. It can complement or replace Al-Anon.
posted by egk at 4:03 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hi all,
I haven't read all of the comments yet, but since my safety seems to be a trending worry-point, let me clarify just a bit:
1.) We do not have a kid together. He has a son, but we did not end up having a baby.

2.) He is not (nor do I think that he ever would be) physically abusive, at all. I'm not saying this to protect him, or because I'm brainwashed- I honestly think that he is terrified of the jail time that would ensue if he were to be physical. And also, it isn't at all that kind of anger. Even at his angriest, I have never been scared that he was going to hurt me physically.
Emotionally, he is very abusive. He doesn't call me names, and he doesn't put me down in public/around friends, but he has all the other classic signs of a verbal abuser. He is manipulative, he is quick to be defensive, he can't take responsibility for the role that he plays in our issues. He frequently tells me that I am 'too sensitive,' or that I hold on to things for far too long. He is passive-aggressive when he is upset about something, and basically shuts me out instead of talking about it, leaving me feeling crazy, and questioning my judgement as he continues to tell me 'I'm not mad.'
He also makes generalizations as a form of arguing. Instead of saying 'I don't like that I feel like you are telling me how I should spend my money,' he says 'You are trying to control me, and I will not be told how to handle my finances.' ---This was an example taken from an argument about splitting the cost of couple's therapy. He felt that I should pay for the whole thing, and I politely told him that if he simply skipped going to a restaurant once per week (he eats out for EVERY SINGLE meal,) then he could easily afford to pay half of the therapy. And I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the ONLY time I have ever made any financial suggestions to him. The only time. And he has a lot of money from an inheritance he got. So that is an example- instead of addressing the present issue, he decided that I was a 'control freak,' and that I wanted to control his finances.
So that is what I mean by abusive. And it isn't good, by any means, and the damage it is doing to me mentally is something that will take me a long time to overcome. I know this.
The point is, though, is that it isn't physical, and I am not at all scared for my physical well-being. I just know that he is going to be very upset, and he will say mean things, and then may eventually come around to saying all of the nice things I always wish he would say. So those are the things I need to be ready to go up against.
I appreciate all of the worry though, but I am honestly not in physical danger.
posted by Wizzow at 4:06 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing Al-Anon. Go to a meeting. When they ask if anyone is a newcomer, raise your hand. If you don't like the first meeting you go to, try another. Each one is different. You may find that you prefer a women's-only meeting. Or not. But you will learn a lot about yourself, and find a tremendous amount of fellowship there.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:06 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

He admits that he has a problem, but is not planning to get any help for it in the near future.

Oh dog.

Take the apartment. Move out. Don't talk him him first, talk to him after. And don't give him the new address.

I want to be with him, but I need to do something to make myself happy, right? I can't keep waiting around for him to make a change so that I can feel good in my every day life, right?

Yes on both counts. And he isn't willing to make the changes that you need him to make for you to be happy. He isn't willing to make those changes for any reason, including his own wellbeing. You did your best. You tried your hardest. But it's time to go.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:15 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I hate to tell you but in my experience people with a lot of money and people with nooney don't have any incentive to quit addictive behaviors. If he's independently wealthy he's never going to stop drinking. Get the apartment and don't look back. You don't owe him rent or money.or anything.
posted by fshgrl at 4:19 PM on June 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

"Emotionally abusive" is still abusive. Even if he wasn't an alcoholic, that would be reason enough to move out and break up.

You have spoken to him about his drinking and he has chosen to ignore you or lie to you and continue to drink. You already gave him a chance. If you found a place, take it and leave. If you want to stay in contact with him, that's a different question (I would say cut him off forever, but it's up to you.) Since you're asking if you should move out-- definitely yes!

If you have the money, you can get movers through U-haul who will show up with the Uhaul van you rented (you can arrange all this online or on the phone today), put all your stuff in the van faster and more efficiently than you can, and drive it to your new place. Four guys should be like $500 for a couple hours. If you have money but not friends available, this can work out great. Sign your lease, get your keys, pretend everything is fine for a couple days, and then move everything in one go when he's at work or out.

You can't fix his life for him. You only control yourself. You deserve better than how he treats you. You should leave.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:28 PM on June 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

Answering your questions:

Knowing that he gets very angry during arguments, and knowing that talking about drinking sets him off especially- basically, what should I do? I want to be with him, but I need to do something to make myself happy, right? I can't keep waiting around for him to make a change so that I can feel good in my every day life, right? So how should I bring it up? I need some advice on how to communicate this in a way that will incapacitate his defense system, because he gets VERY defensive.

You can't (incapacitate his defense system) and that's okay. You're doing the right thing. You're a good and compassionate and loving person and none of this is your fault. You do not owe him a conversation about this. You know that he does not pay attention to your feelings, he will feel no obligation to refrain from lashing out and hurting you (emotionally). He may feel justified in trying to tear you down completely. You have no obligation to him. Do it from a distance - i suggest email with a filter to send any replies into a folder you only read if you feel strong enough. Block him on your phone, block him on social media. You could even let him work it out for yourself - i mean, if you move out and your stuff is gone, that speaks volumes. I suspect that engaging with him at all will only result in nastiness from him.

Please try to remember when you're grieving, that you are mourning the loss of a potential relationship - the one you believed him capable of contributing to. You are not mourning the loss of what you are currently experiencing because it is not beautiful, it is not good and it is not mutual.

You are brave. You are good enough. You deserve unconditional love. Be kind to yourself.
posted by b33j at 4:33 PM on June 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

I hope this isn't too glib, but right now, beer is his wife and you are the mistress asking when he's finally going to get the divorce he's been promising you.
posted by rhizome at 4:51 PM on June 30, 2016 [15 favorites]

He only isn't physically abusive yet. That is the direction this is heading. Trust me. Please trust me.

Adding my voice to the chorus: get out. I hope you have a friend who 100% has your back. Al-Anon was eye-opening: you'll hear your own story over and over from others' mouths.

I will be thinking good thoughts for you.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:02 PM on June 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also, others have mentioned it, but I'll say it again: be prepared for him to try anything and everything to get you to stay. Promises, ultimatums, crying, suicide threats. Be strong.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:04 PM on June 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

I am you 6 months ago after TEN YEARS of this BS. Just get the apartment, go no/ low contact and I assure you, you will revel in the freedom without it.

Go to Al-Anon. There's a lot of it I'm not in to, but some of it will hit home and hard. Please memail me if you need support.
posted by asockpuppet at 5:06 PM on June 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

i appreciate all the worry' though, but I am honestly not in any physical danger.


Move out now. Let his actions after that dictate whether it's for now, or for good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:20 PM on June 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

You're getting good advice on the logistics, but I just want to tell you that you will be so much happier after you have moved on, you might not even believe that it's not a fluke. Your life will be fantastic! Whatever you do, don't feel guilty if/when you realize that the one thing that has preventing your life from being fantastic up to now is him.
posted by janey47 at 5:20 PM on June 30, 2016

I appreciate all of the worry though, but I am honestly not in physical danger.

This is what I believed, too. I was wrong. Abuse escalates, and alcohol abuse can cause it escalate faster. You can be safe until you're dead. Make a plan and get out. Hopefully the shock will jar him into getting help, but it's not your responsibility to make that happen - You can only take care of yourself.
posted by summerstorm at 5:32 PM on June 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

Good luck, Wizzow.

My advice, fwiw: yeh, get out. I'm a 30-year recovering alcoholic and contributed my share to womankind of the pain like you're going through. Here's the truth: he likely has many good traits, and he likely even wants to deal with his alcoholism....but until he does, it's ACTIVITY #1. Not you, not others, it's the juice that gives him some kind of relief that no one, or no thing else, can.

Alcoholics, or at least 99.896497% of them are selfish assholes. I know I am and many of the others I see at meetings are too. Not bad people, just selfish assholes who have a pretty good line of BS to deal with anyone interfering with our getting our fix.

And AlAnon. Oh, yes, best cult on the block, imo. Check it out. It will give you access to some of the best people in town. And it will open doors which you can't even imagine now in your soul.

Remember this: you are OK, you will be OK, and so is he. Everything is perfect just as it is, pain and all. The sun will grow larger in your life, the friends will come, and the laughter will return.

Good luck, sister.
posted by lometogo at 5:44 PM on June 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

Get that lease.

Prepare for your move without letting him know.

Break the news at the last possible minute and don't let him draw you into an argument about it because the decision is made and THAT'S IT.

Get at least one person to help you move stuff out so it goes fast and he can't get abusive, either verbally or physically, without people to check it.

Don't give him your new address.

Maybe have someone come and stay with you for a few evenings or maybe go stay at a friend's for a week or two. If he's going to do something shitty, it'll probably be soon after the breakup.

He's forced you into this and you don't owe it to him to make it easier on him. If it's meant to be, he will clean up his act but I wouldn't hold my breath. That positive part of the relationship is pretty thin and the freedom from his bullshit will feel amazing. That comfort of the relationship routine is what may draw you back in but fight it. You can make a new routine that doesn't involve somebody else's alcoholism.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:19 PM on June 30, 2016

He drives around with beer in his cup holder.

He's not just a threat to your relationship, he's a threat on the road to other road users - men, women, children, families. I would not only have left this man permanently, I would have called the police.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:49 PM on June 30, 2016 [12 favorites]

My father, an alcoholic, was not physically abusive until he was. There were only a few incidents, but it was awful. It was especially awful because he was a good dad. Until he was not. He did not stop drinking until years afterwards. He only stayed sober for six years, just long enough for my youngest sibling to graduate from high school.

This will escalate. You need to sign the lease tomorrow and leave, without telling him. Your first priority is to protect yourself.

I'm so sorry, it is so hard. I am rooting for you.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 7:07 PM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can't fix this. I left my husband primarily (but not only) because of his drinking after arguing about it for years. It wasn't until I left him and starting going to Al-Anon meetings that I understood that you can't argue someone out of an addiction. For your own health, you should move out and focus on yourself and your own needs. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:08 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

You will feel so different and so much better after a few weeks of separation. Alcoholics suck up all the oxygen leaving you with SO LITTLE AIR TO BREATHE. It's all you can do to concentrate on keeping breathing. Then you get away and breathing becomes easier and you can think so much clearer.

I learned from experience that you can't make an alcoholic quit drinking. I used to say I can't live with the drinking and the drinking would stop...for a while. I became the 'find the bottle' cop. Not that I'd confront and make a scene, but I wanted to know where we stood and if I was about to tap dance around living daily life with a drunk.

I thought separation would lead to sobriety but it didn't. It's sad, alcohol is a powerful drug. It sounds like he has it particularly bad, all you can do is take care of yourself. You have us all pulling for you. Be safe.
posted by readery at 7:32 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't need to incapacitate his defense system. You just need to get out, take care of yourself, and be safe and happy. He has abdicated his responsibilities to you, to your relationship and to himself as an autonomous adult, and he's shoved the whole mess onto you. The right thing to do is to step back and let the whole mess splat onto the sidewalk, because it's not your job to carry all that crap just because he won't. Nthing the advice to go to Al-Anon.

I went to Al-Anon way, way too late - my alcoholic mother had been dead for several years - and I still found it helpful, even though I have decided I am not a twelve-step person. Seriously, all that stuff where you're trying to figure out what's him and what's the alcoholism? It will come into complete focus once you're around a bunch of people who have struggled with that question or are struggling with it now, and whose beloved alcoholics are at all different stages of disease and recovery: it DOESN'T MATTER. It doesn't matter whether it's him or the alcohol, because right now he doesn't exist outside of it. He is demanding that you put on his oxygen mask first, and then he's fighting you on it, all while you're blacking out from hypoxia yourself. Moving out and taking a break is just putting on your oxygen mask, and it's not only a perfectly fine thing to do, it's the best thing you can do. Save yourself first. You can make the decision to worry about him after you're safe.
posted by gingerest at 8:21 PM on June 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

Many people above have give the go-and-protect-yourself advice better than I could. Many others have given you very well-baked suggestions for Al-Anon, which I'll second. Let me just add 2 bits of frosting to the Al-Anon stuff.

1. Whatever you do, or don't do, at an Al-Anon meeting is OK. Talk, don't talk, cry, whatever - everybody there will be fine with it. They've been where you are, or close enough, and know how overwhelming the feelings can be when you find yourself in a group of people who understand and are simply glad you're there. I say that as a talkative 52-y.o. guy who still gets mute & teary when I go.

2. You don't need to do or believe in the 12 steps/traditions to be helped by Al-Anon. They do provide a framework and many people find the whole thing to be a good fit. But many elements are helpful on their own, and you can use those as you find them. The value of just being with people who know what you're going through is huge itself, and increases if you find some among them whom you enjoy talking to, listening to, or getting practical help from. Try going to different meetings (especially if the first group doesn't click for you), which will improve the chances of making those connections.

Finally: you can do this. You're smart and capable enough to realize what you're in, to write clearly and eloquently about it for us, and to turn to AskMeFi for help :-) .
posted by NumberSix at 9:33 PM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

I could have written this myself just a few months ago. I finally stepped away but, man, was I contorting my mind and heart in just about every direction trying to find a graceful out until I did it! Or that's what I was telling myself. I can admit now that I was trying to craft the perfect ultimatum that would snap him into reality, the exact way to say it that would start the redemption story I wanted so badly.

I never found it.

There is nothing you can say that won't make him defensive. He isn't here. He isn't reasonable. He's out to lunch. Take all that energy you are devoting to trying to avoid a confrontation and put it into taking the steps you need to move forward. I agree with everyone who is saying to get it all worked out and tell him afterward, if not for your personal safety, than to minimize any more emotional abuse at his hands. It's going to be hard enough to carry your own pain - don't let him dump his on you too.

The reality is you have no idea who this person is. The story you are telling yourself about who he would be if he wasn't drunk all of the time is simply that - a story. You have no actual evidence that any of the nice things you've seen in him are enduring. You have a few weeks among YEARS of interaction that tell a kinder story about him. If anything, the person you think he is under the drinking is likely a projection of the great person YOU are that focuses on the light in him despite his many failures. It's great to believe people can change - they can and they do - but don't hurt yourself with the knowledge of that possibility. Make the decisions you need to make based on the reality in front of you. If something changes, you can always re-evaluate!

Something I learned in Al Anon (I know, I know...I resisted too, but there's a reason people keep suggesting it) is I stayed because I couldn't let go of my need to control the situation. I wanted to figure out how to fix it. On the surface, I understood that it wasn't reasonable to expect that I could do it 100% on my own with no effort or participation on his part. I kept thinking, I'm crafty! He loves me! I can do this. And when that didn't work, I'd tell myself he needed me, that if I wasn't there he'd fall apart or die drowning in a bathtub wasted or any other number of things, but the horrible news is he can do all of those things with you by his side. You can't stop of any of that any more than you can stop his drinking.

Addicts only change when they decide it's time to change. For them. He can't do that if you are always there keeping him just together enough to hover over his rock bottom. If really love him, let him loose. Let him see the bottom of this spiral he is on. I can't promise you it will end with him recovering, but I can promise he has no chance with you staying by his side when he is actively choosing to avoid treatment. He is a grown man - treat him as such. If he wants to choose drinking, let him and leave him to deal with the consequences. That's the moment you'll see who he really is.
posted by amycup at 9:41 PM on June 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

You've already got some good communication advice from the posters above, so I won't repeat that. I just want to say that if you don't have much experience in serious relationships outside of this one - they can be so much better than this. And being single is better than this if you haven't been degraded so much that you don't even remember how to be you without him around. This sucks. Once you are able to distance yourself from him, you won't even understand how or why you stuck with him as long as you did.

Life is hard enough without chaining yourself to an alcoholic who won't deal with his problem. He's not worth it, and neither is your sense of well-being and self-respect. Congratulations on taking the step of getting your own place.
posted by wondermouse at 5:59 AM on July 1, 2016

If the reason you think he won't hit you is because he's too scared of jail time... wow is that ever not a good enough reason. He is an angry person who gets drunk. Anger and drunkenness tend to make people forget all their reasons for not doing stupid life-ruining shit.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:43 AM on July 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

what should I do?

Sign the lease and move.

I want to be with him, but I need to do something to make myself happy, right?


I can't keep waiting around for him to make a change so that I can feel good in my every day life, right?

Right. 100% right. He's got good qualities, good days, you're hopeful about those - and there is always hope - and it's sad to let the good bits go. But he's got an addiction. The good bits go with that. You are not the person who can help him - the abusive patterns are there, you've got too much history built up between you already.

So how should I bring it up? I need some advice on how to communicate this in a way that will incapacitate his defense system, because he gets VERY defensive.

he says 'You are trying to control me, and I will not be told how to handle my finances.'

He has the emotional resources of a toddler right now. His defense system involves getting angry and irrational; you can't tiptoe around something you can't predict. He isn't going to understand, he can't.

You say: "I am leaving because I can't live with you while you're drinking. Because I am not happy. I can't wait for you to do it your way."

He's still going to twist it this way and that. Don't get sucked into his logic. Call in a friend or family member to help you move.

(When I left my ex, I still worried after him - he'd said some dark, worrying things... I passed this info on to a family member of his. Didn't have to do that, he didn't like it, not sure it helped, not sure family member was even placed to do anything, but it made it easier to sleep.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:55 PM on July 1, 2016

I hope you're signing that lease today. I hope it's a "move immediately" lease.

Above all, to repeat:

There are no graceful ways to exit- just effective ones.

Don't worry about anything but protecting yourself.

Get some sort of support network- it doesn't have to be Alanon, but hey somebody who's been there, and who will listen.

Take care of yourself, not him.
posted by happyroach at 1:06 PM on July 1, 2016

Thank you all for your responses/advice. I will begin going to Al-anon meetings, and I wish I had gone sooner, because I feel like I could have gained some tools to help myself to become better understood during this conversation. I have looked into meetings in the past, and just never bit the bullet and decided to go.
I can not heed the advice of doing the move discretely, and only telling him after the fact. I have lived in the house we are in for four years, and the move is going to take much, much longer than a day or two. Plus, he is always at home. Nearly always.
I am going to have a conversation with him today. As with every conversation him and I have ever have, I am remaining optimistic that he will be able to consider it rationally, and that he will understand how much his drinking has/does hurt me. Unfortunately, I know from two years of experience that he does not consider things rationally, and that I WILL end up feeling the need to defend myself, and I WILL end up feeling like I've done something wrong.
I am still going to go through with it, and I know that once I am in the new place I will feel better, and I will get the much-needed break from seeing/smelling/being around alcohol. And also him.
There are plenty of problems in our relationship aside from the drinking, but I feel like I could never know the true extent of those problems, and where they really stem from, with alcohol in the picture.
This will be a very difficult conversation, and I will let everyone know what happens after the fact. Thanks for all the support!!
posted by Wizzow at 1:12 PM on July 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just remember that it is fine for him to have whatever opinions he wants. He can think you're wrong, or mean, or crazy, or that you can't live without him. He's a human, he gets to think what he wants.

You don't have to "win" though. You don't have to convince him of anything, or provide sufficient justification of defense. It may help to come up with a stock response to repeat to all attempts to stop you, like "I'm still leaving" or "I'm still moving out" or "This is what I have to do, I'm sorry." (You can be sorry. It's fine to be sorry. Do it anyway.)

You don't need his permission to leave. He doesn't have to think you're doing the right thing before you're allowed to go.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:28 PM on July 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Good luck OP.

Please remember that leaving a relationship is often one of the most dangerous times. I know that you don't believe that he will hurt you but your reasoning for that (I honestly think that he is terrified of the jail time that would ensue if he were to be physical) might not apply if he gets it in his head that losing you is worse than a life in prison.

That's why I think it's important to get the things that you cannot live without out of the house before you tell him that you are leaving. So that, worst case, maybe you need to say goodbye to your computer and your favorite couch and the cast iron pan from your great grandmother but you have your SS card and your car keys and your chequebook so you don't have to stay in reach of him in order to get them.

Unfortunately, I know from two years of experience that he does not consider things rationally, and that I WILL end up feeling the need to defend myself, and I WILL end up feeling like I've done something wrong.

Try to resist the urge to actually defend yourself (verbally) no matter how much you end up feeling like you've done something wrong. You're doing the right thing and it doesn't matter how he feels about it.

You also don't owe strangers on the internet anything, but know that I will be worried about you until you check in again to say that you are ok.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:29 PM on July 1, 2016

Hi all.
I just had the conversation. Or probably rather, the preliminary conversation. I told him that I am moving, and that it is because of his addiction. He sat and listened, and I cried a bit. I told him that I need to do what is right for me, and that by staying in the situation that we are in, I am the only one doing any giving. I told him that he is allowed to handle his drinking in whichever way he finds suitable, I told him that I admit to making mistakes in the way I initially thought about, and reacted to his drinking problem. I told him that it has only recently come to light for me that I can't keep focusing on what HE is doing, and how HE is going to change things. In no other facet of my life do I allow someone else to have complete control over such a significant part of my life.
He didn't say much, and he didn't get outwardly angry really. He told me that he was angry, and that he feels that he was blindsided.
I told him that once he cools down, it is possible that he will find that this conclusion has been drawn over the course of the last (almost) two years. That the drinking has been an ongoing source of turmoil in our relationship, and that I/we have tried every which way to get it to work in our relationship. I also mentioned that I have said many times that his drinking problem is going to become a huge problem for me, and for our relationship. I have told him that there would come a time where I would no longer be able to handle it. And I suppose that time has come.
He said that he needs time to think, because he feel that once I move out- he may never be able to move back in with me again. He said he wouldn't want to move his son back in with me again. He said that he is angry because he knows I am 'prepared' for this (because I have the deposit down on the place,) and that now he has to find a place. But he also said that he is angry about his drinking problem, and that he will need to figure that out.
It ended at that. I could tell that if I pushed the conversation any more, he was probably going to say something mean. So I left it alone. He will probably avoid talking to me for a couple of days, and I will begin to prepare for moving. Thank you all, and I will keep updating.
posted by Wizzow at 2:48 PM on July 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Thank you for updating us--I am glad you were able to express so much of what you were feeling to him so directly.

He said that he needs time to think, because he feel that once I move out- he may never be able to move back in with me again. He said that he is angry because he knows I am 'prepared' for this (because I have the deposit down on the place,) and that now he has to find a place. But he also said that he is angry about his drinking problem, and that he will need to figure that out.

These comments indicate he's directing a lot of blame at you and still not taking responsibility for his own predicament. It's like he thinks he has been "put in this position" by you. Even when he acknowledges his drinking problem, his wording is weirdly passive. (I realize that you are paraphrasing him here, but still.)

Since it seems you are planning to stay in a relationship with him despite moving out, I think you should consider these red flags.

Good luck and stay strong. I think moving out is an excellent decision, and once you do it you will feel enormous relief.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:09 PM on July 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

He said that he needs time to think, because he feel that once I move out- he may never be able to move back in with me again.

Well that solves a problem for you doesn't it? Sorry to be snarky but honestly this is just him and the hurt talking. I found it was helpful for me to view other peoples' addictions like parasites, making the person do or say whatever they had to in order to be able to stay addicted. He'll blame you for everything and he's welcome to feel how he feels but you don't have to agree or put up with abuse or other harassment. If it makes you feel any better, he is genuinely unlikely to hold that opinion if he gets his drinking under control. That said, he is also unlikely to get his drinking under control but I wish him (and especially you) the best with this new step.

It sounds like you did a really good job with this and I hope you find some usefulness in putting some space between the two of you. It's a lot easier to maintain and uphold boundaries when you are not forced into sharing a space. "You want to come over tonight but you've been drinking? No." "You want me to go somewhere in your car but you want to drink and drive? No." "You want me to come over but the house is full of beer cans? No." "You want to get into an argument about the things I did wrong in this relationship? No."
posted by jessamyn at 4:02 PM on July 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

And please do keep updating.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 4:03 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes, please do keep updating.

I would be delighted to proven wrong about this, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he pulled out just about every stop to get you to stay. Returned to his kind, caring, courting ways; stopped drinking, or, at least cut down; talked about how much you mean to him, how devastated if you will do, and so on and on and on and on.

Then, if you do persist in leaving (and I hope you do), I wouldn't be at all surprised if he then got angry, and started going after you, saying you're so mean, and no on can please you, and what does he have to do anyway, and, again, so on. This is also when some guys get violent, and I so hope that this is not one of those guys.

As I said, I'd be delighted to be proven wrong and I hope I am.
posted by dancing_angel at 6:34 PM on July 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Figure out whether you want to live this way for the rest of your life. With him making angry comments and threats about withholding emotional support and remarks that make you feel afraid to express your feelings. With him refusing to pull his weight. With him drinking at least as much as he does now and refusing to consider trying to stop.

Assume that's what the rest of your life will look like. How do you feel about that?

Is it possible that he's going to have a revelation and that you moving out will be just the kick in the pants he needs to get sober and solve all of his problems and become the partner you've always wanted? Maybe. But it's pretty unlikely, statistically. And in order to realistically assess the situation, you have to assume that he'll make no changes, because he's not under your control, so you can't plan that he'll change. You can only plan for the things you're able to do and control and change yourself, without his help or agreement.

If I were you, I'd move out ASAP. I'd end the relationship and cut contact and grieve and try to move on with my life. Because he is taking advantage of you and making you unhappy and has expressed zero interest in any sort of change unless it was in response to an ultimatum from you. And that's not real change, that's a pledge used to try to get you to stay. You need to plan on the assumption that you can only control you. If he chooses to change, that might be a nice bonus, but you can't predict or plan on that.

So, do you want to continue to live with this man for the rest of your life, assuming that he never changes at all?
posted by decathecting at 12:11 AM on July 2, 2016

Just wanted to chime in and say that no matter how dude reacts to your move, whether hostile or charming, whether he drinks more or stops drinking, move anyway!

Physical sobriety is triage, even when it leads to long-term recovery. Your bf may well cut down or stop drinking, as he did early on, and say, "see, I'm fixed!" Move anyway, and focus on yourself.

I was some version of your boyfriend before I got sober. After over 4 years, I'm only now dealing with the fact that emotionally I'm still very much a child (at 38!). People are different, of course, but I do know for sure that if your bf does end up getting recovery, he will understand what you've done, eventually. If not, good riddance.
posted by generalist at 10:31 AM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

my happiness is contingent upon his drinking

Yeah, I remember that feeling. Leave him and stay away. Full stop.

You can't change him and you can't treat his addiction for him. You won't budge it, not even a millimeter. The only way you will ever encourage him to change is by treating him like an adult. Treating him like an adult means you do not tolerate bullshit, childish behavior, or broken promises. It means you do not shield him from the consequences of his actions. It means you do not make excuses for his behavior or rationalize his addiction. It means you leave him and stay away. Full stop.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 10:53 AM on July 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

There was nothing in your first post that gave any reason for you to stay. I am so glad to see your update. You are doing the right thing. Go out and find happiness--you deserve it
posted by Izzi at 10:46 AM on July 5, 2016

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