It's me or the drink
March 4, 2019 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I asked my partner to stop drinking. Let’s assume he agrees to try. What happens next? Looking to hear from people who have been in our shoes.

My otherwise wonderful partner has a drinking problem. It’s not that he drinks too much, it's that he becomes a jerk when he drinks. It’s led to many (MANY) arguments, hurt feelings, apologies, discussions, attempts to moderate, etc. etc.

To be clear, the last thing I ever wanted to do was give an ultimatum. But I realized yesterday that any amount of alcohol just causes problems in our relationship. So the only way I can stay with him is if he drastically reduces his drinking or stops completely.

As stated above, we’ve talked about this at length many times. He HAS reduced quite a bit since we got together (but it’s still not enough for me to be happy). He does recognize the issues it causes both in our relationship and other parts of his life. He’s often (on his own) expressed a curiosity/desire to stop drinking altogether. His mother was an alcoholic. He knows, logically, there are many good reasons to reduce. And he's stated more than once that he would never forgive himself if he lost this relationship to alcohol.

So! He has shown an awareness that stopping would probably be good. I don’t think he actually WANTS to, though, and he definitely doesn't feel he's addicted. I think quitting will be harder for him than he thinks. (He drinks about 2-4 glasses of wine, 2-4 times a week, alone. We do not live together).

So if we assume he gives it a try: what can I/we expect to happen over the next few days, weeks, months? Not focused so much on physical withdrawal symptoms (I don’t think he drinks enough for that to be an issue). More wondering what kinds of challenges and surprises we might face.

(And, I know change has to come from within. Am I fooling myself to think he might actually do it?)
posted by puppet du sock to Human Relations (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
12 or 13 years ago my now wife said "hey, you're drinking a little too much, there are these side-effects you may not be aware of, why don't you stop drinking for two months and see what happens?". So I did, and never really started again. The hard part was learning how to hang out with people and not drink, but once I learned to tip the bar staff as though I was drinking I gained powerful allies when I was out in a bar.

So I'd say that's the absolute best-case scenario. I'd also say it's unlikely, but I put it out there as a "this is possible, depending on his relationship to alcohol and probably genetics and all sorts of other things", and as a "if it isn't this easy, then you have my permission to walk away".
posted by straw at 9:45 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a partner who is an affable stoner. However when he's high he becomes a spacey bad-partner (forgets things that are important, basically becomes untethered from the general norms of our relationship, does things that are normally not-ok but not dealbreaker type stuff). At some point I had had it and we had a conversation about it. Why he likes being a stoner. Why and how it can be a problem for our relationship. What I would feel okay with.

We also don't live together and in fact are long distance so it rarely came up when we were together but it affected our communication. So, this wouldn't work for all relationships, but it works for us: we outlined a "what we would both be okay with" that was a loose "this much is okay, within these guidelines but more than that is not okay. If something happens that is a pot-related relationship-party-foul this is how we'll deal with it" (usually a few more days off than would be normal) The big deal is this is our agreement, not something he is doing FOR me per se, and I am also not the arbiter of it.

That, to me, is the important part. It's not me monitoring his pot usage. It focuses on whatever the behavior is (I really really don't care that he smokes pot, I only care that he doesn't space out on stuff we've agreed on and sometimes that's an unintended consequence of pot smoking) and an agreement that the behavior needs to change along with a reluctant agreement that the pot smoking is affecting that. Also he has to trust me and take my word on this stuff which he basically does. It works for me.

I came from a family with an alcoholic parent and one of the issues that comes up can be a lot of outwardly-focused "The problem isn't ME it's YOU" from the drinker. Which is garbage but sort of predictable. It might be useful for you to read some of the Al-Anon literature just to recognize some of the fail modes that can happen. And it may also be that something like Glass Ceiling would work where he gets two drinks a day, period, no fussing and maybe that works better. The point made in that article is that if something like that IS a problem, it's entirely possibly your person has a problem with alcohol. Which then leads to a different set of paths and choices possibly. Best of luck, this is totally possible.
posted by jessamyn at 9:56 AM on March 4, 2019 [15 favorites]

wondering what kinds of challenges and surprises we might face

In my experience, if he doesn't actually want to stop drinking, then you have to be prepared for him to resent you for being the drinking police, hide his drinking from you and lie to you about drinking. Also, you should think about what you're going to do if he starts drinking again.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:00 AM on March 4, 2019 [37 favorites]

You say it's not a matter of quantity, but then several times in your question you bring up quantity. I think one thing that would be good to focus on, in the coming weeks and going forward, is what you brought up when introducing the issue in this question. His behavior when he drinks. Anytime he drinks. Regardless of quantity.

So things like "cutting back", "he doesn't feel he's addicted" (you don't have to be addicted to alcohol to be a jerk when you drink), underlining the quantity he drinks, etc. are probably going to be nonstarters on both sides. He can say "I'm not an alcoholic, I only drink x amount which is totally safe and normal, I've already really cut back," etc and it can continue to be a problem in your relationship, because none of that addresses the actual concern.

For the record, 4-8 drinks a week is in no way considered excessive drinking or a symptom of alcoholism (the upper end of the range you mention might be, depending on circumstances). So, yeah, the problem really does seem to be his behavior when drinking any quantity, ever, and not a need to cut back or become concerned that he has an addiction to it.

I couldn't agree with jessamyn's advice more. Don't make yourself the Drinking Police, or the Fun Ruiner.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 10:08 AM on March 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

He drinks about 2-4 glasses of wine, 2-4 times a week, alone.

Just FYI, the upper end of this range is only just short of the usual definition of binge drinking. There may be more of an issue there than you are aware of, especially if he is drinking alone (which may lead to underreporting).

Having not done this myself but having witnessed it, I agree that the big issue is whether he perceives this as his own decision that he's doing for his own benefit or whether he ends up viewing it as your being the boss of him in a way he doesn't care for. If the latter, the relationship is most likely toast, but it's probably for the best. If the has been done. So if your partner is otherwise a grown person who handles his own business, you have a fighting chance. If he is the type that deputes adulthood to you and then gets mad about it, not so much.
posted by praemunire at 10:10 AM on March 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

I have a cousin in his 50's. He was a functional alcoholic from his late teens to 30 odd. Never drank at work. Hid a lot of it. He was never mean when drunk, but he typically drank till he passed out every night. He was this way when he got married in his 30's.
His tobe ex wife will insist she gave him an ultimatum and that is why he quit. He maintains he quit because he hit rock bottom with a DUI and suicide thoughts. So he started going to AA. He did their program to the letter, though he was not religious. He has been 15 years sober.
I know his tobe ex wife. Nice on the surface, not so nice under it. Very much a "I told you so" person. Holds grudges better than anyone I have ever met.
The things he mentioned.
She told him multiple times that he would never be trustworthy because he would always be an alcoholic.
She brought up his alcoholism or his behavior when drinking.. everyday, multiple times a day usually. If they went out to eat, she would grab the drink/wine menu and hand it to the wait staff with a "He can't drink" statement
She resented the time and effort of AA. Did not like that he was away at meetings or talking on the phone when home or working in workbooks at home.
and when he was sober for awhile. He made his apologies to those affected. TO THIS DAY, she tells everyone how much SHE sacrificed and that his apology to her was not good enough.
Moral..Don't be her.
posted by ReiFlinx at 10:27 AM on March 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

“And he's stated more than once that he would never forgive himself if he lost this relationship to alcohol. “

I stopped reading here. This is a HUGE problem and you should prepare to break up. This is such a weird thing to say. There are many reasons why this statement is so bad but I have to put the kids to bed and this is on my phone.
posted by catspajammies at 10:33 AM on March 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

I read through your previous questions and comments. This man's drinking bothers you, which is enough of a reason for you to check out an Al-Anon meeting or six. He is the child of a narcissist (as was my ex-husband, the alcoholic) and he is going to have a hard time stopping because of this compounding reason. Look at your own words from 2016. His drinking has bothered you for years but you are codependent with him and all tied up in it. Your desire for him to stop drinking is not what is going to get him to stop drinking, and if you are not careful, you are going to end up attempting an failing to project-manage his "recovery." Your coping mechanism of blaming the drinking for the problems in your relationship in order to separate from (since you don't like to drink) them is not going to continue to serve you forever, it is breaking down already.

Your otherwise wonderful partner who drinks in a way that harms your relationship is an alcoholic. He has a disease. If he could control it, it sounds like he would.

You sound a lot like me before I got into Al-Anon. Feel free to PM me and I'd be happy to talk more, via email, text, or phone.
posted by juniperesque at 10:53 AM on March 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

If you are not living with him and he is drinking alone, how does it end up affecting you? Does he show up drunk, call or text you, etc.? Since you don't want to be controlling, I'd draw that boundary rather than the "you're not allowed to drink" ultimatum. Then he could figure out if he was going to solve the problem by not drinking, by avoiding you when drunk, by improving his drunk behavior, etc. (Apologies if you've already tried that.)

The biggest problem my friends who've quit drinking have is boredom, honestly. They're tired after work and don't have the energy to do a whole lot, and drinking provides escapism. It might be helpful for him to brainstorm in advance what he's going to do with his time he previously spent drinking.
posted by metasarah at 11:05 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Please ask him to go to an Al-Anon meeting with you and possibly an AA or agnostic AA group in your area. He sounds like an alcoholic, but I'm not him nor you. If he goes through with going to a meeting, working the steps, etc., support him and to be very, very honest, expect a slip or two or three. It sounds like he hasn't hit his "rock bottom," but not everybody does. Expect some withdrawal symptoms (YMMV) and surliness/moodiness when out with friends or at dinner.

And you're 100% correct that change comes from within. But it is entirely possible, with adequate support, direction, and fellowship. Best of luck!
posted by theseventhstranger at 11:06 AM on March 4, 2019

It’s not that he drinks too much, it's that he becomes a jerk when he drinks. It’s led to many (MANY) arguments, hurt feelings, apologies, discussions, attempts to moderate, etc. etc.

Then he really is drinking too much, I think.

From my pov, as someone who's lived with an alcoholic, if he's cut back to 2-4 glasses, 2-4 times a week, on his own - and this is self-reported, so you don't really know how much he really drinks on his own - then what was he drinking on a regular basis before that?

Anyway 'four glasses' on your own could easily be a bottle in one go. This says to me again, that he has an alcohol problem.

But I realized yesterday that any amount of alcohol just causes problems in our relationship. So the only way I can stay with him is if he drastically reduces his drinking or stops completely.

what can I/we expect to happen over the next few days, weeks, months?

This could be a longer term thing. There are at least two issues here. The first is his consumption of alcohol, which turns him into a jerk. The second is his behavior as an alcoholic. They are not necessarily connected in simple ways. If he stops drinking, then he will become a dry alcoholic, and but not necessarily become a non-jerk.

He will be alcoholic for the rest of his life. If he quits, he will be dry alcoholic for the rest of his life.

So I think one of your basic decisions here is to decide whether (a) it is the alcohol that is causing problems in your relationship, or (b) it is the alcoholic that is causing problems in your relationship. You can choose/assess either to be a dealbreaker.

If you decide that they are non-dealbreakers, then you need to figure out how you are going to cope/manage with this in the future, based on the fact that you'll be in a relationship with a (life-long) alcoholic (either dry or 'cutting back').

Sorry to be blunt. I wish you the very best of luck. Please feel free to memail with any questions.
posted by carter at 11:07 AM on March 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

My experience with EXACTLY this scenario:

Week 1: Sober all the time boyfriend! Truly a delight.
Week 2: Still sober, but now bf is resentful because something stressful is happening at work and he feels like he has no outlet.
Week 3: Bf has started drinking again, but is lying to me.
Week 4: I figure out bf is drinking. We fight. We re-negotiate terms.

It took me a year to loop through this over and over and over and eventually I decided that we were just not compatible. I can picture my bf happily tied up in a relationship with someone else who likes to drink like him and how much better that would be for him and for me. Have firm boundaries, and check in with yourself frequently about whether the compromises necessary for the relationship to continue are healthy for either of you.
posted by skrozidile at 12:07 PM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Okay! I am back :-) so- you want to know what you can expect over the next days, weeks, months- if he wants to give it a try and what challenges and surprises.

Surprises sound nice. In this case I think it would be a surprise if he quit drinking.

I think there will be many challenges. And you should not put up with challanges. This is not your problem to work out with him together.

You don’t want to be with a drinker who is a jerk when he drinks. That is YOUR challenge. If he keeps drinking and being a jerk then you have to leave. That’s it.

You can’t really do this together.

I had a boyfriend in my late 20’s and we drank too much together and I wanted to stop- he would agree and then at any excuse he would drink again. Oh god! The fights. And then he would just look sheepish and stupid and eventually I realized he would be drinking until he died.... he was an alcoholic.

My next boyfriend was much different. He was having 3-4 vodkas a night and I told him that was too much for me (after what I had JUST BEEN through!!!! See above) and he was like: guess what baby- I won’t drink a drop for a month, just to show you! And he didn’t and he never went back to it in the next 3 years. He had the odd weekend drink and was occasionally merry but..... he was not an alcoholic.

My husband hardly drinks at all. Definitely not an alcoholic.

Don’t be with an alcoholic. They are not the path to happiness at all. Life and people have enough problems- it’s better when they are not drinking, and drinking covers things up.

I think you don’t really need to know what’s going on down deep inside this guy.

He says he can’t live without his relationship to alcohol. Guess what- he will decide he can live without you. He will choose alcohol over you. He will just make you do all the crying and dirty work.

Maybe you need to go through that to be done with this but really really really. Never date or partner with someone who drinks like this ever again.
posted by catspajammies at 12:17 PM on March 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

One point of clarification - when he said he'd never forgive himself, he meant he would hate to lose ME, not alcohol. In other words, he values our relationship over drinking.
posted by puppet du sock at 12:31 PM on March 4, 2019

He’s still making his long term mental health and self-acceptance something you’re responsible for. After all, if you decide to leave him, he won’t be able to live with it. This is tacit pressure on you to tolerate his behavior to avoid a permanent negative result. It’s also a huge glaring red flag that indicates that he’s living in dramatic alcoholic land. After all, when you break things off, he won’t have any more reason not to drink. Who needs a drink more than someone who can’t live with himself? Tellingly, he’s not motivated by his kids, perhaps because they don’t provide a romantic story about why he continues to drink after wrecking a relationship via his nasty alcoholic behavior. Or maybe because he’s just telling you what you need to hear to give him five or ten more chances, but his kids don’t really have a choice.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:38 PM on March 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

I just read your history and it sounds like this is going on for 3+ years and been a concern since the start. I don’t have anything except to say this is not unique and he is not unique and your relationship is not unique WHEN IT COMES TO ALCOHOL and alcoholics. I think if he was going to change he would have done it already.
posted by catspajammies at 12:40 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

In case it’s not clear I think you are lying to yourself about this man; that he drinks too much; that he won’t change; and that you’ll likely stick around for as many rounds of his drinking/lying/guilt-tripping as you can stand before leaving him, at which point he will likely continue drinking, now with you to blame. So that’s what I think you can expect.

I think you should break things off now so he can recover, if he chooses to, without the distraction/excuse of a romantic relationship, and so that you can focus on healing yourself from this relationship and all of the nasty behavior he’s subjected you to.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:42 PM on March 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

I was a (now in recovery) codependent and a very successful full time one at that for the majority of my life to many addicts including both parents, and parental figues, a sibling, an ex husband and a few ex boyfriends and friends.
I read your past posts, and you may need to learn this yourself unfortunately, but I'll tell you my experience with trying to help or fix someone with a problem...
I can guarantee you with absolute certainty that in each and every single case an addict attempts to quit, cut back, moderate, control or otherwise modify their addiction with or for you, or their relationship for you, or by your request real or imagined, or to avoid any of the above, they haven't fixed their problem, or proved they haven't one, they are still addicts in active addiction, and what addicts do is excuse, justify, blame, evade, etc.
So the addiction part of their brain goes, " see I told you you're in control here, you aren't an addict, you can do X so you're not addicted," and then it kinda goes something like, "you, me and this addiction aren't the problem here, we're in control we don't have a problem, but this person here, she's trying to control us, she's trying to tell us what to do, she's judging us... shesthe real problem here."
and then all of a sudden. You are now the scapegoat. You are now the problem. You are now juat another one of their excuses or reasons or justifications. If you aren't enabling them, you can either be a target to be painted black whenever most convenient, or you can be discarded.
But as you can see, you can't actually help someone with an addiction, and anything you try to do just has the opposite effect. I don't personally agree that addiction is a disease, I believe it's more accurately something like a mental illness crossed with parasite, because it take over and lies to its host and creates a false narrative and reality, that rewrites itself as often and as far as it needs to survive prevail. and you don't and won't ever have the power to override that narrative or rid it from it's host.
There's only one way to help an addict. Show them what their addiction costs them and leave. Don't volunteer to enable or excuse, just leave and if you want, leave with an open invitation to reconcile or celebrate their sobriety one day in the future should they like to.
posted by OnefortheLast at 12:56 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

My now-ex-husband never drank to excess, but the drinking that he did made me intensely uncomfortable because it seemed so grimly necessary and it's not that he was an asshole every time he drank, but almost every time he was an asshole, it was when he had been drinking. Eventually he started a habit of pouring himself a beer every afternoon at 4:00 at work and drinking it at his desk (he was a self-employed attorney), always the largest craft beers with the highest alcohol percentage, and this just seemed obviously crazy to me (was it? does this seem like a really bad practice to anyone else?) and when we talked about it he was adamant that he didn't want to stop because it "made him happy" and he wished that I would just "loosen up." I asked him if he would please just not drink at all on three days a week and he very grudgingly agreed but bitterly resented me and one thing led to another (to be clear, there were LOTS of other issues) and now we're divorced.

Reading Jessamyn's strategy makes it super clear to me how shit our relationship was, because it would have been impossible to have an agreement that focused on the behavior that resulted from drinking, i.e., being an asshole with an anger management problem. The only possible approach was to regulate the alcohol but obviously that was not a durable solution and ultimately it further damaged our relationship. I'm so much happier out of it.
posted by HotToddy at 12:58 PM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Honestly, if you're the one leading the charge here, the game is already lost.

If he wants to quit, he will. He's known for a long time that you don't like it, surely? How many times have you expressed what's acceptable for you? He knows already, and it hasn't mattered. And even now, he still doesn't want to quit. I think you are very unlikely to have a good long term outcome here.

I'm married to a recovering addict who has been sober for 13 years. This question, and especially the fact that you've been feeling bad about this for three years already, takes me right back to that terrible place - for years I tried all sorts of negotiating strategies and "support" to try to make somebody else believe they shouldn't do drugs. You have got to be so tired.

I think the next few days and weeks and months are going to keep making you tired. Right now you're in a position where the only reason he's doing something is because you want him to - if he doesn't think his behavior is a problem, he's probably going to keep doing it. But he knows you don't like it, so then he'll have to lie to you about it. And then you will find out, and be sad and angry with both him and yourself. Or what if he doesn't drink in secret, but you worry that he might be, and then you start looking for it and asking him about it and it becomes an inescapable, emotionally fraught loop you can't escape.

You can't be the boss of him. Trying to be the boss of somebody else, even in a way that seems small or if you believe they're on board with the decisions you've made for them - it isn't fun. And it doesn't work.
posted by something something at 1:16 PM on March 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

when he said he'd never forgive himself, he meant he would hate to lose ME, not alcohol. In other words, he values our relationship over drinking.

That is not what that means. What that means is he can see the writing on the wall, he is prepared to lose you and hate himself for it forever. My experience is that deep down, alcoholics are mopes who drink instead of learning the coping skills they need to have to deal with difficult emotions. I do believe they can't help it and would probably prefer to be otherwise, but it takes a lot of work to get your head to a different place where not doing this is a genuine option for them.

Looking back on your other questions (which I did not do before this) and seeing that you have kids and that this has been going on for literally years? I basically think I'd be having one come to Jesus discussion with this guy and then letting him either figure it out on his own or move on. As catspajammies says, there are many ways to be someone who drinks that is not like this.
posted by jessamyn at 1:59 PM on March 4, 2019 [13 favorites]

when he said he'd never forgive himself, he meant he would hate to lose ME, not alcohol. In other words, he values our relationship over drinking.

That is not what that means. What that means is he can see the writing on the wall, he is prepared to lose you and hate himself for it forever.

Yeah basically. It's kind of complicated but I think what this means is he will feel bad with himself, for not having been able to talk you into putting up with him for the rest of your life.
posted by carter at 2:17 PM on March 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I mean, if he already had made the connection with a choice of partner, or alcohol, he would have stopped drinking, right?
posted by carter at 2:22 PM on March 4, 2019

I asked my partner to stop drinking. Let’s assume he agrees to try. What happens next? Looking to hear from people who have been in our shoes.

Just being frank, in my experience what happens next is that he stops for a very short time or not at all. He starts or continues drinking on the sly. Eventually, he parades by with a drink in his hand or orders one while out with you, daring you to call him on it. Which you will probably not do, because you're so hurt/disappointed. And next thing you know he's drinking even more than before.

Also, maybe he feels guilty, and relieves that guilt by demonizing you as the "fun police." Even if you literally never say anything to him about his drinking again.

In my experience, watching that cycle play out might be a wake-up call *to you* about what his relationship with alcohol actually is, and then you can do with that information as you will. Doubt it will be a wake-up call to him, though.

when he said he'd never forgive himself, he meant he would hate to lose ME, not alcohol. In other words, he values our relationship over drinking.

Except that he hasn't stopped or drastically changed his drinking habits. So what I think this actually means is that he's thought about the possibility that he'll lose you over this, knows it would break his heart, and yet is still going to continue drinking unabated. In his mind, your relationship could plausibly be collateral damage to his drinking and he knows he would never forgive himself for that, but even that hasn't stopped him from drinking.

I'm not saying not to give him the ultimatum. If you think there's a chance that it will work or if you even just need to give him that one last shot for your peace of mind, go ahead and do it. But expect things to take a messier and darker turn than you seem to be expecting right now. Prepare for the possibility that he would rather keep drinking than keep you.
posted by rue72 at 2:55 PM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

It’s not that he drinks too much, it's that he becomes a jerk when he drinks.

Has he been arrested for being a jerk to a cop? Has he been fired for being a jerk to his boss? Is he mainly a jerk to you and other people with whom there are no legal/financial consequences? You being upset with him when he's a drunken asshole is a price he's willing to pay for drinking.

One point of clarification - when he said he'd never forgive himself, he meant he would hate to lose ME, not alcohol. In other words, he values our relationship over drinking.

That's what he says. What does he do?

If he wanted to stop, he would have stopped before you drew this line in the sand. Given that this has been a consistent problem for years, I think he'll quit drinking to keep you from leaving, and then keep drinking behind your back. I don't think he wants to quit, he just wants you to quit being unhappy about it.
posted by Nyrha at 3:11 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Honestly, if you're the one leading the charge here, the game is already lost.

Quoted for truth.

You know what you want, and it won't be found with him. Let him go gracefully, and start a new life without that grief and stress.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:13 PM on March 4, 2019

Have you been to couples therapy?

I haven't read your history, but I am inferring from some comments above that you all have myriad relationship issue and it may help to address his drinking issues within the larger context.
posted by she's not there at 3:19 PM on March 4, 2019

I don't know if your partner is an alcoholic or not. Unfortunately, our society has promulgated a binary division where either you are a full blown alcoholic, or you are perfectly fine. The space between these poles gives people with all kinds of drinking problems room to bullshit themselves and their loved ones, because, hey, they aren't in late stage alcoholism where they get the shakes (which is mild DTs) if they don't have a drink in the morning. So, everyone is uptight, and should lighten up! (Cf. I don't drink alone (although of course that is not the case here), I only drink beer, I only drink after 5 pm, etc.) So a focus on alcoholism is, to some degree, counterproductive, since it enables people who are somewhere in the country of unhealthy, harmful drinking to define themselves as not like The Bad Drinkers.

As many people have had to come to learn: if your drinking is causing problems, that is a drinking problem. In this case, at minimum, it induces personality change that is pushing away a SO. If a person does not see that as their problem, but just as an issue with being judged or something like that, I also am not hopeful about their chances of changing behavior by either cessation or real moderation, like where they embrace a lifestyle where they never have enough alcohol to become intoxicated.
posted by thelonius at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

"I asked my partner to stop drinking. Let’s assume he agrees to try. "
There's a huge gap between these 2 sentences.... that second sentence says it all. If you are not 100% sure he'll even try, it's over. You deserve better.
posted by j810c at 6:08 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

He’s a jerk to you when he drinks, it hurts you, and this has not made him stop.

He has already shown you that he values drinking more than he values not hurting you. Why is this acceptable to you in a partner?

Saying he would hate himself if he lost you to drinking is not a promise to change, it’s a way of guilting you into staying by making his shit your responsibility.

I don’t think you’ll believe us immediately. But I do think your expectations should take this into account. And I hope in the interim you’ll consider seeing your own therapist, if you aren’t already.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:30 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you are not living with him and he is drinking alone, how does it end up affecting you?

This seems like a very reasonable question. Many people drink to unwind after a stressful day, and the amount you indicate he's drinking isn't excessive. Maybe finding a way to simply not interact with him when he's drinking alone - simply give him the night off, so to speak - would be a much more workable solution than trying to control his behavior when he's not with you.
posted by Umami Dearest at 1:08 AM on March 5, 2019

One thing I don't believe has yet been mentioned is medication. He should talk to his doctor about naltrexone (injectable form is called Vivitrol.) If it is covered by his insurance, he should consider trying it. It will reduce cravings for alcohol and may make it possible to have one drink then walk away. Sometimes love, no matter how good, is not stronger than the cravings.
posted by eleslie at 3:47 AM on March 5, 2019

I'm now happily married to someone who is a recovering alcoholic, and it is possible to have long-term happiness, but it also feels like a weird miracle that we got this outcome. I even asked about it once, here, as an anon and was almost unanimously told to DTMFA. It's true that the majority of these situations don't end well.

What made our situation different? I think it wasn't just me making a request that my partner stop drinking--I think there were other factors in his life, and other reasons to stop, and maybe I happened to ask at a time when he was already starting to visualize a sober life for himself anyway.

For me, Al-Anon has helped tremendously. And whenever I get into a worry spiral about whether my spouse has been drinking again, I think about "drinking" means in our relationship: what I'm really worried about is that he will do the thing that was bad for his health, made him make bad decisions, made him miscalculate spatial facts (leading to injury), made him not super responsible for people in his care. It could be really useful for you to articulate exactly what the behaviors are that "drinking" describes, and let those be the focus of your discussion.

Good luck.
posted by witchen at 8:16 AM on March 5, 2019

I'm a recovering alcoholic, I wasn't always drinking bottles and bottles of alcohol, but the reason I got into recovery and decided to stop was because of the effect it had on myself and my relationships. And I didn't know if a big night out would end in a binge (so I would drink at home to try and control it, really isolating). The bad effect included me causing issues in one on one relationships (I was a jerk, in a crying accusatory way), and I was finding that even a couple of glasses of wine wasn't doing me good anymore. I call myself an alcoholic as it's easier (for me) and I go to AA to get support and not feel alone.

I don't know if your partner is an alcoholic, but if he's acting like a jerk his drinking is definitely an issue. Also, the amount he says he's drinking, may not be 100% correct (as others are saying) and even if it is, once you get to the stage where you are both discussing the amount being drunk it can be a problem. There is a lot of focus on alcohol going on when he's counting and you're both discussing it. I actually forgot how much I drunk but I had it written down at one stage and I read it the other day.. it was a real reminder that alcohol and our memories can play tricks on us.

Your partner may stop if you ask him, he might not. From my experience, I didn't stop because anyone asked or commented on my drinking, it was when I finally looked at my life and realised it wasn't getting better that I did it.

I also go to Al Anon as my brothers are alcoholics (I haven't worked the programme, but it's useful for me to hear/share experiences). One of the reasons I went is that I was counting their drinks when I was with them as well as hoping I could somehow "save" them. I think I'd had enough of counting my own drinks and didn't want to do it with someone else's. It does help. Perhaps try it or get some other assistance for yourself like therapy?

Wishing you all the best.
posted by blue_eyes at 12:03 PM on March 5, 2019

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