≡ Menu

“My Boyfriend Wants to Marry Me, but He’s a Depressive Alcoholic”

My boyfriend and I have been dating for 4.5 years. I am late 20s and he is early 30s. When we first began dating, he had just been informed that his father had cancer and was not expected to live. For the first two years of our relationship, we were traveling a lot to his family’s home, helping his mom, etc. My boyfriend is a very intelligent but emotional person, and the eventual death of his father took a big toll on him.

He has always been a drinker. He went to a large state school where the culture was “drink, pass out, drink some more, stagger to class, watch football.” Not the healthiest, by far, but most people seem to grow out of this phase. Not him. He used alcohol to cope with his grief and general depression. In the years since, he has gone for periods of time — like a month — without drinking or smoking because he knows it is an unhealthy habit, but he’s never stops for good. I will often come home from work or an exercise class late and find him sitting on the porch drinking a six-pack. Unfortunately, that six-pack will continue into whatever alcohol is left in the house: sherry, wine, vodka, anything. This happens almost every other day. He is always very remorseful the next day, but I’m tired of hearing “Sorry.”

We have talked about marriage, but I have told him that he must deal with his depression/drinking/smoking before I think we’re ready. He makes progress, then regresses. A few months ago, during a progress period, we went looking at rings. I know he is serious about marrying me and loves me very much, which makes this so hard. I love him and we are compatible in many other ways, but I no longer have the energy to help him, and I fear I’m only enabling his behavior. I have thought about staying at a friend’s for a little while as a separation so maybe he will hit his “rock bottom” and seek some change. What do I do about the BIG issue? His depression? I think sometimes I focus on the alcohol too much and not enough on that. I just feel defeated. — Defeated by His Drinking

Four and a half years is a long time to invest in a relationship, and I totally understand the dilemma you find yourself in now. You’re at a crossroads where it’s definitely time to choose a direction for the relationship to move. It has to move. If it doesn’t, you’ll be stuck in this limbo land for the foreseeable future, and before you know it, another two, three, four years will have passed and you’ll no longer be in your 20s, but sitting squarely in your 30s where the decision to MOA will be even more emotionally loaded. Let me ask you this: Do you want a life-long parter? Would you like to have kids one day, maybe? If so, you need to be honest with yourself — and your boyfriend — and decide just how much more time you’re willing to invest in a relationship that may have no future. This is never pleasant to hear, but the truth is you’re running out of time. Your years to find a partner with whom you can have biological children — if that’s something you want — are numbered. Each month you spend with a man who has to make big changes in order for him to be husband — and potentially, father — material, is another month lost if those changes never happen.

Now, here’s another hard truth: you can’t make the changes for your boyfriend. You can’t force him to make them or talk him into making them or wish them hard enough to happen. He has to want to change for himself. He has to seek help because he’s ready. You can’t manufacture a “rock bottom” for him in hopes that he will finally drag himself into enough light to see what’s at stake and what he needs to do to avoid losing you and losing the future you’ve dreamed of having with him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. If love and hope alone could save the people we care most about, we’d all have a lot fewer problems, wouldn’t we? But the world doesn’t work that way.

I wish I had a better solution for you. I wish I had words to make this easier. But his is a battle you can’t fight for him. He has to fight it on his own … and for himself. And it isn’t fair to you or to him for you to stand on the sidelines waiting to see whether he’ll win. If you were already married and this depression and alcoholism were fairly new, my advice would be different. But you aren’t married and it sounds like the entire duration of your relationship has been lived under the cover of these issues. They precede you, and they will succeed you. And because your relationship has always had this third presence, you don’t really even know what a relationship between just the two of you, without the constant company of alcohol and depression, would be like. How can you entertain the idea of marriage when, in over four years, you’ve never experienced what a relationship between just the two of you is like?

I think you know what needs to happen. As to what sort of role you should play in your boyfriend’s life, I’d recommend it be a very limited one. I’d suggest you begin unraveling your ties and start creating a life very separate from him. Give him — and yourself — the physical and psychic space necessary to create your own lives independent of each other, and trust that if he is the one meant for you, this new space will allow him to fight the battle that needs to be fought before you can be together again. And if he isn’t meant for you, you’ll have your own space to fill with things and people that bring you joy and that will, hopefully, lead you to the future you dream of having.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter and ‘like’ me on Facebook.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

{ 48 comments… add one }

  • avatar Desiree August 2, 2012, 9:07 am

    WWS. These issues have played a prominent role over many generations of my family, and it is very very draining. LW, as you try to unravel your life from your boyfriend’s, realize that it has the potential to get quite ugly. He might try to leverage his depression against you and guilt trip you and that sort of thing. You’ll need to resist anything he might say, both for your sake and ultimately his.

  • avatar oldie August 2, 2012, 9:10 am

    Agree. You can’t fix him and it isn’t your responsibility to fix him. It sounds like you’ve had 4.5 years of frustration and trying to cope with his alcoholism. He can only fix himself and likely not while maintaining a relationship with you. You are an enabler to him. You make his life good enough that he doesn’t have a huge incentive to quit his destructive behavior. Of course he is interested in marriage. He doesn’t want to lose his enabler. You say that otherwise things are fine between you, but that is a huge otherwise and you are not satisfied with the things the way they are. There is no future for you in this relationship. Both of your lives are stuck in a bad holding pattern. The best thing that you can do for both of you is MOA and don’t look back. If he does fix himself after you leave, he is not going to want you back. In his mind, you will be a huge part of the addict period of his life.

  • katie katie August 2, 2012, 9:16 am

    definitely WWS- and particularly about the fact that you are in a relationship with your boyfriend AND his issues. there are three of you. i thought that was very important to point out.

    and also, to add onto what oldie said – ” you’ve had 4.5 years of frustration and trying to cope with his alcoholism” – YOU shouldnt be the one coping with his problems. he should be coping with them and fixing them.

  • avatar bethany August 2, 2012, 9:18 am

    WWS– There’s no easy answer here, unfortunately :( Good luck, LW.

  • avatar Taylor August 2, 2012, 9:24 am

    LW, does he have family and friends who know about his issues? People who could stage an intervention? One of the myths of an intervention is that you have to be at rock bottom to have one. Have you talked to a professional about what is going on? Has he ever gone to counseling for his depression/drinking? I saw a grief counselor after my father died, and it helped me immensely. If you haven’t already, consider finding someone to help you with all this? Good luck, and hats off to your wisdom in not sweeping these serious concerns under a rug!

    • avatar MissDre August 2, 2012, 9:33 am

      I was thinking the same thing…. an intervention if possible. I feel that after investing 4.5 years in a person you love, you should give it one last big shot before you walk away. Not that I’m saying you should stay with an alcoholic out of love… if you decide that you’re ready to leave, then do it. But if you do want to try, try one more time. Hold an intervention. Do some research, find him a professional substance abuse counselor, a place he can go to get help, and support him in one last effort to get sober. If he relapses again? Then I’d say it’s time to get out.

      • avatar spark_plug August 2, 2012, 10:54 am

        Do interventions really work? IMO they don’t because the person can still deny they have a problem or just make attempts to change because they are afraid of losing their loved ones, which passes after a few months or years. But maybe I’m wrong..

        • avatar MissDre August 2, 2012, 11:03 am

          Some do, some don’t. You never know, all you can do is try.

        • Kristina Kristina August 2, 2012, 11:46 am

          Like you said, an intervention might get someone to agree to help, but I don’t think interventions actually push people in denial to recognize the problem and change their behavior until they are willing to change on their own. When I had a drug problem, the last intervention ‘worked’ for me because I was already ready to quit and to change, and it came at a convenient time, where I needed that extra push. I think interventions have more of a placebo effect when they work. But I guess there’s no harm in trying.

    • avatar krissy August 2, 2012, 1:54 pm

      Statistically, interventions have a very very high rate of failure. This is due to the same thing that Wendy mentioned above. No one can make an alcoholic recover. No amount of guilt or love or pleading will change such a deeply engrained behavior. It is something that they must take responsibility for within themselves. I would not recommend an intervention. My experience with addicts has been that it might work for a short time, but overall just builds resentment.

  • avatar Alecia August 2, 2012, 9:25 am

    I agree with Wendy. I’ve seen what alcoholism and drug dependency does to relationships and it never ends well. The person may change but you have wasted valuable years trying to help them say they need to change.
    I think this is a definite MOA situation- as Wendy said the clock’s ticking and you’ve spent enough time trying to deal with this. Good luck.

  • Fabelle Fabelle August 2, 2012, 9:28 am

    The LW seems to have some guilt (obviously…I think guilt is unavoidable in this situation) so I just want to say that every individual an alcoholic surrounds himself with can sort of become an “enabler” by default. You love this man, want to support him, & can’t (nor should you!) be the person to give him that much-needed kick in the ass. So he falls back into old patterns because he’s comfortable with you, & comfortable using alcohol as a balm.

    It seems like he does want to change– he’s sorry, not defensive, goes months without imbibing– but I think he’s also using the idea of “marriage” as something that will help him. It won’t. You’re right that he needs treatment for his depression, so he should get it. In the meantime…you should do WWS.

    • katie katie August 2, 2012, 9:32 am

      a marriage is not a bandaid for other issues!! good point!

  • Budj Budj August 2, 2012, 9:33 am

    How does it make you feel that he is choosing the alcohol over your future? There comes a point when enough is enough. His priority is the booze – not you.

  • Kristina Kristina August 2, 2012, 9:37 am

    I was in a similar situation before. I got engaged really young, to my boyfriend of 4 years. He drank excessively through college, but it never became a serious problem until his mom died of cancer. Finally, the thought of getting married to an alcoholic who won’t help himself caught up with me and I got out before it was too late. When I first broke up with him, I held on to the idea of getting back together after a lot of time apart, but over 3 years later, I’ve completely moved on. It was a messy time in my life afterward, and I used to wish I had all that time back. It’s not too late.

    It’s really heartbreaking to be with an alcoholic who won’t get help, but I think you need to pull back and focus on yourself. You already said you no longer have the energy to help him. Your boyfriend is not in a good emotional state at all. Addicts often get stuck in a childlike state. And you can’t be the one to fix him or rescue him. He’s fighting his own battles with alcohol, and you’re left there on the sidelines trying to put it all back together, for the sake of salvaging a long term relationship. Don’t waste your time on someone who is only there part of the time. There is no easy fix here, but separation and time apart is must, in my opinion. Stay strong.

  • avatar lemongrass August 2, 2012, 9:48 am

    You can’t love a person into recovery. He may very well quit drinking or he might not. He could be an non-recovered alcoholic for the rest of his life. Even if he does quit there is always a chance of relapse.
    I’m not saying that recovered alcoholic’s cannot make good partners. I’m saying this guy isn’t recovered and it doesn’t sound like he’s close to getting there. He has far too much to deal with before becoming a good partner/husband. Things are going to get harder for him before they get better.
    As hard as it may be I think you need to leave him.

  • avatar Sue Jones August 2, 2012, 9:59 am

    RUN!!!!! Unless he has dealt with his problems and goes to regular meetings or is in treatment do not marry this guy because it gets worse. Trust me.

  • avatar applescruffs August 2, 2012, 10:26 am

    It’s so, so hard to recover from substance abuse without professional help. I also think your instinct are right, LW, in that you’re worried about his depression. The alcoholism is probably a symptom of the depression, but it’s where an intervention needs to start. Talk to him about getting some help. If he has insurance, it might cover substance abuse rehab, even an intensive outpatient program. There are also reduced cost and sliding scale clinics that you can look into.

    When my father was going through this, I called a physician that he has a good relationship with. Because of confidentiality, his doctor wasn’t able to tell me anything about what he was treating my dad for, but he was able to listen to what I had to say about my dad’s drinking, and at his next appointment, was able to talk to him about it in a way that my stepmother and I weren’t, and that also didn’t reveal that I had ever called him. That’s something you can do as well, if your boyfriend happens to have any appointments coming up.

    Best of luck.

    • katie katie August 2, 2012, 10:34 am

      if he is working, his job more then likely also provides substance abuse help..

  • avatar Lynn August 2, 2012, 10:39 am

    Hi LW!

    I can only imagine what you’re going through, and trust me, dealing with an alcoholic is tough. Unfortunately, no matter what you do or say, there is no way for him to get the help that he needs unless he wants to get help. He, himself, needs to have the desire to quit drinking.

    While my drinking was never an everyday, drinking alone sort of thing, I too turned to alcohol to run away from problems. I grew up in a seemingly picture perfect life, but of course, life isn’t always perfect now is it? Anyway, I turned to alcohol (alcoholism runs in my extended family) and without going into too many details, one of my “it hasn’t happened… yet”… finally happened. That’s when I knew I needed to get my self into a program, which is what I did and it has been one of the best decisions I ever made. But alcoholics tell themselves, “But I haven’t lost my job” “But I haven’t been arrested” “But I haven’t lost my wife/husband/significant other.” No, maybe you haven’t lost those things, but you haven’t lost them YET.

    You need to move on from him. You do. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be his “yet.” He hadn’t lost his girlfriend… yet. Maybe it’ll be the kick in the ass he needs to get help… to either go to rehab or go to AA. But as I said earlier, only he can make that decision. He needs to recognize he has a problem. You can’t do that for him.

    As for you? I would encourage you to attend an Al-Anon meeting. It’s designed for family and friends of people who have alcohol issues. It is such a wonderful program, and if you give it a try, you’ll find support from people all over. Lots of people who worry they’re “enablers” attend Al-Anon. Just about every city has multiple Al-Anon meeting every single day, so if you’re up and willing to try it out… I would definitely recommend it. It very well may give you some clarity about the situation you’re currently in because obviously you’re affected by your boyfriend’s behavior.

    Good luck! Do what you need to do for YOU. You’re what is most important.

  • avatar spark_plug August 2, 2012, 10:49 am

    My uncle is an alcoholic. My family has been trying everything from love and hope to committing him to a mental institution several times over the past 25 years to help him. Nothing has worked. Lately, his drinking has slowed but every few months he’ll go on a binge.

    LW, I don’t feel as though you fully understand what it means to be alcoholic. It means that he can hit rock-bottom now, clean up for a few years and relapse worse after something bad happens in the future (something bad always happens in the future). The only way he can fix this is he decides for himself 100% that he does not want to go down that path, admits that he has a problem, and not only deals with depression but commits to learning a variety of life skills from handling stress to expressing his feelings.

    That being said, if you leave him he will most likely say that he will change and even begin to change. I would advise you not to trust this. Change doesn’t happen for another person, change only happens for yourself. It will take a very long time to know whether this was true change or not.

    As Wendy said, if this guy was your family the situation would be different. I’m not sure that a 4.5 year long commitment is worth the rest of your life. Especially if you have a different future mapped out. My very harsh advice would be for you to move and anticipate a future with another man. If you two are meant to be, the relationship will work out. However, I would operate under the assumption that it won’t. Unless you want to be married to an alcoholic.

  • avatar Nikki August 2, 2012, 11:01 am

    Is he being treated, you know, by a psychiatrist? Does he have prescription depression medicine? If so, encourage him to ask his doctor to change it, it isn’t working well for him. If not, that could be a huge step forward with his depression and maybe, consequentially with his drinking.

  • LM LM August 2, 2012, 11:43 am

    LW, my husband was in a similar situation. He spent 7 years with an alcoholic. I knew him for the last 3 years he was with her. I used to listen to my husband day in and day out complain about his ex and her drinking and smoking and how she ultimately got very aggressive towards him and used to throw things at him and hit him and he just put up with it because he cared so much for her. She wasn’t always like that, he said, but things changed.

    My advice to you: walk away. It will do both of you wonders. It may hurt, it may absolutely suck, but it’s what you both need. YOU can’t change him. It is not your responsibility, even though you may feel an obligation to him. HE needs to want to change and get help for himself before anything else can happen. Don’t feel guilty for wanting something better for you. Sometimes, you do need to think about you.

  • bagge72 bagge72 August 2, 2012, 12:06 pm

    LW, you really need to make a choice, because you can’t live like this. You can’t just pretend like you are leaving him, and hope that he will react, you need to actually leave, and be prepaired to move on with your life if he doesn’t make the right choices for himself. This man needs to work on himself, and if he can’t do that, you don’t have to sit around and watch him kill himself.

  • avatar stilgar666 August 2, 2012, 12:13 pm

    I have been the dude in this kind of situation, with the addiction and depression. Unless he gets help, it won’t get better. If he doesn’t get help in the next week or two, you need to leave.

    Help will be counseling/therapy and AA. Everybody deserves better than this, including him, but he won’t get help until all the options are gone.

  • avatar AKchic August 2, 2012, 12:41 pm

    Sweetie, I’m going to be very honest with you here. Your boyfriend isn’t going to change unless he wants to change for himself. Changing for you isn’t going to help.

    You can give him an ultimatum of “get sober and work a program”, or you can help him, but let me tell you this: If you handhold someone throughout their treatment, once you let go of their hand, they will fall flat on their face again.
    I’d recommend an assessment. Preferably one that can address both his mental health and substance use needs (dual-diagnosis). If drinking is his coping mechanism, he needs to learn better coping strategies. Therapy may be the only way to go since he hasn’t learned on his own.
    Don’t be surprised if the first attempt fails. But do be prepared to leave if you’ve given him an ultimatum (“drinking or me”). If you are only bluffing and he realizes it, then he will not have any external motivation, which will leave his internal motivation lacking as well.

    Under no circumstances should you get engaged to him until he has been sober for a minimum of one year. Continue to be prepared for a relapse because he’ll figure that you got what you wanted (engagement), so he can celebrate. No. No more chances. No more excuses. Do not be an enabler. Do not keep any alcohol in the house (you wouldn’t keep dairy in the house with a lactose intolerant kid with no self control, would you? keep weapons in the home of a suicidal person?) because it just begs to be consumed.

  • avatar Vathena August 2, 2012, 1:59 pm

    Please don’t marry this guy. Nothing will change. My dad was an alcoholic who died of cirrhosis at age 40 (after being married 3 times, leaving behind 5 kids). You do not want to watch your husband die like that. You do not want to be writing to another columnist in 10, 15 years, about whether you should leave him because he can’t hold a job or help raise your kids. You do not want to be the sole support for your children and your husband – because he is incapable of being a full partner in marriage. One of my husband’s childhood friends is married to an alcoholic. He had to take her to the hospital on Thanksgiving Day last year, with their two little kids in the backseat of the car, because she had binged again. Do you want that to be your life?
    You need to move out and make a plan to move on. Don’t be a crutch for him. I echo what AKchic said above – don’t even consider getting back together with him until he has sought (and continued) counseling for his depression and been sober for at least a year. If he is serious about cleaning up and being a true partner to you, he will do the hard work. But you can’t wait around forever with such a faint hope.

  • avatar krissy August 2, 2012, 2:01 pm

    I doubt you will listen to this advice. Most in your situation don’t. They love their partner so much that they continue to hope and wish and pray away their fears until they are in so deep that they can no longer leave. My advice is to go. These issues aren’t the types of things that change quickly. Even if he does work his way into recovery, he has a long bumpy and emotional road ahead of him. At the end of it, he may not even want to be with you anymore. His chance of relapse is sky high (unfortunately it is for most addicts). This is not something that you fix. This is something that you will live with forever. An addict is always an addict. I am not saying that many don’t go on to recovery and again find healthy relationships, but if you have the choice still, this is not a road that you want to travel. Save yourself the heartache, pain and guilt, and get out now before your boyfriends addictions become the theme and center of your entire life.

    • avatar Vathena August 2, 2012, 2:12 pm

      “get out now before your boyfriends addictions become the theme and center of your entire life.”
      Yes. This is exactly what I was trying to say. Props.

  • avatar Lindsay August 2, 2012, 2:51 pm

    I’m glad that you realize that you shouldn’t marry him yet. However, I think you’re going to have to make much tougher decisions. The idea of separating in hopes of him hitting rock-bottom is really not going to help you. You’re just going to be waiting around for him, which is what you’re doing now. If you’re going to split with him, it needs to be for good, so you can move on with your life and he can, hopefully, move on with his.

  • bittergaymark bittergaymark August 2, 2012, 3:34 pm

    Clearly the only thing to do is have a baby with him! Then everybody on here will dutifully chime in (when it all REALLY goes to shit!) about how all you have to do now is leave him and that magically — all will instantly be well.

    In all seriousness — dump him. Men aren’t like battered pieces of furniture one picks up at the flea market because they just know that with just a little work you can fix them right up. If men are broken at the what should be the happy start of your epic romance — don’t engage in lasting relationships with them. MOA. Scratch that, make that MOARN. (Move On Already Right Now!) Trust me — you won’t be doing anybody any favors if you stand by this man. He is a mess. He needs to fucking fix himself and THEN enter a relationship. Trust me on this. Staying with this guy and trying to make him better is a great way to just hopelessly fuck up your life… and his — as he won’t get the wake up call he so desperately needs.

  • sobriquet sobriquet August 2, 2012, 4:38 pm

    Dude, I understand firsthand the guilt that comes with leaving a long-term boyfriend while he’s battling depression. I felt like I needed to stay and help him through a hard time. Like it was my duty as his girlfriend. Deep down, LW, you know what you have to do. Delaying it will only make it harder. I’m sure you want to spend your life and raise kids with the sober, happy man he can sometimes be, but you do not want to spend your life with the man he currently is. He has to help himself and he is perfectly capable of doing so.

    People can change and get better, but- like I recently told my ex- you have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy in a relationship. Your boyfriend has probably been using your relationship as the glue that holds his life together and that’s not healthy. Especially not with alcohol involved. My kind, loving, depressed boyfriend of 3 years viewed our relationship as the only good thing in his life… and, well, read the forums if you want to know how that ended.

    Leave him. It will probably be the catalyst for change he needs, but don’t rush back into a relationship at the first sight of improvement. Change takes time. Don’t allow his personal battles to drag you down. Seriously. Don’t let him drag you down. You deserve better.

    • JK JK September 19, 2012, 10:00 am

      You´re back!!!! We were worried about you!

  • avatar Laura Hope August 2, 2012, 6:42 pm

    I don’t know how many of you readers have been married for a long time. I’ve been married for 25 years and I can tell you that marriage is hard (and I have an excellent marriage). My husband and I spent years in therapy and doing spiritual work together so we really know ourselves(and can laugh at ourselves) and each other.We share the same values, enjoy the same activities and are pretty much on the same page.We’re still as attracted to each as when we first met. AND STILL…….marriage is hard.I cannot even begin to imagine committing yourself for the rest of your life to someone who is not emotionally healthy, nevermind an alcoholic. Whoa! Trust me, (and all my married friends), the pain you’re feeling now is nothing compared to being stuck in a bad marriage.

    • avatar WatersEdge August 2, 2012, 8:45 pm

      I one million percent agree with this. Marriage, even in the best of circumstances to an upstanding person who has their shit together, is hard. Do not attempt it with someone who has an untreated substance abuse problem.

      • avatar WatersEdge August 2, 2012, 8:51 pm

        Wendy, I’d love a Weekend Open Thread which poses a question to married people! Or maybe something like Ask a Married Person Anything About Marriage. Ooh, that would make a great semi-regular column. I would LOVE to write that column! I really think we married people don’t tell our single friends the truth about marriage. We’re so scared that the single person won’t understand and will judge us as having a bad marriage, that we shield them from the realities of it.

        • JK JK September 19, 2012, 10:02 am

          It´s kind of similar what happens to parents with people without kids, I guess. I do generally tell the ugly truth :). It is an awesome idea though.

          • avatar jlyfsh September 19, 2012, 10:16 am

            haha my friends and i met up this weekend and the two with kids were telling us all the ‘ugly’ truths about having kids. my one friend kept saying dude your under carriage is never the same. haha, and that’s all i’ve been able to think about since.

            also living with 2 teething babies for 24 hours is the best birth control out there. best.ever.

            • JK JK September 19, 2012, 10:25 am

              :) I totally didnt realize this was an old thread (I had a bad night). Sorry for confusing anyone!!!!

  • avatar Meredith August 2, 2012, 9:22 pm

    I also found myself in a relationship with a depressed alcoholic…he is now my husband. In September he will celebrate his 6th year of sobriety. Here’s the deal though…there is no rock bottom you can create to get him to experience his light bulb moment and decide to get treatment. There is no ultimatum you can give him that will work. My husband will be the first to tell you, he had to get sober for himself, not for me, not so we could get married, not so I wouldn’t leave him, just for himself, to save his life. Quitting for a month or so does not work, my husband would quit for 3-4 weeks then binge out again. The only thing that got him sober was an outpatient rehab program plus Alcoholics Anonymous and working the 12 step program. When we got engaged he’d been sober for a year, and I will tell you, it was too soon. We dealt with the repercussions from his alcoholism for at least the first three years of his sobriety. I was in major denial about how much it affected me and basically ended up experiencing PTSD from the fall out of his rock bottom. A lot of ppl imagine rock bottom as a one time hard hit…unfortunately no…it’s ongoing, it’s trips to the hospital, it’s going bar to bar searching for your bf, it’s the terror you feel staying up all night not knowing if your loved one is dead or alive…listen, it broke me, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and my husband got sober 9 months into our relationship. I can’t imagine 4.5 years, my heart really goes out to you.
    Honestly, you’ve been hoping for 4.5 years he’ll change his ways…it doesn’t look good for you. I don’t tell you my story to give you hope that the same will happen for you, I’m telling you to shed some light on how hard it will be for you no matter what. He really doesn’t sound like he’s ready to get sober, he’s still in the phase where he thinks he can fix things himself. I really feel like you need to end your relationship, in a real way, not in a “I’m hoping to scare you into getting sober” way. Try out an Al-anon meeting, they can be very insightful and eye opening. I stayed with my husband while he got sober, but I couldn’t have hung in there more than another month if he hadn’t gone into treatment. I know how hard it will be, but you need to put yourself first for once. This is not good for you and it has the possibility to destroy you. I hope you will at least get some counseling for yourself, I did and it really helped. Also- About the depression, it might be the reason why he drinks, but he needs to get treatment for his drinking issue to help with his depression. Getting treatment for his depression will not end the drinking.

    • avatar Lucy August 2, 2012, 10:21 pm

      So true. I waited 4 years (although admittedly that includes a few relapses) and it does break you in some ways. I would never advise anyone to wait anywhere near that long. It’s pure dumb-ass luck that it turned out as well as it did.

      The day I had known my husband sober longer than I knew him drunk we had a party. In fact that day is probably more important to us than our anniversary. :)

  • avatar Lucy August 2, 2012, 10:16 pm

    1. Walk away. Leave him. And don’t tell him “I’m leaving you until you stop drinking.” That may result in a temporary cessation, but usually doesn’t end in long-term change. He has to change for himself, not for you.

    2. Go to Al-Anon. It’s invaluable for people in your situation.

  • avatar Witchmom3 August 2, 2012, 10:28 pm

    WWS is pure genius! Especially, “And because your relationship has always had this third presence, you don’t really even know what a relationship between just the two of you, without the constant company of alcohol and depression, would be like.”

    Trust me, I’ve known couples who have split after one partner gets and stays sober. They can no longer “party” together. One partner feels uncomfortable because they’re able to drink and the other one can’t. And what about future celebrations like the bachelor party and/or wedding reception, or just the usual happy hour? The pressure of staying sober, (or hoping they stay sober) is sometimes too much to bear.

    In our large group of friends, a husband went to out-patient rehab and got sober. At the Xmas get-together he and his wife were so proud that he’d been sober for a month. When one of our mutual friends found out that he was no longer drinking she said out loud to him “Well you’re not going to be fun anymore!!” I thought this was so inconsiderate to the couple and the struggles that they were going through. They eventually separated themselves from the majority of this large group of friends. He’s been sober for 9 years now, but I have to admit, having known him before and after his sobriety, he really is a different person.

    • avatar Meredith August 3, 2012, 10:19 am

      It’s so true, you really do have to change your lifestyle along with your SO when they get sober. I was barely 22 when my (now) husband got sober and it totally changed my habits and social life. It was about 2 years before I would drink at all around him, we do not and will never keep alcohol in the house and I don’t get drunk except on very rare occasions and never when he’s around. I don’t think he would necessarily mind now if I did but I guess I feel it’s a respect issue. I didn’t drink on my wedding day. I look back and realize I gave up the fun, party lifestyle a few years earlier than my friends, but I don’t regret it because it meant I was able to support my husband and provide him a safe, sober environment he really didn’t have anywhere else.

  • avatar GTR August 2, 2012, 11:27 pm

    Honey, it’s simple. He’s an alcoholic, and unles he stops drinking he will eventually drag himself, you, and any unfortunate children you may have down into a deep dark hopeless pit.

    It’s ultimatum time. Tell him that either he joins Alcoholics Anonymous, or you’re leaving. If he ignores you, or whines some PC bullshit about Al-Anon not really working, walk away and don’t return.

    It will be hard, but you have no realistic alternative. Left alone, the situation CAN ONLY GET WORSE! Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise.

  • avatar Clementine August 6, 2012, 10:57 am

    Oh, honey, get out now.

    I was married to this guy. We were together for 11 years. I tried to fix him, to love him, to support him, and to help him. I carried our family’s emotional health on my shoulders. If he was unhappy, I tried to make him happy. If he was drinking, I tried to make it stop. If he ran out of meds, I was the one making sure they got refilled. His drinking and depression were somehow my problems.

    When we started to unravel–rather, when I had finally lost the energy to hold us together–I gave him what amounted to an ultimatum: to leave me alone for a couple of weeks so I could have space to sort out my thoughts. His dependency on me as the supporter of his emotional health was so great, that even with our marriage on the line, he could not give me what I needed.

    When I finally ended it, it was like coming up from being held underwater. I hadn’t realized how unhappy and beaten down I had become by trying to deal with his problems until I was out from under them. The day I realized his problems were no longer mine, I felt 200 lbs lighter.

    It feels harsh now, but by staying with this guy, you are not signing up for the lifetime of love, partnership, and mutual respect and support you think you are. You will shoulder his problems alongside your own, and they will crush you. I’m so sorry.

  • avatar DMR August 7, 2012, 8:38 am

    This one there’s no question. Alcoholic = MOA.

    Take it from someone who has known alcoholics up close and personal. You can’t change him. In fact, he may never change. He will likely be an alcoholic at 40, then 50. (Maybe still at 60 if he’s lucky). Marrying this guy is a mistake of collossal proportions. Ther are so many warning signs here that you are buying into a one-woman tragedy.
    The fact that all the alcohol in the house gets cleaned out is a big flashing red light.
    His remorse is a big flashing red light.
    Drinking every day: red light. Starting early: red light. Failed attempts to quit: red light. Seen it all before. The excuses (grief, the drinking culture back in college) are just excuses.
    Don’t get on that train.

  • avatar DMR August 7, 2012, 8:42 am

    Oh and by the way, an intelligent alcoholic is still an alcoholic. Don’t be fooled. That’s an image that many alcoholics cultivate: the underachieving genius with unharnessed potential.

Leave a Comment


nine + = 16