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Your Turn: “Should I Leave My High-Functioning Alcoholic Boyfriend?”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I am writing to you for some advice on my current live-in boyfriend. I am 29 and he is 31. We have been together almost three wonderful years, living together for one year. I am concerned that he is a very, very heavy drinker. I have never experienced negative behavior problems from his drinking — in fact, he appears to relax and be even giddy when he drinks — however, I have seen that he has a definite dependency on alcohol (his hands will physically shake when he stops drinking, and, if we run out of alcohol, he has to go to the store that night to pick up more, regardless of the hour).

Part of me thinks “he can do what he wants to his body,” but most of me feels concerned about having a future with him and what future issues can arise from so much drinking.

I must add that one year before I met him, he received a DUI and was court ordered to AA. According to him, however, the meetings were a “waste” and it was “everyone else” in the meeting that had a messed-up life story and not him. When I try to bring up the issue of dependency and alcoholism, he feels that drinking is only a problem “when it interferes with your life.” Since his DUI he has technically “turned it around” – he has a job, is attending college full-time and has a 4.0 (and is a perfectionist in every other aspect in his life).

It’s hard to tell him that I feel his drinking is a problem while there is no behavior I can point to as an issue since we have been together. Is it pulling the trigger too soon to want to leave him if he won’t stop drinking so excessively? Or is it silly for me to “wait and see” if problems show up from his drinking? — Waiting and Seeing


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Desiree September 19, 2012, 9:18 am

Ouch. The DUI should have told him that his drinking was a problem. I have known several “high-functioning alcoholics,” and it is very difficult to get them to acknowledge an issue. But you need to think longterm. If he were to get another DUI (very likely, given his continued elevated drinking), that would derail the life you have built together. Are you planning to spend the rest of your life with him? If so, his drinking is going to cause some major health problems down the road. Are you hoping to have children? Because I know from bitter personal experience, a high-functioning alcoholic does not a good parent make. I wish I could give you some advice on intervention techniques, but it sounds like your boyfriend is in deep denial and would just be angry with you. But I think it is worth a try at least. Otherwise, leave. Please trust me, his drinking won’t get any nicer as the years unfold.

avatar ktfran September 19, 2012, 9:36 am

I agree that he has a drinking problem. However, I wouldn’t equate a DUI with a drinking problem. Someone could have a few drinks one night, get in the car, drive and get a DUI. Having a few drinks one night does not make someone an acloholic. Getting in a car after a night of drinking is stupid, don’t get me wrong. And a bad decision.

avatar Desiree September 19, 2012, 10:08 am

That is certainly possible in other cases. For him, it seems more likely that the DUI is an extension/symptom of his problem, not an anomaly.

avatar ktfran September 19, 2012, 10:38 am

I agree with you Desiree. This guy has problems. I guess I just don’t equate DUI – must have a drinking problem. All other signs point to he has a drinking problem. And I’m really not making light of a DUI. It’s scary. Heck, when I’m home for the holiday’s and out with friends, I call my mom at 1 in the morning to pick me up. And luckily, I live in a city where cabs are everywhere.

avatar j2 September 19, 2012, 12:24 pm

LW needs help to deal with this.

My advice is for LW to get herself to Al Anon and learn.

Alcoholics can be persuasive, effective, and interesting, but they remain alcoholics and their decline is almost inevitable. The brighter they are, the better they protect ther addiction.

becboo84 BecBoo84 September 19, 2012, 10:22 am

I have to disagree. If you get a DUI, IMO, you have a drinking problem. You may not be an alcoholic in the traditional sense of the word, but clearly you have a problem with alcohol because, when drinking, you made a potentially fatal mistake, and not just for yourself. You made a mistake the could have ended the life of an innocent bystander. That is, by definition, a serious problem.

avatar ktfran September 19, 2012, 10:33 am

Don’t get me wrong. I think drinking and driving is awful. I personally don’t do it. But have you never known someone who had a couple drinks and decided to drive home? That person has a drinking problem?

I get the seriousness of the issue. I do. But by your calculations, I would say over half of the American population has a drinking problem. I don’t have the numbers to back that up, but having lived in small towns where cabs are scarce, I can go on and on about people who have driven after a few drinks. It doesn’t make it right. It’s just the way it is.

becboo84 BecBoo84 September 19, 2012, 10:55 am

Personally, I find the way we treat DUIs in this country inexcusable, and I agree that you’re right, it is because it’s so prevalent. How can lawmakers possibly strengthen DUI punishments when they themselves probably regularly violate the current laws I, too, spent several years living in a very small, rural community (where my husband was from), and the disregard for drinking and driving that ran rampant there was eye opening, but it was because, unless there was a serious accident, no one, including the police, did anything about it. What was even more shocking to me is that many of these folks lived within a mile or slightly more of the two local bars, so they could have walked!

And, unless the person chugged the two drinks and/or was very lightweight, that wouldn’t qualify as a DUI, at least not in the state of IL where the legal limit is .08. I have no idea what it is in other states.

avatar GatorGirl September 19, 2012, 10:37 am

If you go to dinner and have two glasses of wine and say a big salad and get pulled over on the way home- you don’t automatically have a problem with alcohol. You most likely have a problem with judgement.

becboo84 BecBoo84 September 19, 2012, 10:56 am

You also most likely wouldn’t be getting a DUI after two glasses of wine while out to dinner.

avatar Amber September 19, 2012, 11:15 am

In Canada you would – legal limit was lowered to .05.

becboo84 BecBoo84 September 19, 2012, 11:16 am

Well… I guess I’m going with the assumption that the LW is American and that most subscribers to this site are American, although I know that is not the case for everyone. And good for Canada!

avatar GatorGirl September 19, 2012, 11:22 am

Depends on who you are and how fast you metabolize. I went to this website and it calculated a .074% BAC (with a 100 lb female and 2 glasses of wine in an hour). Which is pretty damn close to the limit. If you had a wine with a higher alcohol content you could definitely hit the .08 mark. Sure a lot of cops would let you off if you were at .081 but a lot wouldn’t too.


avatar GatorGirl September 19, 2012, 11:26 am

I used the calculators at http://bloodalcoholcalculator.org/ and a 100 lb female who consumes 2 glasses of wine in 1 hour would be at .074% BAC. That is pretty dang close to the limit. If you have a higher alcohol content wine you could easily be over .08 if you are a 100 lb female (as I am).

It is possible.

avatar GatorGirl September 19, 2012, 11:55 am

I’ve tried to reply 3 times already and it won’t post my comment. Let’s see if ths works…

avatar GatorGirl September 19, 2012, 11:58 am

ok. There we go. I used a website I found with a quick google search for “blood alcohol calculator”. (I’m not going to post it because I think that’s why my comment wasn’t coming up.) If I drank 2 glasses of wine in 1 hour, being a 100 lb female., my blood alcohol level would be .074. If I’d selected a slightly higher alcohol content wine I would definitely be over .08. I don’t normally feel like I’m incapable of driving after two glasses of wine, but if I got pulled over I would be so close to the level (and potentially over). It is possible.

avatar GatorGirl September 19, 2012, 11:27 am

Using http://bloodalcoholcalculator.org a 100lb female who consumed 2 glasses of wine in 1 hour would be at .074% BAC. A higher alcohol wine would easily put you over the .08 limit.

avatar Amber September 19, 2012, 11:13 am

A DUI is definitely a poor decision making problem, but definitely not necessarily a “drinking” problem.

avatar Lindsay September 19, 2012, 10:41 am

I’d say the likelihood of him getting another is fairly high. Not only has he shown that he’s dumb enough to do it once, but I assume he’s intoxicated a good percentage of the time, which probably increases the chances. And since he functions so well, he probably thinks that he’s fine when he’s not. Just because he’s only gotten one, doesn’t mean he isn’t driving drunk — just means he hasn’t gotten caught again.

Separately, I don’t think DUI equals “drinking” problem, necessarily. If a person rarely drinks and then has two drinks, drives and get a DUI, they are extremely stupid, but they don’t have a dependence on alcohol. Sometimes it’s a drinking problem, and sometimes I think it’s a stupidity problem.

becboo84 BecBoo84 September 19, 2012, 11:01 am

I have no idea where this two drinks=DUI line of thinking is coming from. I’m sure the attached link isn’t the most scientific method, but it should give folks a general estimate: http://dui.drivinglaws.org/calc.php.

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 11:25 am

I calculated it for me and I would be around .04 at the most I will drink if I have to drive – which is about 2 glasses of wine over 2 hours at dinner. If I am drinking in public that’s pretty normal. Honestly most of the time I drink it’s at home while cooking. I think the problem comes in – and why you can’t predict – is that it also depends on what you’ve had to eat that day and a host of other factors like if the bar is actually serving standard drink sizes.

I can feel drastically different after two glasses of wine depending on the day. Sometimes I can’t feel the effects at all – not even the tingly lips which for me is the first thing that lets me know I’m tipsy. Other times I feel really tipsy. So I refuse to feel safe with the estimates. Maybe I’m just paranoid but I definitely won’t drive if I fall into the second category I described where I feel pretty tipsy. I would just never want to risk a DUI. So I hope people don’t take those estimates too seriously. Go by how you feel. If you feel tipsy – you’re probably over the limit. If you feel that relaxed calm – you’re probably fine.

Just a personal thought – I wish the legal limits were higher and the punishment more severe for DUI’s.

becboo84 BecBoo84 September 19, 2012, 11:31 am

I actually think .08 is too high because I never drink. If I have two drinks, I am definitely buzzed and in no condition to drive, even though I wouldn’t technically qualify for a DUI based on the .08 standard.

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 11:36 am

That’s why I think everyone should go by how they feel. You know if you’re tipsy or not. I mean I know we could never enforce that – but still. .08 for you probably feels drastically different than it does for me. Right now I drink more than I have in years past – and it’s about 2 glasses of wine twice a week. I wouldn’t say I have a tolerance – but I don’t not have a tolerance if that makes sense.

But like I said two glasses can feel drastically different to me depending on the day. Lots of days I don’t eat lunch and it feels like a lot on those days. Other days I can have two and feel sober.

becboo84 BecBoo84 September 19, 2012, 11:39 am

I totally get what you’re saying. Obviously, if people didn’t drive when they felt tipsy/drunk/etc, a lot of DUIs would be eliminated!

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 11:48 am

Yeah…but I wouldn’t trust people to be honest – no one would admit that they drove while drunk – but the world would be a much better place if we could just know that people wouldn’t drink when they felt altered. Then we wouldn’t have to do all this weird alcohol mathematics. We could just ask people if they are tipsy/drunk and then if they were DUI. If not they could carry on with their night.

avatar lynn September 19, 2012, 12:00 pm

Two non-light beers at dinner, of someone my size, puts me at the legal limit. DUI’s are not to be taken lightly, but people make mistakes.

I have a friend who was hit head on by a drunk driver, and she admits that she regularly drives when she probably shouldn’t. I know people who lives have been turned upside down by a drunk driver… and they still do it. People are so quick to shake their fingers and judge those who receive DUI’s and DWI’s when they should look in the mirror and ask themselves, “Have I ever driven when I probably shouldn’t have?” … and then there are those who are so judging of people with DUI’s, but when their kid or loved one gets one… they sing a completely different tune, because surely there is some mistake, surely the officer pulled them over for a BS reason.

You know, the state of Texas has a high DWI rate yet they have some of the toughest DWI laws in the country… so why are the numbers so high? I think some of it has to do with the fact that it wasn’t thaaaaat long ago when drinking and driving (not drunk driving) was still legal. My parents remember it.

DUI’s are concerning and are terrible… but not everyone who gets one has a problem. Problems with judgement? Yeah. Drinking? Not necessarily. Are they all bad people? Absolutely not. Are some bad people? Probably.

It’s all sticky.

avatar Lindsay September 19, 2012, 1:03 pm

I have a lot of friends who rarely drink and will feel drunk after two drinks. I don’t give them a Breathalyzer, but I assume that if they call themselves drunk, they could get a DUI if they drove. I wasn’t saying two drinks was the norm, but it was just my example of a time when getting a DUI doesn’t mean excessive drinking or alcoholism.

avatar kerrycontrary September 19, 2012, 9:19 am

Should you leave your alcoholic boyfriend: Yes.

landygirl landygirl September 19, 2012, 11:34 am

Nothing more needs to be said.

avatar Alecia September 19, 2012, 9:24 am

He’s using the classic technique of pointing the finger at everyone but himself. And it will only get worse as the years pass. Whatever issue he uses as a reason for his drinking will only fester unless he gets the help he needs. If he doesn’t like AA, I’m sure his insurance provides some type of private counseling. There’s no excuse for not getting help. Either he wants a semi-drunk life or a fully sober one- you can’t have both.
If he doesn’t want to clean up his act I think you should leave. No questions asked. Life’s too short to deal with people who can’t account for their issues.

becboo84 BecBoo84 September 19, 2012, 10:23 am

Also, if he’s a full time student, I’m sure his university has free counseling services and is probably quite adapt at dealing with alcohol related issues.

avatar tbrucemom September 19, 2012, 9:25 am

What you’ve described is definitely a functional alcoholic. The part I don’t quite understand is his hands shaking when he isn’t drinking. I’m not sure how that works if he’s going to college full time, holding down a job, etc. Do his hands shake during class and while he’s at work? That would be awkward. I have a friend who’s a functioning alcoholic and he’s such a great guy and I know his wife is very happy with him so I’m thinking it can work as long as it’s doesn’t interfere with his job and school, he NEVER drives after drinking and obviously he doesn’t become abusive, either verbally or physically, while he’s drinking.

avatar bethany September 19, 2012, 9:36 am

He probably drinks before/during class or work.

katie katie September 19, 2012, 9:56 am

yea, people like that are “drunk” all the time- but to them its normal. its like if you were to drink X amount of drinks everyday, pretty soon that would be “normal” to your body. its not drunk as others think of drunk, falling over and laughing or whatever…

avatar Micah September 19, 2012, 10:08 am

RE: his hands shaking when he’s not drinking – I’m actually taking a course in drugs and their effects on the body right now, so I just consulted my textbook. The shaking, my guess, would be the first signs of withdrawal symptoms, which don’t always occur immediately once the alcohol leaves the system. So if he’s a very heavy drinker, he could probably go most of the day without experiencing these symptoms, but once he starts getting to twelve or more hours without alcohol, that’s when the shaking starts.

I also have witnessed this personally. I grew up with an alcoholic parent (who is now many years sober) but when the blow-up event that made her decide to quit drinking, it wasn’t until a day or so later that she started shaking and trembling.

That being said, it’s very difficult living with a high-functioning alcoholic. I did for a very long time, just under different circumstances. They often won’t see it as a problem until it’s too late and something happens that makes them snap out of it. Luckily in my situation, it was nothing life-threatening or illegal, but you can never know what’s going to set off that bomb. And just because it’s not interfering in his life in a legal or harmful way, it’s interfering with his relationship with you, and that is reason enough for him to seek help. A person doesn’t need to be breaking the law or getting into bar fights to be an alcoholic. The fact that he drinks so much that you are bothered by it is enough. It may seem like there’s no cause to MOA, but it may be for the best. He’s putting his body under an incredible amount of physical stress, first of all, that can lead to health problems down the road. And even though he doesn’t get violent or rowdy when he’s drinking, alcohol makes everyone unpredictable. Personally, I wouldn’t wait around to see just how his problem develops into something threatening.

Good luck, LW. This is a very tough situation, and I wish you all the best. He may be a fantastic person sober, but ultimately you have to make the decision that is best for you and not just wait and hope that he’ll wake up one day and change.

avatar Mara September 19, 2012, 10:37 am

Hi, I just wanted to reply to your comment of why his hands are shaking when he doesn’t drink. His hands shake because he is going through withdrawal. I am a nurse on a ICU step down unit and take care of a lot of detox patients, so I see these types of patients a lot. Alcohol withdrawal is a very serious medical condition and can result in a seizure if not done properly. I would be very concerned if the boyfriend decided to detox on his own and not with the help of medical professionals. I can already imagine the life you will have with him as he gets older and when his alcohol consumption catches up to him. Pancreatitis, Hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and neurological deficits are the major complications I see resulting from a life time of alcohol consumption. Be prepared to see him detox in the hospital.

avatar Mara September 19, 2012, 10:39 am

If you want a physiology lesson, I can explain the process later if you want to know.

avatar AndreaMarie September 19, 2012, 2:11 pm

I thought the same thing. Once he’s out of college one would assume he hopes to land a professional career. There’s no time for drinking there. If he needs alcohol to function he’s going to have a hard time keeping down a job. You come back from lunch (or any point during the day) smelling like booze you will be walked out the door. If he doesn’t get this in check they are going to have far bigger problems down the road.

Fabelle Fabelle September 19, 2012, 9:26 am

I have to wonder if he hid how heavy the drinking was when you first began dating? I could see him explaining the DUI & coming off as someone who still has a healthy relationship with alcohol. If he’s this high-functioning, I can see how he’d be able to mask his issue until you guys moved in together. I can also understand the internal debate you have going on with yourself. If there’s no crazy issue for you to point at, then what is your incentive to leave?

From what you describe, this is a long relationship he’s had with alcohol. I’m not familiar with this firsthand (I’m sure the other commenters will be better able to address your letter) but if his hands shake when he’s not drinking & alcohol actually seems to relax him, then his body is treating it as a necessary substance.

He’s 31. If he’s still in denial about his problem, then I don’t see him getting better–which you’re right, will lead to health problems. This is a major issue, even though he’s not sleeping in the gutter every night or getting fight-y with you. It’s not “pulling the trigger too soon” to want to leave him.

avatar Tax Geek September 19, 2012, 9:37 am

Don’t know what your final decision would be. But:

“he can do what he wants to his body” – True, but are you willing to deal with the consequences long-term?

And if he is getting alcohol when he runs out, is he risking another DUI? Or worse, putting himself and innocent strangers at risk? Are you willing to deal with that?

avatar TECH September 19, 2012, 9:39 am

This is a tough situation. Right now, you say his behavior is good even though he’s drinking heavily. I would counter that will not last forever. You are both bound to run into some negative consquences, whether it be another DUI, an injury, a serious health problem, termination from his job, etc. This kind of situation does not end well.
Millions of women have stayed in relationships with “high functioning” alcoholics, but it hasn’t been an easy road for them.
The question you need to answer is: Do you want to get married or have children with this man? If the answer is yes, I would hope you don’t want your potential children exposed to an alcoholic environment. If you wants kids, you need to put your foot down that he gets treatment for his illness. If he’s unwilling, I would get out. You deserve better, and if you want kids, they deserve better too.

katie katie September 19, 2012, 9:58 am

oh speaking of serious health problem- alcoholics usually die young, and of liver failure. so theres that…

katie katie September 19, 2012, 10:16 am

and thinking about it, i know one person who died from liver failure at around 50 (im guessing, maybe 40’s) and i know of another person who died mid-twenties/early thirties from liver failure. both alcoholics. the liver can only take so much, and its impossible to predict how much they can take.

i wonder what would happen if you took him to a doctor to get his liver checked out? how long has he lived like this?

katie katie September 19, 2012, 10:56 am

nope- i know three people. and the third was very young as well, like mid twenties/thirties ish. AND a doctor even told her she was going to die from liver failure if she didnt stop, and she couldnt stop.

avatar bethany September 19, 2012, 9:41 am

I think what it ultimately comes down to, is that your boyfriend isn’t going to stop drinking. You can’t make him, and it sounds like he doesn’t think he has a problem. So this is who he is. You need to decide if you want to live with that for the rest of your life. Think long term- If you want to get married and have kids, you can NEVER trust him to drive your kids anywhere. Is that a life you want? You need to look at the big picture and imagine your future with an alcoholic. If you’re ok with what you see, then stay with him. Chances are, you’re not ok with it, though. If that’s the case, it’s time to MOA.

FireStar FireStar September 19, 2012, 9:43 am

People can be high-functioning drug-addicts – but not 24/7. And apparently that includes your boyfriend since he goes into withdrawal symptoms unless he has a steady stream of alcohol at hand. How functioning of a person is he then? How functioning was he when he was arrested and, presumably taken into custody? And as for alcohol being fine unless it interferes with your life – what would he call a DUI? Didn’t that interfere with his life?
Where you are at now is the beginning of the road into hell. That really is the only place addiction lead. It may be a slow road – it may be a quick descent. A DUI is not a minor infraction. Drunk drivers KILL people. That, but for the grace of God, could have happened to him the night he got his DUI. He could have faced significant jail time and a lifetime of living with the reality that he killed someone because he needed a drink. If he no longer gets behind a wheel when he has been drinking – great. But how do you know that will continue? Alcohol impairs judgement. If he leaves the house at all hours to get alcohol – what happens when when he runs out as he has been drinking? Does he drive then? Or do you go for him? And not unimportantly – you are already concerned about his drinking. His drinking is affecting your relationship if you are writing in to advice columnists on how to handle it. By his own definition – it is now a problem. I’m not sure what you are waiting to see. Him dead in a car wreck? The family of the person he kills while getting another DUI crying in court? The look on his face when the hospital tells him he needs a new liver? There is nothing good to see coming up worth waiting for.

Budj Budj September 19, 2012, 9:45 am

Often a high-functioning alcoholic is self-medicating other issues like depression or anxiety with the alcohol. There may be something more to this story. I would encourage him to talk to somebody – especially if he is shakingly addicted.

Budj Budj September 19, 2012, 9:47 am

and a lot of times the individual doesn’t have an objective opinion on themselves…so if he says he is fine that isn’t enough…he may not even realize he is doing it / depending on it for those reasons.

katie katie September 19, 2012, 9:52 am

“It’s hard to tell him that I feel his drinking is a problem while there is no behavior I can point to as an issue since we have been together” — there is no behavior you can point too? how about the DUI? what about failing at AA? what about being so dependant on alcohol he will go get it no matter the time of day? how about his physical withdraw symptoms when he doesnt have it?

these are all bahaviors that i would say are an issue. i would never, ever be able to be with someone who was so dependant/obsessed with something. i mean, i get a little mad about all the football that my boyfriend watches now, and he doesnt even follow it *that* closely… i cant imagine planning a life around alcohol. these are behaviors that he can just brush off as “normal”, but if you think they are a problem, they are (and i think the majority of people would agree with you). thats a bar you can set.

something someone said on another alcoholic letter is something i think you need to hear: you will never be in a relatioship with just the two of you. it will always be you, him, and the alcohol. it will always be a silent being, in there in the room with the two of you, a part of everything you two do together or ever hope to do together. so know that, and understand that fully.

and finally, have higher standards! there is nothing wrong with saying, you dont meet my standards of a partner because you are dependant on a substance. people need to have higher standards in general for all the people in their lives.

avatar BML November 25, 2012, 2:30 pm


You are right on about three people being in the relationship: you, your partner and booze. And booze will always come before you. I now know this after 20+ years. My spouse has not hit bottom, and probably never will. He’s losing me, our life together, and a future together. After several attempts to leave, I am finally doing so. While that fills me with immense sadness I know that I will never be #1 in this relationship. Reckoning that fact took years.

To your final point Katie, I have indeed decided to set my standards higher because I deserve to be happy and healthy. I deserve to feel safe and loved in my own home. I deserve to not have to wonder if I’ll be greeted by Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde when I arrive home.

For those living with HFA, think long and hard about what your future will look like based on your reality in the present. The mirror does not lie.

avatar TheGirl September 19, 2012, 9:57 am

YES. Yes you should leave your alcoholic boyfriend. If you are looking for a long term relationship, this has no where to go but down. Sure, he’s not in trouble now, but even if he doesn’t get in legal or financial trouble, his liver WILL get in trouble, and you don’t want to be the enabler that allowed that to happen. Tell him you are leaving him and tell him exactly why. Tell him you love him but can’t sit around and watch him destroy his body. Maybe your leaving will be the push that gets him to re-evaluate his life choices, but even if it doesn’t, it’s the right thing to do.

avatar Anna September 19, 2012, 9:58 am

It does sound like your boyfriend has a problem with alcohol, but only you can decide what you can live with. Some people wouldn’t tolerate their SO drinking even a little bit ever. I know a lot of people like that, coming from a conservative religious family. What are your limits? He can never drink again if you stay? He has to cut back? Figure out what you want to happen and communicate your concerns to him. Tell him you’re concerned about his health if he keeps drinking excessively. Maybe he would agree to see a substance abuse counselor and cut back on the booze if he knew how worried you are. It’s really great that he has his shit together even while dealing with this dependency. Isn’t that drive to succeed a good thing to have in a partner? I think so. It means that he’s doing a pretty good job of handling shit right now and if he were willing to work on the alcohol issue, he would be a rockstar and even more motivated to succeed than he is now.

Stop with the “wait and see.” Take action. Talk to him. Only then will you know if he’s willing to clean up his act a little and if you want to stay with him. It could be the best thing you ever do for your boyfriend and your relationship. Good luck!

avatar shanshantastic September 19, 2012, 10:33 am

I agree completely – you have to decide what you are willing to live with, and then talk to him. Just understand that he has to want to change, and accept the possibility that your relationship may not be enough of a reason for him to want that change. Also, once you’ve set your limits, stick to them as painful as it may be.

FireStar FireStar September 19, 2012, 10:41 am

My understanding with addiction is that you have to stop completely (treatment may start with scaling back but the goal is zero consumption for recovery). A lot of addicts tell their partners they will cut down but the drinking just goes underground. If you were the type of person that could drink in moderation – so that it wouldn’t have led to an addiction – you wouldn’t have been an addict in the first place. I imagine there are some people who have developed the strength of will to limit themselves to occasional use – even though they are addicted – but I would guess those people are few and far between. And I imagine they can only accomplish that after being dry for a significant length of time so that their brain chemistry and body can recovery from the addiction. Though truly I’ve never heard of a drug addict in recovery that successfully indulges in occasional use.

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 10:58 am

I agree with every single point you made.

FireStar FireStar September 19, 2012, 11:23 am

That is extra special given your comment of the week status!

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 11:50 am


avatar CSP September 19, 2012, 12:05 pm

I agree, but this is someone that has not been officially diagnosed. The LW needs to have a conversation. He might be ready to change and her threat to leave might be just what he needs to change. I think she should talk to him and give him a chance.

avatar Anna September 19, 2012, 8:38 pm

I think it’s that attitude that keeps a lot of people drinking because society doesn’t even consider it an option for them to find a middle ground. The whole basis of the AA bullshit is that the person is powerless over their own behavior and they have to believe in a god who is going to control their every move from now on. It’s extremism, and every case doesn’t necessitate extremism.

I’ve talked about this before here, but I used to have a problem with alcohol. I was a problematic binge drinker. Once I was at a party drinking, there was no stopping until I was blacked out drunk. My boyfriend was embarrassed and the hangovers were terrible. Finally, he told me how worried he was about my drinking to excess whenever we went out and how it’s obviously not healthy. He told me he was embarrassed to be seen with me when I was wasted and acting a fool. I thought about it and knew he was right, so I decided to majorly cut back and just sip a little. I have now been a responsible drinker for over 3 years, zero blackouts/hangovers. Usually I have one glass of wine after work, sometimes 2 but really don’t get drunk. I changed my behavior on my own because I am not powerless – I am powerful. And I still don’t believe in a fucking god. I think a lot of the people that are dismissed as “worthless addicts” by society and deemed unfixable except by extreme means would benefit by someone believing in their own power to do the right thing.

avatar TheOtherOtherMe September 19, 2012, 10:06 am

Oh honey, you need to get out now. I know it’s hard to hear, this does not get better. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and just because he may be high-functioning NOW doesn’t mean he will be forever. Speaking from bitter personal experience, he will start needing more and more through the years and he will be less and less able to act “normal.” Also, the health consequences of long-term alcohol abuse are not minor: in addition to cirrhosis of the liver (which WILL happen to him at some point) he could develop chronic pancreatitis, which could kill or seriously debilitate him. If he doesn’t agree to at least see a private counselor, you need to try to stage an intervention and/or just leave him. If he quits drinking in response to the shock of your breakup, do NOT get back together with him unless he a) goes to rehab, b) enters a long-term counseling program for addicts, and c) has been sober for at least one year.

avatar Sheryl September 19, 2012, 10:10 am

I’m not clear if he is really drinking ALL the time. Does he wake up and drink a beer for breakfast? and then proceed to drink 10 more throughout the day?
Also, he is really getting “drunk” everynight, or is does he just religiously have a beer/two/three everynight?

If he is getting wasted every day, yes, he has a problem.
As someone who grew up with German grandparents who had beer every single lunch and dinner, drinking every day isn’t a big deal. He might be really stressed (hence the shaking?) and the drink is just a nerve calmer. I don’t understand how he can be THAT high functioning if he really is completely wasted.

Like i said, every day 1-2 beers per meal is not the same as every day DRUNK (though I wouldn’t choose do to that). I can’t tell what you think is excessive.

katie katie September 19, 2012, 10:20 am

you have to know, “completely wasted” is something the body does when it is not used to alcohol. your parents drank everyday, and were fine- but if someone who never drank anything had the same amount of alcohol, they would “get wasted”. so this guy has to drink whatever amount just to get back to that “normal” amount his body is used to. so no, he is not “wasted” everyday as you or I think about being “wasted”, but he is dependant on the alcohol to get to that “normal” because his body is so used to it.

also, the shaking is a classic withdraw symptom, as someone said above.

avatar Anna September 19, 2012, 10:21 am

I agree with you, Sheryl. I would say I drink a little bit most days but I very rarely get drunk. There is a difference between someone who drinks a little bit each day and someone who gets up, starts drinking, and doesn’t stop until they pass out again each day.

avatar jlyfsh September 19, 2012, 10:26 am

i don’t think you have to get wasted every day to have a dependence on alcohol. if his anxiety is so high he needs a drink to calm down on a consistent basis, that is still a problem. he needs to speak to a doctor and talk about medication or other things he can do to help his anxiety.

and if he has to go out no matter what the hour and replenish the alcohol that is also a problem. if it was midnight and i really wanted a glass of wine and realized we were out i would be a little disappointed but i wouldn’t need to run to the store….

FireStar FireStar September 19, 2012, 10:43 am


avatar Sheryl September 19, 2012, 12:27 pm

if 1 drink does calm his nerves (even if its every day), why is that worse than asking a doctor to prescribe you drugs for anxiety? Drugs are not always safer. Especially if he is borderline alcoholic, which I’m not ruling out.

It’s hard to tell from the description… some of these situations described just doesn’t add up. If everything else in his life is just stellar, I don’t buy that his drinking IS actually a problem. If the LW didn’t grow up around casual alcohol, she might see ‘everyday’ as an issue and be looking for one.

And, for the record, if he is drinking at BREAKFAST, there is a problem. Lunch & dinner (max 2 drinks per meal) I might tolerate, similar to how I would tolerate smoking. I wouldn’t like it (and its not good for him), but I probably wouldn’t break up over it.

avatar rachel September 19, 2012, 12:42 pm

Sheryl, you should read Anon’s experience below. It is definitely possible to have a drinking problem and a successful life. That’s why it’s called a “functioning” alcoholic.

avatar jlyfsh September 19, 2012, 12:43 pm

see i have a big problem with people who assume that treating yourself for depression and anxiety issues with alcohol is safer than talking to a therapist and taking medication. if you shake whenever you stop drinking (the LWs words) you have a problem, and it’s probably not anxiety. as others have mentioned more than likely the hand shaking is a sign of withdrawal and not a symptom of anxiety.

and in general it’s not ok to need alcohol to be a happy person. if you need alcohol or any other crutch to function on a daily basis (like the example of one drink to quell anxiety) you have a problem.

JK JK September 19, 2012, 12:46 pm


katie katie September 19, 2012, 1:37 pm

the thing is that there isnt a hard and fast rule about what makes someone an alcoholic and what doesnt. drinking with breakfast actually doesnt mean your are automatically an alcoholic. and for others, drinking 2 drinks at 2 meals may very mean they are alcoholics.

i think you dont understand addiction. physical, real, addiction. this guy starts to go through withdraw symptoms if he doesnt drink- do you know how much you have to consume over a pretty long amount of time to get to physical withdraw symptoms? even if he only drinks a few drinks a day, if he has done that for 15 years, that is an issue! also, he has to have drinks- he will go any time of day to get more if he runs out. that is a real addiction. it doesnt matter the amount, it doesnt matter if he passes out everyday- none of those “typical” symptoms have to be there for it to be an issue.

also, i dont think you understand what drinking means to someone who is an alcoholic. for someone who drinks everyday, if they drink the same amount, they will slowly stop being drunk. so, two drinks a day will stop getting them tipsy. so they go to 3 to get drunk. so now, 2 drinks is a “normal” level, and 3 is drunk. then the body gets used to that. then 3 drinks is “normal” and 4 is drunk. and on and on it goes until he has to drink an amount that could easily kill other people just to feel drunk. his body is so used to the constant stream of alcohol, is has learned to function with it as a regular thing. the body is able to do this with many different toxins/substances, and its very, very bad for you. the liver starts to fail, the brain starts to fail, and the end is death.

all of this is to say, just because YOU wouldnt be addicted drinking twice a day doesnt mean others wont either. everyone’s body is different, and this man is addicted- no question.

JK JK September 19, 2012, 1:45 pm

you explained it perfectly, Katie. 🙂

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 10:26 am

I kind of think having 4 beers a day – 2 at lunch and 2 and dinner is excessive. That should be the exception – not the norm. This is only my opinion – but for me I would not be okay with that. I like getting the tipsy buzz because it’s rare – but I would not enjoy doing it and then just going back to work. I find there is a direct correlation between how often I drink and how anxious I am. But again maybe that’s just me. But I know I wouldn’t be okay with my spouse having 4 beers a day everyday either.

avatar GatorGirl September 19, 2012, 10:34 am

1 to 2 beers per meal…I hope you don’t factor lunch, or even breakfast into that! I love beer (and drinks of all sorts) but unless football is involved I just about never drink before my dinner is in front of me.

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 10:10 am

My biggest concern if I were in your situation LW, would be all the wasted time spent wasted. Don’t get me wrong I love happy hours, I love tailgating, I love drinking to unwind. But every night? Doesn’t he have other hobbies? I am always weary when someone’s hobby is drinking. It’s fine if you drink while doing some of your other hobbies (keg kickball anyone?) but if drinking is the event of the night – well that’s weird.

Can you imagine a future with someone who is drunk all the time? Maybe he hasn’t had any negative consequences yet because his life right now is conducive to drinking. What if you have kids? What if he gets a job where he’s on call occasionally? Do you trust that he can quit on his own at any point? Because he can’t keep this up forever. And if you don’t think he can quit on his own you need to let him know that for you it’s a problem.

If I were in your shoes I wouldn’t be okay with it. It’s only a matter of time before it all catches up with him – and I wouldn’t want to be around for that. He’s an adult – he’ll do what he wants but you don’t have to be along for the ride.

katie katie September 19, 2012, 10:13 am

oh hey miss comment of the week!!

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 10:27 am

Oh hey! Being comment of the week means that for the rest of the week my comments have more validity right? Right?!?!

avatar MJ September 19, 2012, 10:40 am

Yeah, I briefly dated a guy who was an alcoholic, and our social lives revolved around alcohol. If we went out, we had to go to bar (or somewhere with a bar). If we stayed in, he was on his way to getting drunk. We rarely saw other people, because ugh, that was so embarrassing.

It was completely unhealthy for me (and for him), of course, but it was also incredibly boring after awhile.

avatar lynn September 19, 2012, 10:12 am

Oh gosh, that’s tough. I mean if you’re not experiencing anything negative from it, then you should be OK? There are a lot of heavy drinkers out there who are not necessarily alcoholics, they just like to drink a lot.

The fact he received a DUI is concerning. Obviously people make mistakes and it only takes one time to get caught or to seriously injure or kill someone, but on average (from articles I’ve read), a person drives over the legal limit at least 88 times before getting caught. I hope his DUI was a one-time thing, and it’s good to hear that he has turned it around. That is a good sign.

The funny thing about AA… a lot of people go in there thinking exactly what your boyfriend thought. I sort of felt the same, but I kept going because certain things resonated with me. When I got my sponsor, she said, “Look for the similarities, not the differences.” He may not relate to every story, but if you stick around long enough, you start to hear things that remind you of yourself. I’m not the alcoholic who ruined her life and lost everything and was a hot mess all the time, but I noticed if things were going wrong, I would turn to alcohol and would sometimes binge drink. Alcoholism runs in my family, sooo AA seemed like a solid option. Also, trying out different meetings helps too. I found my home group, and it’s very different than the first meeting I tried out.

Honestly though, you can’t decide if he’s an alcoholic, but I don’t agree with him when he says that drinking is only a problem when it interferes with your life. Some people don’t see the damage it does to their relationships until it’s too late. There is a reason why groups like Al-Anon exist.

If I were you, I’d wait it out (unless you’re concerned with his health in the long run). But if he starts behaving poorly and his life (and your life) starts unraveling, give him a treatment option (AA, treatment, counseling, etc. etc.) and if he doesn’t bite… then run. It isn’t fair to you.

avatar shanshantastic September 19, 2012, 10:38 am

The part about AA stuck out for me as well. My father had a big “blow up” moment like some others have mentioned, and he was sentenced to probation and mandatory AA. He went in with the same “I don’t have a problem, these people do” attitude and his sobriety only lasted for a few months before he went back to the heavy drinking. Your sponsor gave you an invaluable piece of wisdom..maybe I should pass it on.

Also, good mention of Al-Anon. LW, regardless of what you decide to do it wouldn’t hurt to find a group near you. You can find a solid support system of people who know what you’re going through, and if you’re like me (Alateen through school) it can help you set limits as far as how much you’re willing to deal with.

avatar lynn September 19, 2012, 11:41 am

I also hear a lot of the, “it hasn’t happened yet.”

“You haven’t lost your job yet, you haven’t lost your husband yet, you haven’t been caught yet.” … I think that tends resonates with people struggling with giving up alcohol.

I know AA doesn’t work for some people, but I think a lot of that depends on attitude, desire and the group one chooses to go to. My first meeting was intimate but very disorganized and some “shady” people came in. My home group now though has a lot of older, well-to-do individuals with lots of years of sobriety, and I seem to connect with them better. A lot of them have taken me under their wing because I’m so much younger than most people they see. But treatment, counseling, etc. has done wonders for people as well. I say whatever works for them, they should go for it.

Al-Anon is pretty helpful. I attend an Al-Anon meeting every week, and I truly wish I had known about the group years ago. The 3 G’s and 3 C’s are help… “Get off of him, get over it and get on with it”… and “You didn’t cause it, you can’t change it, you can’t cure it.” It’s been a nice outlet to have people I can talk to about alcohol issues I’ve had with a close family member.

avatar SweetPeaG September 19, 2012, 10:12 am

I feel a little unqualified to give you the kind of response that you probably need as this is a big and serious issue. I hope that you will take into consideration everyone’s opinions here. But, I also hope that you think about seeking the help of a professional… a therapist, a support group, or other resources that can give you more educated advice.

However, I can give you my opinion on how I would personally feel. How much does your boyfriend know about your feelings as far as his drinking? Do you tiptoe around the subject? You do state that he says drinking is only a problem when it “interferes with your life”. Is that in response to conversations you’ve tried to have with him about this? Or is it just a general statement? I ask this because I think a real conversation NEEDS to be had if it hasn’t happened already. You do need to lay it all on the line… no beating around the bush… he needs your hard truth.

You love him, he loves you and you seem to be happy. That in itself is worth the effort. And, there is a chance he can turn things around (for real… not just… oh, he has a good GPA). But, maybe it is ultimatum time. You are 29. You don’t mention whether or not you want a family. But, sorry to say, this is the age where you need to start making solid future decisions. If your voice of real concern isn’t enough for him to get help and make changes, then it is probably time to go.

I wish you all the luck in the world and I hope we get a happy update in the future, whatever your decision.

avatar applescruffs September 19, 2012, 10:13 am

As a therapist, I have to tell you that AA isn’t my favorite. It’s been a help for a lot of people, but it isn’t the only option out there. We have this idea that only former addicts can counsel other addicts. If that’s true, my entire profession is out the window, because I’ve never heard voices telling me I can fly but I counsel people who do. The point is, there are a lot of options besides AA to explore.

I’m not going to tell you to MOA immediately. I will tell you that I grew up with a high functioning alcoholic dad, and he’s just now, in his 60s, getting to the point where he realizes he needs help, and the drinking has been masking a low level depression his whole life. I’ve just gotten to the point, in my late 20s, where I can admit to friends and family that he has a problem – my best friends from childhood had no idea until I told them last year. Alcoholic families are masters of secrets. My boyfriend’s mother was an alcoholic, but not a high functioning one, for the last 10 years. She was a menace to her neighbors because she drove drunk through the neighborhood, she was in and out of rehab, and three weeks ago she died of liver failure. She didn’t want to change, and it killed her. You need to know what your life could look like if you commit to this man. But if the relationship is good in every other way, I think it’s worth working with him on this issue, for a while. He can check his insurance to find a provider to treat the drinking and what is probably an underlying issue. Find someone who is a CACIII. People can change, and they do. Every day. But I would also recommend seriously thinking before you talk to him about your time frame, and what your dealbreakers are. You need to know, before you decide to help him, how much you can take. Your needs matter in all this, too.

QaraKoz Qara Koz September 19, 2012, 11:36 am

“Alcoholic families are masters of secrets.”

THIS. So true of most alcoholics that I know of. For most of my teen years I didn’t treat alcoholism as a serious condition because I could always think of other people who drank a lot but managed to ‘have normal lives’.

avatar jlyfsh September 19, 2012, 10:15 am

Here’s the problem with alcoholics you can’t ask them to just stop drinking excessively. They have to want to stop drinking completely and to get help doing that. It’s not like when someone without that addiction drinks. It’s not instead of 4 bottles of wine a night I’ll just have one glass, they can’t stop. So asking him to cut back isn’t going to work long term. And if his hands are shaking when he can’t have a drink, that is a serious red flag.

Until he admits that he has a problem it’s not going to get better. I feel like you should say that to yourself a few times, because it’s true. He will continue to blame everyone else until eventually he hits rock bottom. Do you want to deal with that? Do you want to deal with being with him when the alcohol becomes more important than you?

My mother has a friend who is married to a functioning alcoholic. During the week he only has one drink a night but every weekend he starts drinking at 5 pm Friday and spends the weekend drunk/passed out/drinking more on the recliner. And this isn’t I want to relax a little this is pass out puke all over yourself while on the recliner at age 55 and that is just sad, very sad. They don’t go out on dates ever and he doesn’t leave the house on the weekend. He doesn’t even really talk to her on the weekend because he is so drunk. He just sits and drinks all weekend. He’s embarrassed her and his children at public events because of the drinking. And yet to this day he says he doesn’t have a problem.

Her biggest complaint though is that she’s lonely. Do you want to be her in 15 years? Do you want to come second to getting drunk and passing out in the chair at home?

avatar Sue Jones September 19, 2012, 10:19 am

Denial is not a river in Egypt! You are correct to be concerned. I would not marry or have children with this man, and you should check yourself for any enabling behavior. These things get worse, MUCH worse over the years unless he gets help, and that means going to meetings, receiving treatment ongoing. I would tell you a horror story of how a high functioning alcoholic destroyed his family, but that would break confidentiality so I cannot do it, but it was very awful. VERY tragic. So please, insist that he stop drinking and leave the relationship if he doesn’t. You are pre-marriage and pre-children and NOW is the time that decisions you make about your future have a big impact.

Skyblossom Skyblossom September 19, 2012, 10:20 am

It may seem that everything is fine but it pops up as little things. My aunt is married to a man who always has a drink in his hand from the moment he gets home until he falls asleep. The first thing he does when he walks through the door when he gets home is to walk straight to the refrigerator and get a beer or some wine. He doesn’t greet his family first, he gets the alcohol. He’s retired now but always managed to hold down a good job and to make a good income so that part was fine but he has spent a lot of their marriage emotionally checked out. Alcoholics are pretty much never emotionally available to their families, their primary relationship is with their alcohol and if forced to choose they choose the alcohol. So his wife has spent her married years doing the things that she enjoys with her good friends but they have nothing that they do together that they enjoy.

When their kids were little things would happen that were alcohol affected. Once she was frosting a birthday cake for their daughter and he told her he’d decorate it so that she could get other things done for the party. When she got out the cake to serve it the only decoration was the word Happy. Nothing else. The guests were there and everyone saw the cake that said Happy. It was embarrassing to her. Their daughter was so little she didn’t realize that her cake was messed up. Another time her husband took their daughter to watch fireworks and it got very late and they weren’t home and finally she went to find them. She found their car in the parking lot, no other cars around, with her husband passed out in the driver’s sear and her daughter scared. Their daughter had been unable to wake him up and they were all alone in the dark and she didn’t know what to do. These are the things that routinely happen when you share your life with a high functioning alcoholic. Is this what you want for yourself and your children if you decide to have children?

avatar GatorGirl September 19, 2012, 10:30 am

Your BF sounds similar my dad (other than the DUI). My dad drinks 4ish beers every night. Every night. He has a full time job, a college degree, is high active in my siblings and my life. He is an active member of our community and church. He just has a couple beers every. single. night. My mom gets annoyed with it often, but she knew what she was getting into. I guess the point is you can be a good, functioning, normal person and still have a substance abuse problem. (The only negative affect I ever had from his drinking was once as a child taking a big swig of beer that I thought was apple juice.)

You’re the only one who can make the decision to stay or leave your BF. In my opinion there is no right or wrong answer. There may not be an underlying reason for his drinking, and he may never stop. Or maybe there is a reason and therapy can bring it out and he’ll stop. Or maybe having a child will change his behavior. Maybe it won’t. Best of luck.

avatar Lindsay September 19, 2012, 10:32 am

Your boyfriend isn’t going to stop drinking until he thinks he has a problem. And he’s likely not going to think he has a problem until something really drastic happens. Marrying a man who is clearly an alcoholic with no plans to get help is a bad idea. And it would be awful to bring children into your family knowing that he had a problem. At some point, he might stop functioning so well. Or get another DUI. Even if he’s able to function all his life like that, he’d likely drink himself to an early death.

My point is that that eventually, you’re going to have to decide if you want a future with him. If this is a dealbreaker for you, then I’d suggest dealing with it now instead of later.

avatar johnse23 September 19, 2012, 10:40 am

Your boyfriend has an alcohol dependency. If his hands are shaking when he hasn’t been drinking, he is having withdrawal symptoms which is very serious. If someone who is alcohol dependent stops drinking (“I’m gonna quit cold turkey just to prove to you I can HA!”) it can cause psychosis, seizures, and death. This is a serious thing and you should be very careful about the way you approach this. Just because he doesn’t act like a “typical alcoholic”-angry, aggressive, passed out all the time, failing school, etc-doesn’t meant that it won’t interfere with his life. It takes medical/professional help to physically withdraw and lose your dependency on alcohol, not to mention the psychological affects of staying sober. He may seem fine now but here is a just a short list of what long term alcohol use can do to your body: hepatitis, cirrhosis, mouth/esophageal/stomach/liver/colon cancer, gastritis, gastric reflux, malnutrition, pancreatitis, Korsakoff’s psychosis (google it), and impotence.
If you are planning a future with the man, and want children think about these health problems that can affect him sooner rather than later and not “if” but “WHEN?”
You should say something like “I really love you but your excessive drinking has me really worried. I know all the health problems that can arise from drinking so much. It really scares me that your hands start shaking when you haven’t had a drink all day and I can’t stay in this relationship if you won’t quit drinking. I will support you in any way I can to help you.” Even if he does get help and gets sober, you will always have to deal with temptations, relapse and therapy for the rest of his life and you will have to give up drinking alcohol as well.
Also I have experience with this. My ex was a highly functional alcoholic-made all As while he was dual enrolled in grad school for MBA/Engineering Masters. He wouldn’t quit for me so I MOA. His dad was the same way so I saw his future in his dad and it wasn’t pretty. Good luck!

avatar MiMi September 19, 2012, 10:42 am

A guy who has to go out at all hours of the night to make sure he has his liquor, who is in denial about the problem, and who is perfectionistic in other areas of his life sounds like a ticking time bomb to me! Alcohol may be legal but it’s still a drug and this guy’s addicted. How would you feel if he was holding it together but smoking crack or shooting up heroin all the time? Still OK?
Right now there’s three of you in the relationship: you, him, and alcohol. Why not get some perspective from those who know – he may deny he needs AA, but you can still go to Al-Anon.

avatar johnse23 September 19, 2012, 10:43 am

Forgot to mention, yes he may get another DUI which sucks but he also may KILL SOMEONE BECAUSE HE WAS HEAVILY DRINKING AND DRIVING.

avatar Anon80 September 19, 2012, 10:48 am

Dear LW …. My story is very nearly identical to yours. I am 30, and my alcoholic fiance is 31 … he is high-functioning as well, a Sr. Director in his company in fact. We have been together 8 years now, engaged for 5. I never pulled the trigger on our wedding over those years, I suppose because of deeply buried reservations about his drinking. Throughout almost all our relationship, I was in the same place it sounds like you are now. It seemed like the drinking only affected him, it’s him doing this to himself, he “should be allowed to do what he wants to his body.” I thought that because it never *DIRECTLY* affected me, it wasn’t my, nor OUR, problem. It’s not costing YOU any money, he’s not beating you, it’s not YOUR health being affected, right? This is how it was for me too, for years .. until everything came to a head this year, earlier in the summer, when I very nearly left him, to the point of signing a lease with plans to move out the next day. I’ll get to that story in a minute.

The fact is that the drinking does affect you, it’s just not in big obvious ways, which would make the decision clear and easy. I am sure there MUST be things that bother you about his habit, otherwise why would you be thinking of leaving, right? I suggest you write a list of all the negative things you have to deal with on account of his drinking, and see how they all add up to a situation where alcohol takes priority over your own needs and concerns. Also: alcoholism is a progressive disease. Every year that goes by, you will see his body and brain be more and more affected. So if you aren’t seeing bad things happen now, be warned that they are bound to start happening. For me, the list of ways his drinking affected me looked something like this. Notice how mundane they seem:

1) His daily drinking robbed me of his company from time to time. Most evenings, his main preoccupation would be having that six pack, and though we would do things “together,” the drinking would often get in the way. For example, there would be times when we would have a dinner reservation for Saturday night, but he would be drinking all day beforehand, then pass out on the couch at 5:30pm and sleep through the dinner reservation even though I would try to wake him. That type of thing is a crime to the relationship, and it would happen in many small ways on a regular basis. It’s a microcosm of how I always took a back seat to the drinking.

2) We rarely had sex, because at bedtime he would always pass out within 30 seconds. Alcohol robs you of proper sleep and he was always complaining of being tired, so I would be reluctant to wake him, especially since he worked so hard during the day being an awesome employee. There were many times when I would initiate, but he would fall asleep. There is nothing more humiliating than having a man fall asleep WHILE you are trying to pleasure him. Also, he began snoring very loudly as his disease progressed. This did short me of sleep on many an occasion, to the point where about twice a week I would move to the couch to sleep.

3) He would always skip dinner and just drink a six pack instead. Then, before bed, he would crave fatty foods and end up raiding the fridge. Not only was this unhealthy, but it often caused issues with our food planning and shared groceries.

4) About once a year or so, he would completely overindulge in alcohol and pass out on the bathroom floor after vomiting. Often he would continue vomiting all night long, which kept me up, and I worried every time that he would choke on his own vomit. It was very stressful. You shouldn’t have to ever clean up your partner’s vomit from drinking, and I never did, out of personal pride and also I would end up throwing up myself because of the smell. But I always felt guilty about just leaving him there on the bathroom floor to sleep. It is not fair to be put in that position.

So, some of these things (and more I haven’t listed) kinda sound like normal things that every couple struggles with though, right? Snoring, raiding the fridge. BUT HERE IS WHERE THE REAL PROBLEM LIES. Any time I would try to assert my needs and talk about any of these issues, he would shut down the conversation or turn the issue around on me, BECAUSE these problems were related to his drinking. He would employ every tactic in the book to cut off healthy communication, and personal accountability. He would get very defensive, or ignore my complaint and then bring up something about ME that he didn’t like. Or, he would get all logical on me and try to undermine my assumptions, or say things like “you can’t know that”. The bottom line was, he was unable to talk to me about his problem and anything drinking related. Our communication was completely dysfunctional, and this would spill over onto other non-drinking related issues. If we ever needed to deal with a problem as a couple, most of the time things didn’t turn out well, partly because guess what, he was very nearly always some level of drunk. There were a couple instances where he would get enraged and yell or threaten me. People with alcoholism often have trouble with anger management.

Make no mistake … the drinking may not cost you money or affect your own personal health, but the fact is you are in a RELATIONSHIP and the drinking does affect that merged entity, greatly.

Late last year, we had a disagreement over the holidays and when we tried to talk it through … he had been drinking and got very angry, to the point where I did not feel safe and decided to leave and stay with my parents for a week. After that, he agreed to go to couples counseling. We went regularly for about three months, leading into early this year. At the very first appointment, he was open to discussing our problems with communication … but over the next several weeks, he dragged his heels, didn’t open up during sessions, would get mad at me in the car after appointments because I would bring up his drinking, etc. He would attack the credentials of the therapist and insist that his alcohol problem wasn’t up for discussion in therapy. Everything was about denying that his drinking was a problem, and that he could decide to quit anytime he wanted.

Finally: this summer, I told him one morning flat-out that the reason I have been stalling our wedding was due to his drinking. He flipped out and screamed at me. This is a person who is normally the most even-keeled, polite and gentle man. For the next few weeks, he punished me emotionally … refused to talk to me, left for a weekend bender with his friends. I decided that this new, unprecedented abuse was unacceptable, and I needed to leave. He was traveling for work and I took the opportunity to look for an apartment. Just doing so felt like such a breath of fresh air, like I could envision a life without having to deal with his drinking and the resulting relationship problems. I signed a lease for a new place on a Friday afternoon.

That Saturday, he came home, and finally, finally talked to me after I told him I signed the lease. He was completely broken by this news. He finally opened up that day about his problem. That Sunday, we talked all day, and he agreed to seek treatment. That was in early June. Since then: he has been cautiously sober. Meanwhile our relationship has undergone dramatic changes. Every single weekend, we set aside time to talk about both his alcoholism, and all the other issues that have been buried between us on account of no communication. We keep record of our talks in a special journal. We have been going to an addiction therapist. I canceled my lease cautiously after a few weeks, and have been staying vigilant on how things have been going. I am ready to run again at any time, but thankfully we have been healing. These past few months have been the best in our relationship because of the true intimacy of us finally being able to talk about anything and everything, without any bullsh*t surrounding anything drinking-related. However, I won’t feel confident in us again until he has been truly sober for a year. FYI: he doesn’t care for AA either, but has been responding to counseling. When we talked about how he would shut down communication, he said, “I didn’t want you to be right, but I knew you were.”

I’m sorry to write such a long response, but I feel strongly about this experience and wish to communicate my story to others who might benefit from any insight. I don’t know the down and dirty details of how YOUR man’s drinking affects you. However: rest assured, it can and will affect you. Every day that goes by where you can’t assert your needs in the relationship, you are consuming slow poison. I’m tired of writing now, so all I will add is just, go and read about alcoholism and ESPECIALLY what it means to “enable” a drinker. Every drink he has means he is choosing alcohol over you. That’s not fair to you, you MUST assert yourself as the main priority in the relationship. If you can’t do that, get out.

I wish you the best of luck.

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 11:05 am

Wow this is an awesome response. Thanks for sharing – I hope the LW hears your warning.

katie katie September 19, 2012, 11:06 am

THIS is what the LW needs to hear. thank you.

avatar rachel September 19, 2012, 11:11 am

Thank you for sharing your story here. I imagine the LW will see a lot of her situation in yours, and hopefully having it laid out for her will help her to make the decision she needs.

FireStar FireStar September 19, 2012, 11:18 am

There is just nothing like the voice of experience sometimes. I read this thinking someone will see her/himself in here and might change their life because of it. Brava.

avatar Desiree September 19, 2012, 11:33 am

This is great advice. Thank you so much for sharing. I think it is usually true that the person with a problem won’t change until some event opens his/her eyes. The scary thing when I was dealing with the alcoholic in my life was wondering how bad it was going to get before the person “woke up” and admitted the problem.

avatar SweetPeaG September 19, 2012, 11:47 am

Wonderful response!

I especially liked “Every day that goes by where you can’t assert your needs in the relationship, you are consuming slow poison.” This can be applied to so many of the LW’s and should be repeated!

avatar Vathena September 19, 2012, 2:14 pm

I was going to say the same. Every response to every LW should start with that line 😀

avatar Sarah September 19, 2012, 12:18 pm

I think this is honestly the best response I’ve ever read on DW.

avatar Eljay September 19, 2012, 2:38 pm

Second that.

avatar Meredith September 19, 2012, 9:32 pm

I really, really love this response because you did such a thorough job explaining the effects and consequences of being in a relationship with an alcoholic. Painful, emotional for me to read as well, brings back a lot of memories. My husband is a recovering alcoholic (just hit 6 yrs sober) but I still remember the searing pain of what I call life before sobriety. We too went on a similiar journey. We started dating much closer to his rock bottom than the LW obviously did. They are only “high-functioning” for so long, until they’re not, and then begins the slow descent into hell, for both of you. Staying with my now husband ended up being the right decision for me, but emotionally, spiritually, mentally it broke me as a person and it took a very, very long time to rebuild myself and our relationship. LW, think long and hard about this. He doesn’t sound anywhere close to admitting he has a problem or getting help. It will get worse, that I can promise you. You can’t imagine the hell that is the journey to rock bottom..and trust me, it is a long journey. Absolutely do not marry this man or have children with him unless he gets sober, stays sober, and is working some kind of plan to maintain a lifelong sobriety. I understand the complexity of loving the man, and hating the addiction. He’s not a monster bc he’s an alcoholic, but if you stay with him and he doesn’t quit, he will turn into someone you don’t recognize. I wish you the best..my heart hurts for you and your boyfriend.

SweetsAndBeats SweetsAndBeats September 19, 2012, 9:55 am

The thing is that if someone has a dependency issue but thinks that his “life story” is not messed up enough that he needs to manage his addiction, they will eventually get worse – physically and/or mentally. It sounds like he has a remarkable amount of self control, but this will not last forever. Eventually a stressor will come up, or his situation will change, and his drinking may spiral out of control. Regardless of that possibility, it is guaranteed that he will eventually suffer some serious health effects from drinking so heavily for such a long time. You’re dating a time bomb.

avatar Monica M September 19, 2012, 10:49 am

Your last sentence is all the LW needs. Perfectly stated. “Dating a time bomb.”

avatar Bell September 19, 2012, 10:55 am

My husband has 20 years of sobriety under his belt but still considers himself an alcoholic and attends AA meetings. (He was sober when i met him.) When a friend asked me the same question about her boyfriend, my husband suggested she attend an Al-Anon meeting to talk to other people in the same situation. It is an offshoot of AA for family and loved ones of alcoholics, so the people there will know what you are going through. You cannot make your boyfriend stop drinking but you can at least get some perspective and advice from people in the same boat.

avatar SuzyQ September 19, 2012, 10:57 am

How could you really have an intimate relationship with someone who is always in an alterred state? That’s not true intimacy. And it’s not a true partnership. You’ll spend more and more time fighting his drinking until you crack. This type of relationship is not sustainable in the long term (in my opinion).

My best friend is a functional alcoholic. She has no problem keeping a job and raising her son. But when she’s had too much she can get quite nasty sometimes. She blames her drinking on stress. I honestly think she could go on like this forever.

Do I recommend dating her? NO WAY!!!! Her moods are unpredictable and she gets angry a lot. When I find myself seeing her too often, she starts to direct that anger at me, and I know it’s time to back off again.

QaraKoz Qara Koz September 19, 2012, 11:22 am

Get out NOW. My mother married a ‘high functioning alcoholic’ who had a good job and home, was a good person in all respects but just tended to drink a little more than normal. It was after three kids that the drinking started to get progressively worse. For a decade she tried to make him see the problem as my parents slowly lost their savings, jobs, and home and my father kept drinking more to deal with the stress of these situations and then died at 48 from liver damage.

So admittedly I never think you should ever stay with an alcoholic. But the part of this letter that stands out to me the most is the fact that he won’t even acknowledge his addiction even after a DUI and AA meetings. I don’t know what the “wait and see” method means in this situation because I don’t understand what you’re waiting for? For him to get another DUI and maybe then he’ll recognize he has a problem? For him to lose his job/do badly in college and then he will re-evaluate? These things could take years to happen and meanwhile you will have invested years of your life into a relationship with this person and he still may or may not acknowledge he has a problem.

Although I’m not usually in favor of ultimatums I think it is necessary to show an alcoholic the impact drinking has in their life. Tell him you aren’t comfortable with the amount he is drinking and ask him to cut back. If he outright refuses or tries to sneak alcohol then you have every right to leave. He can’t claim that drinking isn’t interfering with his life at the point where it is having a very direct impact on your relationship and he still won’t see the problem. Please don’t wait passively to see if problems show up. You need to have the conversation about his drinking as soon as possible.

FireStar FireStar September 19, 2012, 11:26 am

I don’t know why people hate ultimatums. I think they serve a particular purpose and I agree with you – now is the time for one.

iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson September 19, 2012, 11:41 am

Have we bonded over this before FireStar? I am in complete agreement. Ultimatums are only bad if you’re bluffing. If you say “I will break up with you if you don’t quit drinking” and then they don’t quit drinking and you break up with them – isn’t that just honest communication about your dealbreakers? How is that a bad thing? If you have no intent on acting on your ultimatum – for example saying “I won’t move in with you until you propose” and then your SO doesn’t propose and you move in – well that’s bad because you clearly were just trying to manipulate them into a proposal – and you’ve now lost all power in the relationship.

FireStar FireStar September 19, 2012, 11:57 am

Not yet – but we are so on the same page. Call it whatever you want – a line in the sand, boundaries, ultimatums. Whatever you call it – you need to back it up…otherwise all you are giving is a suggestion.

avatar painted_lady September 19, 2012, 3:27 pm

I think people view ultimatums as some manipulative tool to coerce people into doung what you want. Which they can be – if they’re not logical consequences to actions but rather a means to punish someone – but that’s sort of like saying because alcoholics are addicted to alcohol no one should drink.

I think since we’re all wrapped up in some idea of unconditional love, whether with families or romantic partners or friends, we see any sort of attempt to protect ourselves from toxic behavior as a cop out to not really loving someone. And really, it’s a means of protecting yourself, which is not a bad thing. Love – for someone who doesn’t love you enough to stop hurting you – doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice everything, including a happy life.

QaraKoz Qara Koz September 19, 2012, 11:49 am

I usually don’t like ultimatums because they tend to make the receiver defensive a lot of the time. Just from personal experience ultimatums can often end up sounding like deadlines or sort of a “if you don’t do what I say, I’m leaving you” and a lot of people tend to respond very negatively to that kind of statement. I’d usually prefer a dialogue between two people where they decide on the course of action together but in the case of an alcoholic that conversation isn’t very likely to happen.

FireStar FireStar September 19, 2012, 11:54 am

Oh I agree – in most situations dialogue is best – but sometimes what you really need is a deadline. Fish or cut bait. And like IWTTS says – and mean it.

katie katie September 19, 2012, 12:07 pm

i think thats why some people dont like ultimatiums, because they are so often used to manipulate, for control, or just to get their way.. if used in the manner they should be, which to me is for only serious issues and only in serious situations, they are perfectly acceptable.

theattack theattack September 19, 2012, 1:46 pm

But where’s the line for serious? I completely agree that they are often used to manipulate, but I really like ultimatums. There are a lot of things I want or don’t want in a partner that are not “serious” issues. If my fiance stopped cleaning up after himself and expected me to pick up after him, that would be a dealbreaker for me but not necessarily something really serious, ya know. I would definitely tell him that if he didn’t change his ways I wouldn’t stick around, because that’s the truth. To me it’s just a heads up, because it seems unfair to just break up with someone over something without warning. I’m just a huge proponent of showing people cause and effect for their actions.

avatar rachel September 19, 2012, 1:49 pm

I think it would be fair to say that if something is a dealbreaker for you that it would be considered “serious”. In the short term cleaning up after someone else is just an annoyance…but in the long term it can really lead to resentment.

theattack theattack September 19, 2012, 1:59 pm

I like that interpretation. Since we were using alcoholism as a serious issue here, I assumed katie meant serious-serious, not just personally serious.

katie katie September 19, 2012, 2:02 pm

oh no, not necessarily!

although i would consider alcoholism a serious issue, and a dealbreak issue

katie katie September 19, 2012, 2:00 pm

yea, i think rachel has it. if its so important that you would leave them for it, its serious in my book.

and, your boyfriend not cleaning up after himself would be him 1. not taking an active role in your shared house 2. unfair and 3. putting you back into the 1950’s -all of which are pretty serious. so just because the cause seems petty doesnt mean that the underlying issues it implicates arent serious ones.

theattack theattack September 19, 2012, 2:07 pm

For the record, this is totally not a problem. Just the easiest thing I could think of that would be a problem of that scale.

JK JK September 19, 2012, 10:32 am

Since in some of the comments there seems to be some confusion about if LWs BF is an alcoholic or not:

It would seem BF presents at least 4 of these warning signs.

avatar TECH September 19, 2012, 11:39 am

“When I try to bring up the issue of dependency and alcoholism, he feels that drinking is only a problem “when it interferes with your life.””
Well, obviously it is interfering with your life, otherwise you wouldn’t have written Wendy this letter. He’s just blind to it.

avatar JJ September 19, 2012, 11:40 am

Wow. I lived with a boyfriend in college who was very similar to this. At first, I thought it was no big deal. Who doesn’t drink in college, right? He had his act together and could pass for sober any time but Friday and Saturday night.

Despite that little nagging voice in my head, I stayed. Eventually, though, his life began to unravel. He got a second DUI. Then, he lost his job. Then, he got in trouble for drinking while on probation and ended up in jail for three months while I single-handedly paid all of the rent and utilities. After I finally left, he broke into a bar where he was temporarily employed because all of the liquor stores were closed. The last I heard, he HAD gotten sober and is living a normal life, but it sure didn’t happen because I encouraged him to do so.

My point is: It doesn’t get better without a major episode. If he’s enjoying himself and dependent on the alcohol, why would he change unless he hits rock bottom? And who knows what his rock bottom is? A DUI clearly wasn’t. There will be many, MANY low points along the way. Do you want to be around for them?

For me, the answer became pretty clear back then. Maybe I’m just not a forgiving person when it comes to those things, but I didn’t want to spend my life being bitter because I was constantly picking up the peices for another adult. I didn’t want to imagine the birth of my future children being attended by someone who was only partially there.

The final straw for me was that I called him when a family member of mine was dying in the hospital and he was drunk. Those were the kinds of moments I wasn’t willing to share with alcohol. If you stay with this guy, you WILL have to share moments like those. Are you willing to do that?

avatar Vathena September 19, 2012, 12:25 pm

“There will be many, MANY low points along the way. Do you want to be around for them?”
“I didn’t want to spend my life being bitter because I was constantly picking up the pieces for another adult.”

avatar Sarah September 19, 2012, 12:58 pm

“My point is: It doesn’t get better without a major episode. If he’s enjoying himself and dependent on the alcohol, why would he change unless he hits rock bottom? And who knows what his rock bottom is? A DUI clearly wasn’t. There will be many, MANY low points along the way. Do you want to be around for them?”


LM LM September 19, 2012, 11:52 am

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: My husband was with an alcoholic (though she will never claim she is one) for 7 years. She will be 42 shortly. Everyone else was the one that had a problem and she thought her drinking was perfectly fine. When my husband was with her, he would constantly tell me that she was drunk at 5 in the evening or 6 or 7 when he would get home from work. On weekends, she would crack open a beer before noon and proceed to get drunk on into the afternoon and evening. She totaled one car and caused major damage to the car she got to replace it a few weeks later. She was also violent, aggressive, and abusive in every fashion. He stayed with her because “he thought she would get get better with support from someone that cared about her”. She hasn’t gotten better and is still an alcoholic and refuses to go to counseling or therapy or AA because there is “nothing wrong” and it is “her body and can do whatever she pleases” with it. She is also a chain smoker and is worse than a chimney.

She used to not be violent or aggressive or abusive and the beginning, she was fine. I’m not saying that your boyfriend will turn out to be this way, but to preserve your sanity and your health, MOA. If he is unwilling to go to AA or counseling or therapy and constantly blames the other person or something else, there is no reason to “wait and see” if there is a problem because there already is one.

Don’t let love fool or blind you. You can’t fix another person or save them, especially if they don’t want to be. Being dependent on something means that there is a deep seated issue that needs to be resolved and he doesn’t want to. There are already red flags there, so why aren’t you paying attention to them?

avatar llclarityll September 19, 2012, 12:08 pm

What I first pulled out of this letter was that her bf is 31 and has a job and is in school. As if that’s some sort of above-the-bar accomplishment. He SHOULD be taking care of himself. Yes, that’s great he “got his life back together” after the DUI, but having a job is a requirement, not a “pat yourself on the back because you’re really doing something extraordinary.”

avatar Vathena September 19, 2012, 12:21 pm

I mentioned this once before on a similar “should I leave my alcoholic boyfriend” letter. My dad was a high-functioning alcoholic, very much like what you describe here – running to the corner store for more bourbon every few days, but still an intelligent perfectionist with a steady job. I can’t remember seeing him “drunk”, but that’s probably because I also never really saw him sober. I watched him die of cirrhosis of the liver (among other organ failures – pancreas, kidneys, and so forth) at the age of 40. He was in and out of the hospital amid dire warnings from doctors to stop drinking. By the time he was admitted to the ICU, it was too late to stop his body from shutting down. I saw him in the ICU twice before he died. Both times he was unconscious. The first time he was pale and thin. The second time, my brother (then age 11) and I (age 14) had to say goodbye to him. He was jaundiced and bloated from the kidney failure. He died the next day.

My dad was 40. That’s 9 years away for your boyfriend if he continues to drink.

avatar Rangerchic September 19, 2012, 12:47 pm

I haven’t read through all the comments yet but wanted to tell the LW my experience. My grandfather was a “functioning” alcoholic. He didn’t want to quit. He liked drinking but more importantly was addicted. His addition was so bad he would have to get up in the middle of the night to get a shot of whiskey – I don’t even know if he even knew what he was doing. I know this because I saw him do it every time I stayed over. It killed him. He died of cirrhosis (sp?) of the liver.
I know this is a little different then what you are going through but unless he wants to quit and get better – he won’t – not for kids, not for you, not for anyone. It will always be there…and eventually it will get in the way of life.

avatar Sarah September 19, 2012, 12:54 pm

Everybody had AMAZING advice on here, but just to add, alcoholism is a disease that will always progress unless it stops completely. It doesn’t even have to do with the individual, its entirely about the brain and the biology of it. The more his body builds a resistant to alcohol, the more he will need to drink to pass that plateau. Eventually, he will have to start drinking more and more regularly to keep the dopamine up. A lot of alcoholics reach this point by drinking at work and/or more in secret.

You boyfriend is a high functioning alcoholic. The shaking hands thing and inability to be at home without alcohol is a HUGE indicator of it. It means he can’t be “normal” without alcohol and he goes through withdrawal when he doesn’t have it. The thing about high functioning alcoholics is that they can crash harder than a lot of other addicts, because they will hide much more for a lot longer to keep up the facade.

Until he faces his problem and seeks addiction counseling (not necessarily AA), he will just get worse. You will get worse too. You will find yourself getting used to him becoming less and less functional and more unbalanced. That “angry drunk” you don’t see now could very well rear its ugly head. The brain can be very scary when it has an addiction and will do anything to keep it going, like aggressively isolate him from people who want to end the addiction and lie to itself about having an addiction at all (like his accuse about drinking is only a problem “when it interferes with your life.”).

You have to get your boyfriend into counseling now, because those “wait and see” problems you are thinking of waiting for wont be little problems. They’ll be another DUI or failing out of school or getting fired.

bittergaymark bittergaymark September 19, 2012, 12:58 pm

Love is love. And the last thing you want to do is become a nag. The only real option here is to become an alcoholic yourself! Think of it as just yet another thing you will have in common, one that can only bring you even closer together… Surely this will all only lead to a lifetime of pure harmony and bliss! Oh, one thing though…since alcoholism and pregnancy aren’t exactly the best mixers — you’d best get knocked up right away!

avatar j2 September 19, 2012, 1:03 pm

… and keep drinking while pregnant so your child will share it too!

avatar Jillie z September 19, 2012, 1:51 pm

I really wish you had mentioned if you want kids, because if you don’t, at least you’re an adult and you can make the decision on your own to be with him, and you have loads of awesome advice above.

I grew up with two alcoholic parents, one highly functioning, with a high paying great job, and the other a non functioning alcoholic who was physically taken to therapy and told to stop before the alcohol killed her. Both situations suck for the children who are involved, who learn very early on about the warning signs, when their parents are impaired, etc. I grew up afraid to drink for years, never talked about my parents’ situation to friends, or I actively lied about it bc i was embarrassed. All of which was emotionally unhealthy for me too. I would just recommend to not perpetuate this for future kids, bc it’s not fair to them.

avatar TheLW September 19, 2012, 1:53 pm

Hello everyone. I am the one who sent this letter to Wendy. First of all, thank you so much to everyone who took the time to share their advice or similar experience, and to Wendy for posting this so quickly! Reading the comments, especially Anon80 experience with her fiance, definitely hit home in so many ways. The line ” Every day that goes by where you can’t assert your needs in the relationship, you are consuming slow poison” definitely gave me a wake up call to take action and not just “wait and see”.

Thanks again!

Budj Budj September 19, 2012, 2:46 pm

Sarah and Anon’s responses I think resonate the best with me…read everything at once sorry if I forgot someone that I liked, haha…and I stand by my initial comment. I believe he is self-medicating for something.

But this only gets worse. If you are lucky he is still in “stage 3” can rope in the drinking, get his potential anxiety/depression (or whatever it is) in a good place, and continue to live a normal life with moderate drinking. If he has become so dependant that he is stage 4 then he will pretty much have to abstain for the rest of his life. It changes your brain chemistry. That is when the alcohol pretty much becomes a deal breaker if he won’t give it up.

It is probably better he take this seriously – if he was mandated AA I have to imagine that his BAC was pretty frickin high the night he was convicted. If he operates like that on a regular basis he is definitely in the zone of no return… It isn’t about how he “feels” – high tolerance is actually a terrible sign as it is only speeding him up to the point of no return. Sarah touched on that aspect in her post and it’s only a matter of time before the threshhold creeps up and up until he’s smuggling drinks at work…

A lot of judgy drinking opinions thrown out on this thread…y’all are entitled to your opinions but according to government sanctioned (and court mandatory) drunk driving courses they tell you that people who consume 1-2 drinks a night per week (allowing 3 drinks twice a week) live longer, happier, and healthier lives than those that abstain completely. Obviously this isn’t an option for those that have gone into full-blown alcoholic territory… To compare it to pharmaceutical drugs you are allotted a certain amount everyday in your prescription. Your body would get seriously fucked up if you downed a whole bottle of pills. It’s the same with drinking. Modest amounts consistently won’t do too much, but if you are constantly bombarding your liver with liters of alcohol a day – then you better believe you will be paying a price for it later.

Drink safe and smart.

avatar painted_lady September 19, 2012, 3:59 pm

LW, I don’t see this as a decision I have any business telling you to make, but I do want to echo everyone else saying it’ll get worse. Without help, it’s not “If it starts interfering with his life,” it’s “when.” It will. Alcoholism has taken a seat at my family table and made good friends with roughly half of us. I’m just lucky it isn’t me. I have two family members who were just thrown in prison, one 3 years after his 10 year probation (and mandatory use of antibuse so that he couldn’t drink for those 10 years). He has a wife and two daughters who never knew their dad the alcoholic – just who he was without alcohol. Another family member was finally told that if he kept drinking he would die before age 60, and he’s currently 49. His work friends staged a “get help or you’re fired” intervention, and he’s finally (after 30+ years of abuse) admitting he’s an alcoholic. He’s had a gun in his face, he’s gone home with people he barely knows despite being in LTRs because he’s blacked out, and he’s gotten STIs – the worst ones – and passed them to his partners because he didn’t know he had them. He’s currently rebuilding all the friendships he lost to drinking, and I’m finally learning to trust him again.

The thing about loving an alcoholic is, even if they get help, you’re always going to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every once in awhile, even years later, you go in for a hug and catch yourself checking for the smell of alcohol. Every time they’re late, a voice in the back of your mind will ask if it’s because they’ve been arrested or are passed out, or at the very least stopped on the way home for a drink and fell off the wagon again. Trust me on this. Always.

The other thing I want to point out is, as bad as you think his drinking is? Double that number, roughly. Because you’re only seeing what he wants you to see. Think about all the times each day you’re not with him, either because he’s at school or out running errands or at home alone, or whatever. A good chunk of that time is devoted to drinking he doesn’t want you to see. Whether he stops by the bar on the way home, or he goes out for a liquid lunch, or he’s drinking at home and destroying the evidence – I had a friend who used to drink in the shower! – he has actually probably been very good at hiding the amount he’s drinking from you. Every alcoholic I have known has done that to some degree. One family member used to get drunk really quickly, it seemed, and on very little. And then we finally figured out he would have a glass of something, take it to the bathroom, pour out half and fill it to the top with vodka. I’m not saying this to convince you you’re dating a monster and a liar, but you need to know how deep this probably goes and how bad it probably is. It’s your decision to make, but you need the bigger picture.

avatar kali September 19, 2012, 7:31 pm

If you even THINK children might be in your future, please leave him now:

I’m another ACA (Adult Child of an Alcoholic) and it really does suck to grow up with a parent who loved her booze more than her kids. We all knew it because that was her priority. She drove us drunk, she got in accidents with us in the car, she made us pretty promises when she was drunk and she regularly passed out and missed important events, performances, recitals, track meets, you name it. She’d call us liars if we tried to remind her of something she promised while drunk. She allowed my brother to violently abuse me while she was passed out drunk — ‘taking a nap’, she said.

This is a woman who got up and went to work every day; whose co-workers adored her and thought she was wonderful. To us kids, she was mean, critical, controlling, unappreciative, cold and distant. As the oldest, I was tasked with cooking all the dinners for our family from the time I was 12 on and never once did she compliment or thank me. She had a demanding job but she also had children who needed her. I left home at 16 – as soon as I saw a way out – just to escape her. In my book, you’re not really high functioning unless all areas of your life are in good order. Someone who neglects their partner and offspring for booze is not in control.

I could tell you many more horror stories but I won’t. Just please please please MOA. Even if he doesn’t get any of the horrific diseases alcoholics get (and my Mom has none of them and she’s nearly 80), he will make your life and your children’s lives a living hell. Get out now while you can. He needs help and you are not qualified to provide it.

Good luck.

fast eddie fast eddie September 19, 2012, 6:34 pm

Wait and see what happens???
This what WILL happen: He won’t quit until he bottoms out or dies. If your willing to put up with him for whatever your getting out of it, be forewarned that he will not change for you or anybody else.

avatar Ashley December 24, 2013, 11:50 am

This sounds like my story! I am 29y/o and my boyfriend is 33y/o. He is a very high-functioning alcoholic. He has a great job where he makes 150k a year, purchased a home on a lake, and has no debt. He is super sweet and loving and has never been violent with me either. However, he can drink a whole bottle of Jameson like it’s nothing and still keep going. He doesn’t drink and drive and he doesn’t drink before work. But when he gets home from work it’s the first thing he goes to. I broke-up with him in June 2013 because of his drinking and then took him back shortly after, with my reason being that he is not mean to me, he would do anything for me so why would I leave him just because he drinks more than the average person? However now after being back I realize there is no future for him and I. He drinks so much that I don’t know if I could trust leaving our kids with him, if we were to have any. And to be honest , if I were to stay, I would not bring a child into this situation. When he is not drinking, he stays up late at night and sleeps until 12 in the afternoon. With his addiction it’s as though he is there, but he is never present. He spends most of his time either sleeping or feeding his addiction. I have asked him if he could stick to just drinking on the weekends and he responds as if I have asked him to stop breathing until the weekend. He says, “I can have a drink or two at the end of the day if I want.” Keep in mind his idea of a drink is a full rocks glass without the rocks. Like you, I have asked myself if I can live like this for the next 30years, and to be honest I can’t see myself living like this for another year. I have repeatedly brought up his drinking and how it has bothered me and he makes it seem like I am the one with a problem. I can relate because everyday I battle back and forth with whether I should stay or go. I love him, but I love my happiness more and the mere fact that his drinking has been consuming so much of my thoughts for so long makes me realize there isn’t a happy future here. It’s a shame because he is a good guy and I love him, but his alcohol takes precedence over everything. I wanted to chime in because I can completely relate. Also I thought it utterly ridiculous that everyone was debating the circumstances of DUI’s. That was not the question people!! I plan on leaving one day, when I am completely fed-up with his alcoholism. For now I stay and pay-off debt and get myself into a position to better serve myself, should that day come. I wish you the best and hope everything works out for you. If you were my daughter I would tell you to run. I would tell you there are other men out there that do not have these issues and will love you just as he has and probably more. (It helps me to put it in to perspective that way. “If I were my own daughter how would I feel about this and what would I suggest…” Wishing you the best and sympathizing with you.