My name is browse. (Hi, browse!) And I am struggling with my relationship with an alcoholic.
For a long time, it never would have occurred to me that this person was an alcoholic. And in hindsight I feel pretty stupid about that. There was a history of alcoholism in their family. A large portion of their family … enjoys alcohol very thoroughly. I know this person drank in a very significant fashion in college and after. Multiple times I’ve had to pull over the car so they could throw up on the side of the road the morning after “a little too much”. Multiple times I’ve had them fail to meet me or pick me up the morning after “a little too much”.
Still, I don’t think I really woke up to “this person really has a problem with alcohol” until they became very loud, irrational, manic, and verbally abusive after a long day of drinking. That was the event that really opened my eyes and led me to start piecing together the pattern of behavior. And that realization helped me understand other events that, in hindsight, were largely driven by this person’s drinking.
Thankfully, very soon after that, this person stopped drinking of their own volition. Cold turkey, they stopped for a solid year. And from my external perspective, it was an unquestioned positive change. The manic mood swings smoothed out. The irrational belligerence and confrontations went away. Their physical health improved as well, in a fairly dramatic fashion.
And then, to my profound heart break, this year they started drinking again. There have been some significant external stressors that contributed to their craving for alcohol, for that perceived comfort and numbness that alcohol provides. But it’s been scary. I’ve seen them with a bottle of booze in the car. Drinking in the morning. Drinking on a longish drive. Behavior that scared the hell out of me.
I (foolishly) thought I could help control it. I thought I could say “No more”, and that this person would trust me enough, respect me enough to listen. They swore they would stop, done, no more. And a month later I caught them with alcohol on their breath, drinking behind my back. There was anger and shame and tears and heartfelt apologies and solemn vows that it would never happen again. And then it did happen again. More tears, more shame. But also more drinking, always very carefully out of my sight.
I’m at my breaking point, and I really have no idea what to do. This person continues to be in deep denial that there is a problem. They even bristle and argue when I characterize it as “lying” about their drinking or “hiding” their drinking. For my own emotional well-being, I have all but ended my relationship with them. And that’s killing me. I love them and care about them so very deeply. It’s so hard for me to imagine my life and my future without this person in it. Part of me wonders if I’ve made a huge mistake. I wonder if it would be better if I kept them close, so I could help care for them when they inevitably crash and burn (and crash and burn, and crash and burn). Part of me desperately wants to hear renewed heartfelt apologies and promises it’ll never happen again. But when I’ve been lied to repeatedly before… I don’t know how to get past that, and how to trust them again.
I went to my first Al-Anon meeting this morning. It was a mixed bag, at best. The incessant references to god and “put it into god’s hands” and… it really doesn’t work for this staunch atheist. I’m going to look for a meeting that is minimally religious, but I’m not exactly filled with optimism.
And it’s not like I’m a big believer in Alcoholics Anonymous at all. Other models of treatment seem to have similar or better success rates. I think it’s steeped in dogma, platitudes and religion.
And it’s not like I’m a crusader for sobriety. Certainly, I do not abstain. I drink occasionally, and when I do it’s with the definite intention of feeling some amount of intoxication from it. I don’t see anything wrong with responsibly enjoying alcohol (or marijuana, for that matter).
But I don’t drink alone. I don’t hide it. I don’t think it makes me argumentative or belligerent. I haven’t gotten sick from it or felt ill the next day in… 20 years or more? I don’t drink daily, and in fact often go weeks without a drink without particularly thinking about it.
What really kills me more than the drinking is the lying and the hiding. I look back at various arguments and conflicts we’ve had this year and I can’t help but wonder “Huh, was that a real issue, or was that the booze talking?” And if they are willing to lie to me about drinking, how much else are they lying to me about?
So that’s where I’m at. There has been unfathomable amounts of crying this week. I feel like I have a hole in my chest about a mile wide. I am overflowing with fear and doubt and worry and second guessing and uncertainty.