“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.”
The following is an account of my life over the past year (January 2013-February 2014). I’ve finally decided it’s time to stop hiding, stop being embarrassed, and to start being strong. I’m writing this with the hope that it may help someone someday.
First, I for some reason feel the need to start with this: he is a good person. He really is. He just has a lot of demons and issues that he is not strong enough or mature enough to deal with and I decided I couldn’t help him anymore if he wasn’t willing to help himself. He is, whether he will admit it or not, an alcoholic. He has bad days. He has bad weeks. But he also has good days and good weeks, and I think the good times were what kept me hanging on so long.
The first time I remember it really being bad was on my birthday last year. We’d only been together for about two months at that point, but things were getting really serious. We were in love. He was supposed to be making a homemade dinner for me that night. I’d requested fried chicken and mashed potatoes, my favorite meal. He went out to “get a few drinks with the boys” after work. Shortly before he was supposed to be picking me up, he called. He was drunk, wandering around outside, and didn’t know where he was. I was scared and had no way of helping him. How he had gotten that drunk in such a short amount of time was baffling to me. He eventually got a hold of his roommate who found him and helped him pick up KFC for dinner. At least I got my chicken.
It was around this time that I really started to notice that everything involved drinking. Evening plans always included “grabbing a drink”. Sunday more often than not turned into Sunday Funday. A game of Mario Kart on the Wii turned into a game of drunk driver with the goal being to finish an entire beer before the end of each race. Brunch was often accompanied by mimosas, even at home. Watching a movie on TV, more often than not, could not be completed without 5 or 6 or 7 beers. Friday lunches at work involved one or two margaritas made specially for him in pint glasses so they looked like lemonade and wouldn’t tip off any co-workers who might be in the restaurant. He made friends with bartenders everywhere.
On the day of the marathon bombings, we were on a train headed into the city when we heard the news. Public transportation was shut down for a while. We were stranded and scared and ended up at a bar just to get off the street. He was already buzzed from a party we went to earlier and started drinking more because he was scared. When we finally left and decided to try to make it home, he couldn’t walk. He fell down, face first, on the sidewalk. People were staring, but no one offered to help. I tried to pick him up. I yelled at him to get up. I tried to just walk away, but I couldn’t. He finally got on his feet and I was able to drag him into our office building (luckily we were right across the street and had our keys with us) where we stayed for a few hours (him passed out, me scavenging around the office for a phone charger) until his roommate could come get us. It took two people to get him outside, into the car, and into his apartment.
Of course, there were times when everything was fine and I’d wonder if I was the one with the issue- was I too uptight? Could I not let loose and have fun? Was he really not drinking as much as I thought he was? He’d go several days without drinking. He’d decide, on his own, that he wanted to drink less or even quit drinking for a week or a month. That would never last, but I always thought “it’s the thought that counts”. It didn’t help that time spent with his friends always included drinking- at a bar, at someone’s house, at a party. I’d get frustrated because I didn’t understand why no one else could see the problem. I guess I noticed it more because I was the one living with it. I started to withdraw from social events. I was too embarrassed or scared to take him out for fear he’d get drunk. We’d only see my friends for important things (weddings, birthdays), but those usually ended badly (which I was always embarrassed about and still am). We’d fight all the time, and that of course wouldn’t fix anything. I’d be mad that he drank too much; he’d get defensive when I tried to talk about his drinking. I’d stop drinking in an effort to get him to stop. It never worked.
His drinking was often related to stress and anxiety. He had a horribly difficult and stressful job (that he once quit via text message while drunk, and then sent an “lol, just kidding” text to unquit) for a while that made his drinking worse. I hoped that once he left that awful place, he’d get better. He didn’t. I’d sit at home after work, hoping that he’d had a good day and wouldn’t drink that evening. If he came home and started drinking, I’d walk on eggshells, hoping he’d pass out after a few beers so I wouldn’t have to take care of him or get into a fight with him or accidentally say something to make him drink more.
The bad days just started adding up. He’d call me not knowing where he was. He’d call me from a bar, asking me to come pick him up, and then refuse to come outside when I got there. He’d take a taxi home after getting kicked out of a bar and refuse to come inside, preferring to sit in the snow on the front steps.
One time he left on a Saturday to go to Home Depot and called me an hour later as he was driving to his hometown to “pick up some painting supplies” from his house. He doesn’t have a good relationship with his parents and has a relative who owns a liquor store. He saw that relative and was given free alcohol. He finally drove home and decided to back into the driveway, hitting and knocking down part of our neighbor’s retaining wall in the process. When I got outside to inspect the damage, there were open beer bottles in the car. It cost us $500 to fix the wall.
He got super wasted at a bar after work once and decided to ride his bike home…after he finally remembered where he’d locked it up. His friends couldn’t get him to change his mind. I took the bus home and waited outside, worrying, picturing him in an accident, until he came weaving up the street.
He picked my mom and me up from the airport after we’d had an exhausting day of travel. I could tell he was drunk when he arrived and I ended up driving home after being awake for 24 hours. There were open beer bottles in the car again that night.
He claimed he was ok to drive home one night after we had to leave one of my best friend’s birthday parties early because of him and almost killed us by running a red light.
Some nights he would have hallucinations. You’d be talking to him, having as cohesive a conversation as you can have with someone who is drunk, and he’d look at you and, out of the blue, ask when you got there and where he’d just been. He’d get frustrated when you’d say “We’ve been here all night” and he’d insist that he’d been walking out on the street or had just been abducted by aliens. One night he told me there were three aliens inside of him trying to get out. I did not sleep well that night.
He lost multiple phones during drunken taxi rides. One night he decided to dig my car out of a snowbank after a storm and when he couldn’t re-park it in the cleaned out spot, he took off speeding down the road. I heard a crash. When he got back, I asked him what had happened. He said nothing. I walked down the street to find that he had hit a car and broken the tail light. The damage to my car was worse. He told me he thought the car had been a snowbank. He fell down on several more occasions after the first time, one night on a sidewalk full of people. He then started banging his head on a street sign.
On nights when he was really depressed, he’d threaten to kill himself. I’d threaten to call the cops or an ambulance. I never did, but I probably should have.
Every morning after one of these incidents, he either didn’t remember anything that happened or he’d apologize profusely or he’d turn it around on me. He once told me that he’d never stop drinking because I’d made him change so many things about himself that drinking was the only thing he had left. I don’t remember “making him change” anything besides asking, begging, pleading him to stop drinking.
I never thought I’d be one of those girls who stays in an emotionally and mentally, but never physically, abusive relationship, but I loved him. Well, more specifically, I loved who he was when he wasn’t drinking. He was thoughtful. He was funny and could always make me laugh. He’s the kind of person who can make friends anywhere. He’s very smart. We had fun together. I thought we were going to spend our lives together.
We’d have constructive conversations sometimes when he was sober. We’d talk about the fact that his drinking worried him. We’d discuss him stopping. We’d talk about rehab. Nothing ever panned out.
On Thanksgiving, he was bored and decided getting drunk would fix that. He started saying embarrassing things in front of my parents and we had a huge fight. That was when I started to reach out to my mom for help. She was the first person I told about our problems. I was so sick of hiding.
Things were OK for a while after that- not great, but OK. Then I started suspecting that he was drinking after work before coming home and not telling me. I found a few empty liquor bottles hidden in his closet and he found a backpack full of beer that he didn’t remember putting there. I found an empty bottle in his work bag. And then came the last straw. He was supposed to be coming home for dinner and instead texted me that he was staying late to get work done. I called him in his office and he didn’t answer. I texted him and he called back. Oh, no, he wasn’t staying at work. He was “working” in a bar. Great. He got super drunk at the bar because he’d had a stressful day, had to have the manager call me from his phone because he was too drunk to figure it out. The manager put him in a cab, but he got out of the cab at some point and called me wandering around. I went to find him and he refused to come home, so I left him, in the cold and snow, sitting in a doorway of a hardware store. He eventually came home and then got irrationally angry at me when I asked him if he wanted leftover pizza heated up or cold.
I guess I finally got fed up enough to end it. I got sick of being yelled at. I got sick of being worried about him constantly. I finally realized that things were not going to get better. I finally realized that I was alienating myself from my friends, and life in general. I was stressed out all the time and gained 25-30 pounds in less than a year. I’d also gotten myself into a fair amount of debt trying to help him get his life organized, which I know is not my responsibility. I was always just trying to help him. I do love him and I care about his well being, but our relationship was unhealthy. He would never admit that alcohol is the problem- he always thought he had it under control and it was other parts of his life (sometimes me) that were making him drink. I want him to get well, but he has to admit to his problem and he has to do it on his own.
The hardest part right now is trying to figure out how to disentangle our lives. Neither of us can afford to live alone, so he’s sleeping in his office. It’s not an ideal situation. I don’t think he’d ever hurt me, but I’m scared he’ll come home drunk and angry one night and barge into my room or something. I’ve had offers from friends to stay with them, but I don’t want to be in a different environment right now, you know? I want my stuff. I also don’t want to leave him alone in the apartment and have him get belligerent and just start breaking things. I don’t know that he would, but it’s a possibility if he got angry enough, I guess.
So, that’s where I am. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m feeling lost. But I also know I’ve made the right choice. And I know why I’ve been anti-social for the past year and why I was stressed out and depressed all the time. I’m embarrassed for having been “that girl”- the girl in a bad relationship who won’t get out of it. The girl who makes excuses for her boyfriend. The girl who just keeps thinking it will get better.
The first time he left the apartment after I ended it- went out of town for the night; wasn’t going to stumble in at 2 am- I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I could fill my lungs up with air, really expand them, for the first time in months.
Part of me, the vain part, wants to know what he’s telling people. I want to know if he’s saying bad things, blaming me for the break-up, or if he’s telling the truth. I know I don’t really have a right to that information- his friends are HIS friends and he can tell them what he wants. But another part of me wants to know what his friends know so they can help him and be supportive. I, physically and mentally, cannot help him anymore, but I hope someone can. I hope he can get past his embarrassment and frustration and reach out for help.
I’m crying less lately which is good. It’s still sad. It still sucks. I’m taking it one day at a time, which is all I can really do, I guess. I’m getting stronger.
The above was written in March and April of 2014 with a few recent additions before posting. He moved out in May of 2014. I have been much healthier and happier since then. I wouldn’t say that we are friends, nor do we see each other often, but we are cordial. We still share a phone plan, which is difficult. Since everything ended, he has been diagnosed with a mental disorder that, while explaining a lot of his behavior, does not excuse any of it and does not change how I feel.
Song of the Day: Between the Bars by Elliott Smith