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koikeeper 03-22-2011 01:28 PM

Evaluating a relationship - seeking options
First of all, YES, leave is an option. It always is. Staying is a choice.

But, here is the situation. I have been with a wonderful woman for 8 months. When we met, she was drinking - a lot. On our third date, she told me she was an alcoholic. I have no experience with this at all. Never even knew one. I wrote it off as just a label for a partier.

As time went on, I took it MUCH more seriously. I discovered she was drinking almost every day. As we dated more, she fought it. She tried not to drink. She ended up one night crying in a pool hall stall because she was trying not to drink, and losing the fight. her emails to me were tragic.

She goes to counseling. He has been trying to get her sober. And she has gotten better. Not abstinent, but better than she ever was. I FEEL like she is so close to winning.

Over 6 months ago, I told her I would not drink with her, facilitate her or participate in any dangerous behavior at all. I also stopped drinking completely. More for me, than her. I needed to understand how we could be social and have fun without a drink. I haven't had a drink at all now for 6 months. And I won't. Not for her, for me. It lost it's interest for me as well as its charm.

Since then, she has not had a drink around me. There have been about a few times when i know she had a drink before seeing me. I know several times she got drunk on her own.

As she spent more time in my space, she has drunk less and less. Now, it seems like she has slips. But this past weekend, she was away with friends and was drinking with them.

I was frustrated and angry. I brought up the topic to her. The idea of having a split life. That she wants to not drink, so stays close to me. But when she wants to escape, she runs.

She stays over my house almost every day. There is no alcohol in my house. I don't drink now. And when she is there, there simply is nothing to drink. She stays there a lot. She is happy when she is there. We go out. We socialize. We lead a fairly normal life.

It's when she is not there, she is back at risk. OR, she goes away to have a drink (rarely).

But, and it's a qualified but, she keeps improving. The conversation last night ended with her saying that drinking wasn't even fun anymore. She wanted to try harder. She wanted this.

She is 37 years old, and this is the first relationship she has had that someone reached out to her and tried to offer a possibility of help.

I don't think she will ever be 100%. But if she can get to 98, that would be a lot. That might be enough. Teetering between 95-100 sober.

My question is this... I know i can't fix her. I know it is not within my control. BUT, can i encourage her with positive behavior? Can I foster healthy decisions? When she does abstain, will being supportive of those choices help? Providing a safe haven... does it help if she is asking for help?

Eddiebuckle 03-22-2011 01:43 PM


I can appreciate your situation, it's similar to mine except that I am the alcoholic (sober 15 months today coincidentally) in the relationship. My gf quit drinking when I went to rehab - the gratitude I have for her and how my life has changed with her by my side defies words. There are two sides to the relationship and there are two ways your relationship could proceed.

1. You are willing to live with her as she currently is.
2. She is willing to go to whatever length she must to stay sober.

You need to first figure out what your feelings are for her and under what terms you are willing to stck this out. Then tell her, and if you are not willing to do (1) then she's got a decision to make (2).

Best of luck, KK.

Shellcrusher 03-22-2011 01:49 PM

Welcome to SR.

I'll take a stab at your questions. Try to remember that she's a grown women and should be able to address her own issues on her own. You shouldn't have to step in and fulfill some father role.
For perspective, I have an AW. Alcoholic Wife.

Originally Posted by koikeeper (Post 2906884)
...My question is this... I know i can't fix her. I know it is not within my control.

Good for you. The 3 Cs are crucial to understand.
You didn't cause it.
You can't control it.
You can't cure it.

Originally Posted by koikeeper (Post 2906884)
BUT, can i encourage her with positive behavior?

Something happens when you start focusing on yourself in a healthy way. I would not worry about how it affects her. She may pick herself up if she wants to keep up with your positive vibe. It's an unsaid thing.

Originally Posted by koikeeper (Post 2906884)
Can I foster healthy decisions?

Yes. For you. Doing it for her is control and that won't work. It actually causes more problems.

Originally Posted by koikeeper (Post 2906884)
When she does abstain, will being supportive of those choices help?

Humans have the ability to learn how to take pride in their own accomplishments. It's a skill I'm teaching my young son to feel. I think it's part of growing up and any adult, if they're inclined, should feel good about their own successes. Anything else sounds a bit Pavlovian to me and alcoholics are quick to blame shift. You'll find yourself in a world of hurt if you try and get too involved in her recovery.

Originally Posted by koikeeper (Post 2906884)
Providing a safe haven... does it help if she is asking for help?

Proceed with caution. Nothing wrong with safe but this quickly becomes enabling. Anything that can feed the best will be consumed. This includes you and your soul. I'm not sorry to be so dark. The disease is progressive.

Keep on reading and writing. We get it.

koikeeper 03-22-2011 02:09 PM

So... If I understand correctly.

Ignore the drinking, if I want to be involved with her. Compartmentalize it, and do nothing - positive or negative? If she drinks, just move on with my own life.

Relate to her as a person, as a human with love and affection unrelated to the drinking and hope she finds her way?

I still have no intention of keeping beer or wine in the house. Nor will I drink. I don't do it for her, i do it for me. I don't enjoy something that she is denied and causes so many problems. And, frankly, i lost 15 lbs!

And in response to Eddie... I am still debating option 1 and 2. She never gets mean or angry. It is not a horrible existence. The part that causes me pain is that she does not want to drink - to be dependant, then she does and then she is miserable with herself and i need to watch the pain.

Shellcrusher 03-22-2011 02:16 PM

Ughh, yeah kinda.
I didn't say ignore but focused more on you being aware of you and not getting sucked into her alcoholism. It's considered a family disease. She may be the one drinking and destroying herself on that level but her drinking will also destroy you on many other accounts.

Keeping the alcoholic separate from the person is pretty important.

Eddiebuckle 03-22-2011 02:22 PM


If she is an alcoholic, and she sure sounds that way to me, "it is not a horrible existence" probably won't last forever. Life with her will gradually get worse, I know, because I did that in the course of a 15 year relationship that I ended when it came down to her or alcohol. Three years later I quit. By that time she had long since moved on.

If you're OK with sort of kicking the can down the road and seeing if she comes to her own conclusion in her own time, just know that's what you are signing up for. You haven't said that much about your feelings for one another, but I assume they are very strong. I'm not suggesting that you should throw her under the bus, but sadly the odds with alcohoism are pretty rough if the person in question is anything less than 100% committed to sobriety. If you don't want to spend your life with an active alcoholic, you might as well know where you stand now.

Shellcrusher 03-22-2011 02:31 PM

Thanks for adding your input, Eddie. I'm thankful that those from the other side of street stop in and offer their version of the situation. It adds alot of clarity for the friends and families.

Well done on your 15 months!

nodaybut2day 03-22-2011 02:31 PM

Hmmm, someone on SR said something to this effect:

Alcoholism is a disease that if left untreated ends in death.

The statement really hit home for me. In my case, I didn't want to be around for the downward spiral.

LaTeeDa 03-22-2011 02:49 PM

I think the danger in trying to "help" an alcoholic is inability to let go of the outcome. Because, honestly, it could go either way. It's very easy to get stuck feeling resentful when all your "help" doesn't help. That's why it's important to ask yourself if you love her exactly as she is. What if this is the best it ever gets? Is that good enough for you? Do you honestly love her, or do you love the person you believe she could be?


Seren 03-22-2011 03:05 PM

Hi koi! Welcome to SR!!!!

I don't know whether or not it is possible to live with or have a romantic relationship with an active alcoholic, for based on your descriptions, that is what she is......

There are some very important questions you may want to answer for yourself. Can you love her where she is and what she is at this very moment? Or will you want to continually push her to be something else? Can you encourage her to "do the next right thing" but let go of the outcome no matter what it is?

If you can accept her completely and totally as she is at this moment, then you should be just fine. If you cannot, then your own life may become unmanageable to you.

Keep reading, keep asking questions, educate yourself as much as you can about this diseass of addiction.

Take good care, HG

Alone22 03-22-2011 03:06 PM

Koi, wow you must be a fantastic person not to want to run from this. There must be a lot of feelings between the two of you that she is that open with you on how she is feeling about it and you so wanting to help her through it.

I understand where you are coming from. You want to do the right thing, but yet if you try to help people are advising you to watch out that you are not being sucked in, that you have no control etc. I've been married for 21 years and my husband is an alcoholic and I don't get this either. I'm new here, so like you I am learning the right way to respond. Are we just to sit back and either watch them self explode or find recovery and we can't help or influence the path they go down? Crazy. Goes against human nature if you ask me. If you love someone how can you not be sucked in even if you do not try to help and influence them? You feel their pain and to me that right there is a sign are caught up in it.

Glad you posted this.. really want to see what the wisdom of this site has to say.

zrx1200R 03-22-2011 03:26 PM

"My question is this... I know i can't fix her. I know it is not within my control. BUT, can i encourage her with positive behavior? Can I foster healthy decisions? When she does abstain, will being supportive of those choices help? Providing a safe haven... does it help if she is asking for help?"

from my experience of living with an alcoholic wife for the past 20+ years, no. You simply can't do the things you are hoping to do.

you are simply guilty of applying reasonable, and normal actions to stimulus. Your alcoholic gal is not reasonable. Nor normal.

you are absolutely correct, you can't fix her. You can try to encourage her, but in reality you are only satisfying your own need to do something. She will say and do anything. Lying is a way of life.

Sure you can foster healthy decisions. however, she will resent you. At some point she will lash out at you as the cause of her problems.

When you support her abstience, you will come accross patronizing. Certainly you can do it, but to what end? Why? What is the point?

Your safe haven is simply enabling her to do what ever she wants. Really. That is all it is.

You don't want to hear it, but here is what to do:

run away fast. Don't look back. Don't try to change her. it simply won't work. there are plenty of wonderful women to share your life with. It's just hard to find them in bars.

koikeeper 03-22-2011 03:27 PM

I'm not the running type, unfortunately. I dismantle it bit by bit and try to understand.

If I didn't see improvement, I would have tapped out. If she didn't admit the problem and genuinely want to change, I would quit.

The reason I am even involved at all is because she told me she wants to quit. Months later, she actually turned to me and told me she never thought I would take it that seriously. Her experience with men taught her otherwise.

Part of this is the newness. Alone, you struck on a major point of question... how do I respond?

I'll give you an example. We were out one night, and she turned to me and asked if i would be mad if she had a couple of drinks. I turned to her, and said simply yes. Then went back to what i was doing. She didn't drink. She WAS miserable the rest of the night, but I ignored it. I held her hand, but I didn't offer comfort or discussion about drinking. She had to make up her mind knowing consequences.

She chose not to drink. One day at a time.

Now... that exchange came up at her therapist. Her position was that I should not get THAT mad if she has a drink. Her therapist looked her dead in the eye and told her he would be pissed if he were in my position. That she put me in the position of being her conscience, her father was the problem. She knew better. And she should have behaved better.

Now... is my reaction wrong? I have no idea. But it was enough to get through that night without a drink. And the sting lasted for the rest of the week.

MY position to her shrink was that there is no point in even involving me. My feeling was, it is just postponing the inevitable for when i am not around -like the weekend away with girlfriends.

Now? I would probably say, "Having the drink is up to you, not me. How I react is up to me, not you. Choose your poison."

There is no right answer, I don't think. She needs to make a committment one way or the other. Be an alcoholic and all that that means, or be a recovering alcoholic and start taking the stairs.

Part of my exercise today was looking into alanon and AA... there is a meeting near home at 8 on Thursdays. They meet concurrently. I can choose to go. Her choice is hers.

Shellcrusher 03-22-2011 03:44 PM

Sounds like you have some of the concepts down and perhaps you're learning how to detach from her alcoholism.
Based on your story, do you see how anything you do, you will be wrong?

You're not the running away type? Bah. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm a big man with a big man personality. My little AW has managed to shred me to damn near nothing. I wasn't a running man. I like challenges and I love to work hard. But if I could do it over again, I'd be in top gear going the other direction.

Now I have a child and a mortgage and the challenges are far bigger than her getting upset because she can't not drink...

koikeeper 03-22-2011 03:53 PM

I have never had to detach from someone before. At least not from someone I cared about. But, I am a fast learner. It was a crappy night last night, but I don't think it was my fault. But I am the one who is worrying about it. Which is not fair. Her problem should not be in my head.

So... I am checking out for the day! No more reading or thinking about HER issue. I have a life to lead. I'll check back tomorrow for a short period of time. But I DO appreciate all the advice. It is useful.

Just gonna enjoy my night tonight. Garden and cook. If she wants to participate, that's fantastic! One day at a time.

Cyranoak 03-22-2011 04:46 PM

Dude. Dude.

Whatever it is about you that is considering staying in this relationship is worth looking into. Something may be broken. I know I'm broken for sure.

Find the closest Alanon meeting. Then, keeping an open mind, go to at least six meetings, some different, before deciding if it is for you. Let me give you a hand:

How to find a meeting in the US/Canada/Puerto Rico

It will help you understand why it is you would pursue a relationship under these circumstances and given these signs.

Take what you want and leave the rest.


LexieCat 03-22-2011 05:22 PM

Welcome, koi,

Lots of good feedback, here. Let me put it to you this way: IF she ever decides to commit to sobriety, the stuff you've been doing (not drinking around her, being encouraging and supportive) will help. It's highly doubtful, though, that any of that will get her to the point of committing. That has to be internal.

And, if she's truly alcoholic, she won't ever stay, reliably, at 98 percent or any other percent. She will be 100 percent or she will still be an active alcoholic.

djayr 03-22-2011 05:47 PM

Hello, my 2 cents worth after a broken 16 year marriage to an alcoholic wife who I was SO in love with, who I couldn't fix:

1. I was trying to "understand" her, bit by bit. So much of my conscious, waking time was spent on her. This was my precious, finite mental energy. How much time did I spent talking to her and others, considering, convincing, wondering, how I could help solve this puzzle. This was coming from a good place - but it changed me, and in the end, ate me alive. She was thinking of drinking, I was thinking of her drinking. 16 years later, I'm still at square one.

2. The fact that you are watching her drinking and she is asking your permission to drink, is dsyfunctional for both of you. It creeps up on you. This can become normal, but it's not normal.

3. When I was only 6-12 months into the process, I had no idea how bad it could get, how long it could take, how many ups and downs there could be, and how low she could go, taking me with her.

By the time I realized I was married to a full-blown, vodka drinking, can't-stop alcoholic, I was deeply in love and married several years. So many things I did to "help" her, in the end, the bottle won and I lost.

Now I'm trying to figure out what's left of who I used to be. Can I still think independently of her and her drinking? My self-image is not so good. Most people know me as the nice, helpful, forgiving guy with the alcohlic wife who eventually fell off the wagon and cheated on him. I realize that I now view myself as a wounded victim, and it's pathetic.

I don't know what normal people live like, what healthy relationships not centered around alcoholism look like -- but I feel like I've been ramming my head into a brick wall for 16 years.

I'm not telling you what to do, we try real hard not to do that here. But sometimes I hear a word in my head when I'm reading someone else's posts, which I rarely express. That word is: RUN!

zrx1200R 03-22-2011 07:57 PM

note signature line.

Babyblue 03-22-2011 08:33 PM

Sounds like you are attempting to set boundaries for yourself, that is a good thing. But the reality of the disease is what you are up against. From what I've learned, it requires 100% commitment to recovery to make a difference.

The fact that she asked you permission is troubling for you because it is putting you in too powerful of a position. That is when co-dependency really takes hold. It is about HER making the right choices on her own, for herself, by herself.

You can be supportive which does go a long way in my opinion. She sees that you are able to live a happy, productive life without alcohol and that you enjoy her company sober. That sends a powerful message to her. But the message will never take hold if she isn't ready to quit.

Maybe reading up on what recovery is and the amount of work it takes will help you see the difference between 100% and 98%. That 2% can still be damaging. For example, it only takes one drunk night to make bad choices because she is intoxicated. Alcoholism is a 100% progressive affliction until they stop.

It is helpful to step back and see the bigger picture here and what you possibly are taking on. It helped me to get as much info as I could about the disease to know what I was taking on.

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