I’ve been in a relationship with an alcoholic for the past year. I don’t really believe that I have a problem with the fact that he drinks. My issue with him is the way he behaves when he gets drunk. It feels like I was living with Jekyll and Hyde. He’s wonderful and caring when he’s sober (often for several weeks at a time), but when he’s drinking he has destroyed my stuff, and on a couple occasions physically threatened me. For a long time, I was completely invested in helping him overcome his addiction. Then he got drunk when I was in the hospital recovering from surgery. That marked a turning point for me, because I felt like he owed me support and caring. (This was last November before I discovered your podcast or enrolled in the life coach school. I didn’t know better then.)
While I was recovering from surgery and was angry with him, I found your podcast and enrolled in the life coach school because I was desperate for my life to change. The change I committed to this year was to start my own business. Making that commitment to myself, meant I didn’t have the time and energy to invest in him like I had been. This was a difficult adjustment for both of us. Then in early February, there was another incident while he was drunk. I moved out, but told him I was willing to continue dating him as long as he committed to working toward sobriety. Since then I know he has drank somewhat regularly. On two occasions, I’ve canceled plans or went home mid-date because he was drunk. I’ve told him repeatedly that I am not willing to be with him while he is drinking.
On Sunday, I was at his apartment and saw that he had beer in his refrigerator. When I asked him about the beer, he told me that he had to learn to drink socially. I am not willing to be around him while he is drinking, so I told him that our relationship couldn’t move forward as long as he is drinking. I will not live with him again, go on vacation with him, or be in a situation where it is difficult for me to get away from him if I suspect he is drinking. This lead to a small argument and my decision to end the relationship. He told me I was being controlling. I feel like I’ve been clear and unwavering in my boundaries about his drinking since I moved out.
I’m comfortable with the fact that we aren’t dating anymore and won’t change my mind about that. I had accepted that our relationship ending was likely. But after the call on Monday, I starting thinking about what you said about boundaries. Your comments about needing to be at the place where there is nothing to forgive and accepting that it would happen again, really struck a nerve. I’ve let go of everything that happened between us, except the things that happened while I was recovering from surgery. Every time I’ve known he’s drinking, I feel that resentment rise up again. I haven’t always said kind things in those moments. I feel like I’ve understood that he’ll probably get drunk again, but understanding and acceptance might be different.
What is your opinion on how I used the not drinking boundary? Is getting angry while restating the boundary and saying unkind things the same thing as being manipulative? This relationship has been so different from my past relationships that I question my thinking and reactions. It’s important to not repeat the pattern of this relationship in the future.