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Ending things with an alcoholic

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  September 25, 2013 08:33 AM

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Q: Long-time lurker finally writing. I've been in a two-plus year relationship that when good, is really good. When it's bad, it just is awful. The reason? Alcohol. He drinks WHILE driving, drinks excessively, regularly, and is starting to miss work. He is an alcoholic who sees how everything else has damaged his life and our relationship but never sees how his alcoholism negatively affects his life and this relationship. Classic, I know. I tried to offer what I could in terms of support -- counseling, AA, not drinking myself, learning about the disease, and not bringing anything tempting home, only to find out that, in the end, I didn't do enough in his eyes.

It's become a black and white situation at this point, meaning, I say "black" and he says "white." Fast forward to my having had enough of a mean drunk who is capable of saying such nasty things. I've ended things, or am in the long, arduous process of trying to end this relationship with the alcoholic. What's your best advice in dealing with the fallout resulting from ending a relationship with an alcoholic, dealing with the guilt that they put upon the departing partner for not wanting to work it out anymore? He's threatened to leave so many times because he "is who he is" and likes to drink. I finally just said "OK, pack your stuff and go."

I can in good conscience say that there was not one thing more I could offer or do to support him and I finally reached that fully depleted state. I love him and would like to see him get well. I do realize that his decisions and life are not anything that is in my control. How do I release myself from the guilt-riddled tantrums that he's put on me? Right now, like most people would, I say "I never want another relationship ever again," as this one has drained me. How do I brush off the guilt he tried to attach to me while absolving himself of any responsibility?

– Depleted in MetroWest


A: "I can in good conscience say that there was not one thing more I could offer or do to support him."

You know that. You believe that. You're sure you want out.

The best way to deal with this situation is to finish the breakup. I understand why it's a long and arduous process, but ... how long and arduous? You've decided that you're not compatible. He isn't happy either. Is there a deadline for his move-out? Is the place yours -- or could you leave to expedite the process? It's time to say, with some kindness, "Hey, it's clear we want different things. I want us both to be happy. Let's stop discussing this and do what we need to do to move on."

Once he's out of your hair, you can consider Al-Anon or therapy or both -- or maybe without the tantrums, you'll have the peace you need. Because really, you seem to understand what happened here and why this isn't your fault. You know that you did what you could and that he's not going to change. You'll feel less drained after you've had some time on your own.

Get him out of your living space. Like, within days, not weeks. The problem is that the breakup is taking too long.

Readers? What's the issue here? Will she always feel this drained? How can she cope with the guilt? Will this get better after he's gone? Help.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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