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How Can I Help Him Acheive His Goal of Happiness and Sobriety?

My boyfriend, who I find to be the most amazing man in the world, took a job over the summer that had him working 15-16 hour days in a super remote place out of state. He had no cell service, super slow internet connection, etc so we wrote snail mail letters and missed each other like crazy.

He made good money while he was gone so he had no need to go straight back to work when he got home. It was fine for a while, but then he found himself with too much time on his hands, and he has been really unhappy with himself.

He fell into the kind of cycle where you sit around all day watching TV not doing anything, drink whiskey or wine, binge eat, vow you will do something productive tomorrow but then don't sleep well so you wake up feeling crummy and the cycle starts over again.

He's been going to the gym and biking, which he loves, but he really hasn't had much structure in his life or any kind of scheduled thing he has to go to. He's been job hunting, but not having much luck, so he went back to working a few days a week at his old job, which he absolutely hates. He says it's a very negative environment and he doesn't want to deal with it anymore.

He's been struggling with depression due to all of this, and keeps telling me that he wants to get his head straight so he can be there not only for himself, but for me. We have a very open, honest relationship. We like to bring issues to the table and talk them out, to support each other, and help bring each other up.

A few days ago, he told me he wants to talk, he wants me to understand what he's going through and can we meet for coffee? He told me that he's a mess right now, that he feels like he's in a hole he can't get out of and that he can't handle things like he should be able to.

He says that he drinks too much, too often, that it's become a huge problem in his life (not just suddenly, he says this is an issue he's been dealing with for a good 15 years) affecting not just him but the people around him. He wants to be healthy, he wants to be happy, and it's just not happening right now.

He says the last thing he wants to do is hurt me, but he feels like right now just getting out of the house to run errands seems like too much for him and that he isn't sure what the future looks like for him.

That he doesn't know if he can emotionally handle a romantic relationship right now because he needs to focus 100% of his energy on straightening out his life. He needs/wants to deal with these things NOW so that it doesn't get worse later on down the road and he doesn't want to be a functional alcoholic for the rest of his life.

He had plans to go to an AA meeting that afternoon, and he's been talking about going to yoga/boxing/other classes at some center that is focused on sober living.

I was a bit shocked to hear him call himself an alcoholic -- I've never felt like his drinking was out of control. But I'm not going to argue with him, I just want to support him. After thinking about it, I did realize that whenever we open a bottle of whiskey I have a drink, maybe 2, and that's all I see him take ... but in the morning somehow half the bottle's gone.

I feel bad for not seeing his struggle before, though he has mentioned the sober-living place a few times, has hinted that he wants to stop drinking, and he has been really really unhappy.

So I listened to what he had to say and told him that I want to support him. That it's easier to dig yourself out of a hole when you have people by your side. I don't want him to isolate himself from anyone right now, especially me.

I told him that I am not going to run away when times get tough, I want him to be a better person, to feel better about himself. He realizes that he will need people to be there for him, but says he's not sure who that will be.

He thinks it may be better to have someone who is not so emotionally invested in him be there to help him. Also, I got the impression that he wants to surround himself with people who can understand what he's going through because they've been there. Alcoholism has never been an issue for me. I almost always stop after a single beer or glass of wine.

This whole conversation broke my heart. I hate seeing him so miserable, and I hate to think of him stepping out of my life. But he did have a valid point - he says that it's not fair to me to be in a relationship where I can't count on my partner to be there for me, and right now he doesn't feel like he can be there to support anyone because he can't even support himself.

I really, really don't know what to do or how to help him. On the one hand, I want more than anything to be someone he can lean on, to help lift him up to a better place in life, to continue our journey together and make the most of what we have.

But on the other, I love him and respect him and if he is telling me that he needs to put 100% of his energy towards cleaning up his life, I feel like I have to listen to him and honor his wishes.

I feel so tangled up and miserable right now, because my happiness is a bit dependant on his - it breaks my heart to see him struggling, and I will do anything it takes for him to be happy again, even if that means disbanding this relationship for the time being even though breaking up with him is absolutely the LAST thing I want to do. But if he's telling me that's what he needs, what other choice do I have?

When I look at him, I see the most beautiful creature in the world. I feel so lucky that he chose me to be part of his life, and up until we had this conversation I was incredibly secure about our relationship. Now I'm an absolute wreck. Any advice is very much appreciated. Thanks so much! Answer

You need to respect your boyfriend's wishes ... it takes a lot of courage to admit a drinking problem and then strength to actually want to do something about it.

It doesn't necessarily mean there is no future for your relationship, in fact if he does turn his life around and gets into a happier space, it may mean a much better and stronger relationship.

But right now he needs to focus on doing whatever it takes to get make the changes he needs to make, and having that single-minded focus without distraction will give him a much greater chance of success.

So without having to worry about a relationship and being able to focus on getting healthy and happy is probably the best thing for him right now.

Of course it feels hard hearing someone say they want to break up with you, but a true test of love is the ability to be selfless and give someone you care about the freedom and space to do what they need to do.

See this as an opportunity for growth because while he's busy focusing on himself, it gives you the opportunity to do the same. And whatever the outcome for both of you, that can only be a good thing.

Try and get involved with Al-Anon because that's for loved one of alcoholics, and you'll learn a huge amount about alcoholism and how to relate to someone you love who does struggle with alcohol.

No one can predict how things will turn out, but you have to respect your boyfriend's wishes on this. Offer your friendship if you want to stay involved and see if he's open to that.

But the reality is that there are no guarantees as to what your future together holds ... if however you are ever going to have a long-term successful and happy relationship with this guy, then this will turn out to be a blessing, because it would be extremely difficult, if not next to impossible doing so with an alcoholic.

so trust that this will work out for the best, in one way or another. Things probably feel like they don't make sense right now, but given time, that will change. Take care and good luck.

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