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Is My Boyfriend an Alcoholic? What do I do now?

I dated my boyfriend for a year and broke up with him a couple of months ago because his drinking and occasional drug use really bothered me. He had to drink every single day. He would drink scotch/vodka/gin every night and usually would fill a 8oz glass up at least half way and drink 2-3 of those every night.

His world revolved around "getting drinks and having people over for drinks." We would go get tacos on a casual Tuesday night and he would order 2 shots of tequila and couple of beers before we left an hour later. Or he would have 2 martini’s straight up grabbing a casual dinner after work, usually followed up with scotch when we got home.

Generally he drinks by himself every night. I would go to bed at 10pm and he would stay up until 12 or 1 drinking and reading or watching TV. He also used to bring drinks in the car when we were on the way to dinner. I put a stop to that after his mother got on to him about one day too.

There has been at least 5 times when he has been so wasted that he cannot function; starting arguments with people at bars, falling out of a cab, not remembering things that happened the night before, etc.

I’ve never been around someone who drinks like that everyday. I’m all about having a glass of wine every so often and maybe 3-4 when we go out, but not every day! I’ve told him that it concerns/bothers me and he would say “my drinking has nothing to do with our relationship.” Or, “I know plenty of people who drink everyday like me.”

He told me one day that has started drinking 2 scotches a day back in law school. That was 12 years ago! He has also told me that he knows that he needs to cut back because he is losing focus doing the things he really loves like writing. To knowledge, he has never cut back.

When we first started dating he was doing cocaine occasionally (4-5 times a month). He told me it made him feel terrible and he didn’t want to do it anymore. I agreed with him that he should stop and he promised that he would. To my knowledge he did, but he still hung around with people who used it all of the time. In fact, he would buy it for people, so I’m not so sure that he really stopped.

This is so frustrating for me because I see the amazing potential in him. He is a very caring, soft gentle person. Treated me like a princess, was there for me when I needed him, thoughtful, etc. However, he was often very argumentative with others and likes to throw his weight around at servers, etc. He often embarrassed me while he was acting like a jerk to wait staff.

Anyway, we got into a blow up fight about his drinking one Sunday and I packed up my stuff and told him I was going home. He threatened me and said that if I left I should never come back. That was the last I’ve heard from him. We had such a great loving relationship and I was told by his parents, brothers, and numerous friends that he loved me more than anyone in the world.

They have never seen him act this way in a relationship. And I truly knew that he loved me. He showed me everyday. I’ve got countless letters, poems and notes from him expressing his inner most thoughts about me and us. So how does one go from loving you more than anything in the world to completely turning their back on you? I just don’t get it. It’s making me crazy!

I’ve tried to reach out to him several times in the last few months but he has completely ignored me. If he really just doesn’t love me anymore, I want him to say that. It's just that I don’t have any closure. It is very hard for me to accept that he doesn’t care about me anymore. We talked about marriage, etc all of the time. Why is he shutting me out?

I feel like I see the road that he is going down and I want to help him stop before it gets any worse. I think he feels that since nothing really bad has happened to him because of his drinking, no job loss, no DUI, etc than it isn’t a problem.

What do I do now? Answer

Whether someone you care about meets the formal definition of alcoholic or not, shouldn't really be the major issue. (If however you want more clarity on that, try this diagnostic alcoholism test.) Because what really matters is how that person's drinking (or drug using) is affecting your relationship - and that differs for everyone.

So if your boyfriend's drinking was affecting your relationship, or you were unhappy with how much he drinks, you had every right to be concerned and to voice that. Because our behaviours when in a relationship aren't performed in isolation - what we do affects the other person as well.

Now the crux comes into it when someone doesn't want to change. You can't force your boyfriend to change. All you can do is make it clear that you don't want to be with someone who drinks in the way he does - its up to him then to make the choice whether he's prepared to change or not.

And as hard as this is for you now, you should also trust your instincts. Because unless your boyfriend does make a real effort to change, his drinking problem is more than likely only going to get worse, and if he's not there yet, turn into full-blown alcoholism. Is that the kind of future you really want for yourself because being in a relationship with an alcoholic is one of the most difficult things imaginable?

So if you want closure, try writing/e-mailing your boyfriend, tell him you love him and that if he's prepared to do something about his drinking problem, you'd still like to try and make your relationship work. But you can't hang on forever and that if he doesn't come back to you by ...... (give a date a week or so from now), you're going to assume the relationships is over because you need closure and can't hang on indefinitely.

That's just a suggestion to try and get a response out of him, but think long and hard about what you really want - because in the short-term dealing with the pain of your break up will be much easier than the ongoing heart-ache of being in a relationship with an alcoholic. So whatever you decide, good luck.

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