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Is One Year the Standard "Test" of sobriety? Confused About Addicted Boyfriend's Promises to Change

by Melonie

I've been in an unmarried relationship for 8 years with an alcoholic/drug user. I am the child of an alcoholic so know that I am codependent and enabler.

Boyfriend has been attending "counseling" classes 4/week (not AA) for about 3 weeks though he continues to drink (says he can't stop cold turkey but is trying). The past 8 years have been a roller-coaster ride, from hurt and disappointment, to anger, to I don't care, to I'm done.

I recently told him that I am seeing someone else and he is very hurt, says he is trying to do the things I have been asking of him for the past 8 years, and wants me to reconsider. I am extremely stressed about this, as the new man in my life is what I've been told a man is supposed to be.

I'm used to the drinkers and 'druggers' - those that need fixing. For the first time in my life, I smile when I think of this new man and feel "safe" with him, and know that I don't have to be "the man of the house" every day. I don't want to lose this new man based on the possibility that my 8-year man will truly become a recovering alcoholic.

There have been too many promises and water under the bridge, but I feel so bad for him. Is it true that a year is the standard length of time to see if someone can be sober?


Hi Melonie

The 'one year guideline' is usually used as a guide for which a recovering alcoholic or drug addict should be sober before they enter a new relationship. Because they are just so emotionally vulnerable in the early stages of their recovery, than an upset caused by a new relationship could trigger a relapse.

But when it comes to some sort of test to see how long someone can stay sober - that's impossible to say. Some alcoholics and addicts relapse after years of sobriety. It's always a risk you face when in a relationship with a recovering alcoholic/addict - they may one day relapse. But obviously the longer they've been sober the less likely it is to happen. So yes a year would be a good indication that they do have it in them.

In a case like this I always say you should trust your instincts. The new man in your life is making you feel safe in a way you haven't before - and of course because its new, its easy to doubt that and want to go back to what you know, i.e. the chaos and toxic nature of being in a relationship with an addict. But try not to give into that.

Someone who isn't prepared to work a proper drug and alcoholism recovery program - and has excuses for not actually even trying to quit drinking should be sending out major warning signals to you. Those that are serious about their recovery will do whatever it takes - and not try and negotiate things in a way that suits them.

So be very careful about believing the promises he makes. Sometimes we end up staying in relationships that are toxic and unhealthy for us because that's what we know ... and there is a warped kind of safety in that. But you really have to try and break free from that kind of thinking - and get help if you need to. CoDA ( is a great place to start.

No one can tell you what to do. But don't let yourself be emotionally blackmailed into staying in a relationship you know deep down is bad for you. He's had 8 years to do something about his addictions - funny how now all of a sudden when you make an effort to move on with your life he's now deciding to make an effort to change. He has to do this for himself - its not your responsibility to be there for him while he decides whether or not he really is going to commit to a life of sobriety.

Whatever you decide good luck. I know it's not easy. But trust your instincts on this and don't make a decision based on fear. Take Care.

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