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This Is What It’s Like To Be In Love With Someone Who Has A Drinking Problem

Suddenly, life has handed me some humble pie.

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Silhouetted male hand holding a glass of whiskey
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I have several friends who are in love with men who have had, or have, a drinking problem. In fact, I think most of my friends have been in this situation.

I’ve always been there to listen to them, but I’ve been quiet about my feelings; I’ve stepped up on my soapbox, tiptoeing so no one could hear. I’ve rehearsed speeches in my head that I’ve never said out loud about how I wouldn’t stay and how that’s unacceptable.

But once again, life has handed me some humble pie. After divorcing my ex-husband almost four years ago and investing time in my career, throwing my life into my kids’ lives, hanging out with friends and doing whatever the hell I wanted, I met Him.

You know, the one who makes you feel at home and you are so madly attracted to you can’t see straight. The one who would have given you goosebumps in high school. The one who would have caught your eye in college.

I met him on a summer night and we shared a few drinks, then a pizza.

“I’m a social drinker,” he said after we discussed how I wrote on my dating profile that I wasn’t a huge drinker, because I am not.

That was my way of weeding out the men with drinking problems because I’d noticed a lot of them were into day drinking and slamming back five drinks on a first date, and well, that’s not for me.

And he seemed to be a social drinker those first few months. But something turned a few months ago (long after he’d met my kids and we all fell madly in love with him). I noticed the drinks went from a few a month to almost a few every day.

We’d be at the beach with my kids, and he’d be cracking a beer open at 10:30 in the morning. We’d meet friends for a boat ride and he’d pick up a six-pack and be the only one drinking. We’d meet friends for happy hour and he’d suck back three drinks to everyone else’s one.

I told him I was concerned.

“Social drinkers don’t drink alone. They don’t drink at family gatherings in the morning.” He told me I was right and would stop for a week or so.

Then, I’d notice he’d get a look in his eye and be on a mission. We’d be hanging out with friends and it was as if he was in a race with himself to see how fast he could drink.

I want to be in denial here and say this is a fluke — the man I am in love with likes to drink more in the summer and I should be OK with it because the rest of the year he’s able to keep it under control.

But, it’s clear he has a drinking problem. We kid ourselves and say things like, “Well, he’s not mean when he drinks.” “He still shows up for work and can function.” “He never acts foolish or cheats.” “It could be worse.”

I said all of those things to myself as I’ve stepped off my soapbox. I am putting up with this because I’m in love with someone who abuses alcohol. But the truth is, it’s tearing me up inside.

Maybe he’s not cheating on me with another woman, but I feel like I’m in competition with his drinking. I feel like he is choosing that over me, and I don’t understand why I am not better than his Budweisers and vodka sodas.

Just the thought of getting drunk, or catching a buzz most days of the week makes me feel sad, lonely and depressed. And if he would rather do that than just be with me, well, what does that make me to him?

It’s so easy to say we’d run when we aren’t living it. It’s easy to say we’d never put up with a certain behavior, then we find ourselves so deep in it and we don’t know how to get out. Abusing alcohol doesn’t look like getting raging drunk every day. It doesn’t look like sitting around all the time watching television and slamming back a 12-pack. It can look like drinking to the point where your partner is uncomfortable and fears for your health. And it’s OK to speak up about it.

I finally had to do it — I had to tell him it was alcohol or me. I told him I don’t want this kind of behavior in my life and I love him too much to sit back and not say anything about it.

He said he’s choosing me and going to change. He admits he has a problem, and for the past few weeks he has been doing and saying all the right things.

I hope he means what he’s telling me, although I have my doubts. My girlfriends tell me it’s like a ghost that always shows its face every once in a while and I have to be ready.

“This won’t be the end of it,” they say. The thing I’m afraid of the most is that they are right, and now that I’ve told him to choose, he won’t be able to keep choosing me. I’m petrified, in fact. And I’m also afraid I’m not going to uphold the promise I made to myself — that I really would walk away if he didn’t stop. Because as much as it makes me cringe to say this, I love him.