Loving An Alcoholic: Part One

There was a time when I shared nearly every aspect of my life on this blog. It’s been over seven years, nearly a decade since I pressed “publish” on my little Blogger blog. I’ve grown a lot, shared a lot, written a lot. I’ve talked about my decision not to have kids, my anger issues, my breakups, the ugly truth of my life before self-care. If someone really took the time to read this blog from beginning to end, they’d know more about me than 90% of the people in my life.

I used to worry that I was a bit of an over-sharer. Who wants the majority of their life cataloged on the internet? But it’s for a purpose and it always has been. I share the messy stuff in an effort to show everyone else who has that messiness that they aren’t alone and that life doesn’t have to stay that way. You’re messy? Well, I am too.

I never want to come off as perfect or having all of my shit together because that’s far from the truth.

Speaking of truth: I have a confession.

In spite of my best intentions to show up, to be real, honest, and messy – I’ve been holding back the last three years. I stopped sharing. There came a time when something shifted and I started holding myself to this standard of not showing all of the messiness. Maybe it was because I wasn’t just a random unknown blogger with 5 page views a day. I became shy and I started to write more about the things I had already learned instead of the things I was learning in the moment. Part of it was embarrassment, some of it was feeling like I had to have this “image”, and some of it was a little bit of not liking myself/my choices.

Instead of blog posts about my personal struggles you got Summer Self-Care Challenges and the Best Apps for Anxiety. I told myself that was okay because that’s still helpful, people are still getting something out of this blog, and does anyone even read for the personal stuff anyway? You’re here for the good stuff, the fun stuff, the informative stuff. I told myself that stepping away from the personal aspect of my life was what I should do.

But I know how important it is to see a real person too. To know that even though I’m preaching self-care 24/7, sometimes I fall and mess up and you know, be a human. Because we’re all human and we don’t get it right all of the time or even most of the time.

I’ve been keeping a secret for three years about loving an alcoholic.

If we’re friends on Facebook or you’ve been a member of my Facebook Group for a while you might know or have an inkling. I might’ve mentioned it in a newsletter. I think I’ve written exactly one blog post where I reference it directly. This is where I go back to sharing the messiness. I’ve wanted to come out and write about it so many times but there’s always been a reason not to. Respect for another person and their story. My own personal feelings that revolve around a lot of complicated other feelings. How to put such a story into words.

I’m trying today because I know how common it is to feel the way I felt. I know how it feels to be isolated inside of those feelings. I know how hard it is to talk about. And I know that chances are – you’ll probably resonate with something even if you’ve never been in the specific situation and that not-alone-ness? It’s powerful.

For three years I was in a relationship with someone who was struggling with addiction.

And now I’m tapping my keyboard in absent thought trying to figure out what to write from there. Where to begin the story and what to say.

I really wish I would have been able to share this part of my life here. I wish I had started sharing from the beginning. Eventually, it became hard to talk to my friends and family about it, let alone share it on the internet. I feel the need to share it now because it’s part of who I am, it’s part of what has shaped me, and to not acknowledge it in my writing forever feels like I’m hiding part of myself. I’m starting a new chapter in my life and it just feels like the time to get it out.

So I want to tell the story of what it was like loving an alcoholic, and how it affected my self-love (and omg did it).

At the end of 2013, I ended a pretty short relationship. It was my first real attempt at dating since the whole self-love thing and it just wasn’t a good fit. I was very earnest about not rushing into relationships because I did not want to repeat my past mistakes (mainly jumping into relationships with the first person that showed me attention). That break-up was difficult because I felt guilty for disappointing someone and hurting their feelings but it was also this huge milestone for me because I was able to access my needs, see that my needs weren’t being met, voice that, and then leave the relationship. I felt like I was finally getting things right.

The next year and a half after that, I was single. I flirted with the idea of a relationship a few times, made a few attempts, but again, it just wasn’t ever right. For the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted and I didn’t want to settle. I put my energy into buying my own home, working on Blessing Manifesting, and being mostly happy.

For the first time ever I felt like I could have happy and healthy relationships.

And that was big! When I was younger I was always attracted to toxic relationships. I thought that I was finally better… emotionally and mentally healthier.

I was just waiting on the right person. After a time, I got to the point where I started to question whether or not I wanted a relationship at all. I’d never been happy in one and I wasn’t finding what I was looking for so I thought maybe it was a sign. I felt so content in my life. Self-love and self-care had helped me create a world that was beautiful.

Enter someone we’ll call “C”. We had an instant connection. After a month, I finally let go of my “I’m happier being single” attitude, and we officially started dating. I was so happy because she was the first person in a long time I’d felt a connection to and it was like a breath of fresh air. The first bit of the relationship was everything I’d been waiting for, it was wonderful. We went on dates full of laughter, she was interested in my life and in my writing, I was interested in hers. We just completely hit it off.

Fairly early, I started thinking she drank too much.

However, my own experience with alcohol caused me to tell myself it wasn’t a big deal. Alcoholism runs in my family and that’s one thing that I’ve always stayed away from. I can count the number of times I’ve had alcohol on one hand and I’ve never been drunk, so it was hard for me to gauge how much drinking was “normal” and how much was too much. I didn’t want to force my habits on anyone else and tell her not to drink, but it bothered me. A few months in, it started to really affect the relationship. I felt like I was dating two people – a wonderful, funny, supportive sober person and then a drunk person who was constantly breaking up with me multiple times a week.

That dichotomy was the thing that got me because the two sides were like night and day. If it had just been the one side, the drunk side, I could have walked away. Acknowledged that this wasn’t what I wanted and moved on. The sober side? That was everything that I wanted in a relationship and it sucked me in. It felt like the “perfect” relationship was in reach with nothing but a bottle of Fireball standing between us.

How could I walk away from something that felt right when there was just that one hurdle in the way?

I couldn’t.

I know you get that, I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t had that feeling before in a relationship at some point. We see the good part of a relationship and we tell ourselves we can handle the bad. The bad isn’t so bad. The bad will get better if we just stick with it.

But the bad got worse.

That carefully crafted image of perfection began to fall apart.

C couldn’t keep a job. She couldn’t manage her money. Suddenly I was helping out way more than I should have. Red flags were everywhere. Her living situation, which I thought had been more of a roommate thing, was actually more of a couch-surfing thing. She ends up with no job and no place to live and of course, I do what people like me do. I don’t walk away. I help.

There’s this switch that flips in my head from “This is a relationship I want to fight for” to “This is a person who needs help, who is struggling.”

And I know struggle. Not this particular struggle, but I know struggle. And I want to help because again, I got to see that real, amazing, human underneath the alcohol.

In reality, I’m letting someone stay with me who is drinking all of the time and not coming home.

Someone who is missing work because they are too hung over. And someone who fights with me constantly whenever I say anything about it. She keeps saying she’ll drink less, she doesn’t. And everything falls apart and I’m miserable. I’m put in a position of taking care of someone. I’m having to nag and set boundaries and I always feel like the bad guy. But still, there are also the days sprinkled in there where there is no drinking. Things are good and I see the person I saw in the beginning.

Eventually, she cheats on me. It’s not really cheating because we were technically broken up. Broken up because we had another argument about her drinking. Again. That’s the breaking point for me because she tells me that it’s basically my fault and I’m not allowed to have any feelings about it.

I tell her she has to leave and the relationship is over for good. No more back and forth. No more help. This isn’t right for me. This isn’t who I am.

We stop talking and that entire time I’m just sad, sad over how I wish things could’ve been. Two months pass and then that moment that I’d been waiting for happens.

“I’m an alcoholic and I need help.”

And I get sucked right back in.

Read part two. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please reach out.