MANSWERS: I’m worried my boyfriend is an alcoholic

MANSWERS: I’m worried my boyfriend is an alcoholic

worried boyfriend is an alcoholic

Updated 20-11-16

I am in a confusing space with my boyfriend of almost a year. Most of the time he is a lovely guy and we get on well. However, I have issues with his level of drinking and partying.

When we first got together, this was not so much of an issue, as we spent less time together and we used to go out and party together. But now that we spend most nights together I am beginning to see this is the way things are with him. He seems to need to go out every weekend and get completely out of it, and all his friends do the same.

I am certainly not adverse to a couple of drinks, but this need for serious all night obliteration, every weekend, is beginning to concern me. Even worse, now I am beginning to notice that he likes to drink most nights during the week. This is especially concerning as he has addiction issues in his family – his father is a serious alcoholic.

I have tried talking to him about it, and how much its beginning to bother me, but he brushes it off or gets defensive. He is in his late twenties and you would think he would have grown out of this behaviour by now! I am beginning to wonder what I should do, as I feel like I am beginning to come second to partying with his friends! I do love him and want to make it work. Anon

Reality Chick says… It can be very difficult dating a heavy drinker – over time it can take a toll on you, your relationship and your own mental health. You could talk to him, beg, plead, cry, tell him how it makes you feel, threaten to leave, pour his booze away, find local AA meetings for him or doctors who specialise in substance abuse, reel off the health consequences of drinking too much (impotence, infertility, cancer, liver disease, to name a few) – and chances are, it wouldn’t make a lick of difference unless he wanted to change.

Sometimes, heavy drinkers might acknowledge they have a problem and seek professional help after a really big wake-up call – like a health scare. Or after realising they’re about to lose something they value (like a relationship). Others may mellow and moderate their drinking with age (or, so I hear, parenthood). But many don’t. You’re also right to worry about his family history; studies do suggest alcohol dependence is hereditary. Read this explanation of social drinkers, problem drinkers and high-functioning alcoholics to get an idea of what you might be dealing with, then sit your boyfriend down for a talk. Please, listen to your gut and get the hell out if you sense he’s not taking you seriously and has absolutely no intention of making changes. It’s just not worth what you’ll have to put up with down the line if he is an alcoholic, or on the road to becoming one.

Manswers Man Dr Phil says… “I am 40 now and got obliterated like your boyfriend does, maybe worse if you include all available substances, up until five-odd years ago. Even then it has taken five years just to wind down to a socially acceptable level of drinking but I still have the occasional relapse. These are the consequences of living in a culture of heavy drinking, without restraint, for a quarter of a century. I ruined many a relationship through my abuse. While loved my girlfriends, in reality and socially, my mates came first. Inevitable arguments about the volume of my drinking and resultant behaviour / neglect would ensue until the demise of the relationship. By that time I was being aggressively defensive. For me, I had to burn it out of my system. I actually enjoyed going nuts but probably did it for for too long. I don’t believe I’m an addictive personality; the hard part has been giving up a way of life. Having alcoholism in the family may be a different matter though and and may be a concern. A starting point might be to suggest your boyfriend cut drinking during the week – or at least a few days a week – but sometimes this can just result in even worse weekend binges. It’s not easy and there’s no easy answer. The one thing I do know for sure is that he’s got to want to change for himself. It’s got to come from within.”

Manswers Man BB says… “I hate to be alarmist but I think with alcoholism running in the genes it’s highly likely that your man could be heading the same way. It’s normal to overindulge in your early to mid-twenties, but as thirty approaches the hangovers tend to get harder and more painful, and this usually curbs your taste for excess drinking. If you really do want to make it work you need to have the hard conversation. Tell him it really upsets you to see him like that. Then ask him what behaviour of yours would really upset him, and ask him to imagine you doing that on a regular basis. More tellingly, how does he really feel when he’s on a bender? Is that really him, or someone and something he regrets the next day? In the end only he can change, and that depends on whether he wants to.”

Freelance journo, blogger, self-appointed advice-giver and co-author of Get Lucky. If you've got a dating or relationship issue, feel free to ask a question. (PS. You can also find me at The Mama Files and Letter To My Ex).

7 Comments

  1. Sarah G 1 year ago

    My Boyfriend seems to be a high functioning alcoholic, maintaining a successful career and other strong avenues of activity. He drinks anything between 6-12 beers a night and he smokes a fair bit of weed too. he says that the beer is low alcohol fizzy water and takes small tokes from a pipe starting at lunchtime and then from the time he gets home from work. he also smokes cigarettes at this time too.
    He’s a very kind and talented soul and never gets angry or demanding about anything. Just sensitivity and sweetness, sliding into ridiculousness and verbal diarhea as the evening unfolds.
    We have been together for about a year now and spend a lot of time together, mainly me staying at his house as if i live there.
    i am worried about him. Whether he will ever lay up on abusing his health. Both of us are in our 40’s now, and things don’t bounce back the way they used to.
    i started out drinking with him, but gave up early on in our relationship, as I have a real passion for health and wellbeing. Smoking cigarettes took a bit longer to kick, as i wanted to keep something that we could share in that sphere of life. But I have given up now and I am increasingly becoming worried that I won’t be able to maintain a quiet lack of judgement that I have been trying to manage over the course of our relationship. i can’t stand how some of my friends wield a tight and controlling grip on their men, while driving them further (and often themselves) to the drink.
    But I’m not sure now. My father was an alcoholic in his later years. I understand how it can come from protecting a sensitive soul…but how long can I be passive about this? How do you keep going? I’ve tried bringing it up, letting him know how I feel, but he becomes hellishly defensive about it and won’t talk to me for several days.
    There are so so many things that are wonderful about our relationship, but then theres this….

    • Kristine 6 months ago

      Hi Sarah,

      I was wondering if you have had any luck with your boyfriend in the last eight months? I am dealing with a similar issue the booze mixing with weed and the creation of verbal diarrhea. This has been a major issue in our relationship for six years. At this juncture am I trying to decide if putting up with it is worth it or not.

      Thanks for any advice you may have!

  2. josh 2 years ago

    If non drinkers are @ 0% and worst off are @ 100%, I’m probably a 90%er. I drink 12 beers a night or equivalent of wine. I no longer drink hard liquor because I will blackout and my stomach is made of iron and won’t puke. I’ve seen ONE top 90%-100% person ever and most people never will. I was forced to see him and retrieve my GF’s, Moms laptop he had stolen.

    As I shuffled across the floor (I couldn’t pick my feet up, because when attempting to step down, they would have rolled across vodka bottles) I realized how far i still had to fall and how bad it could be. Not many people meet the top 10% because they have few friends. It’s truly sad.

    What worries me is that not much changes about me when I drink 12 beers. I get a dumb smile on my face and just sit there.

    Alcoholism effected my grandfather, uncle and now me. It seemed to miss my mom and her 3 sisters but the gene connections are there.

    The worst thing you can tell an alcoholic is “it’s the booze or me”. We ALWAYS want to choose our partners, but like they say in AA, alcoholism is baffling. I have not found a solution. My EX claims to have dumped me for my alcohol addiction, but she never offered to stop smoking 1/4oz of weed a week by herself, in the AM before work, in the middle of the night when she peeded, anytime.

    I didn’t ask her to choose. Maybe I should have.

    • Author

      Hi Josh. Thanks for commenting and sharing how it is for you. It’s good to get an insight from someone who’s battling on the other side of this addiction. I like you agree that you can’t ask someone in the grip of alcoholism to choose – there is no choice. Until maybe they get sick of losing everything they love 🙁 I really hope you seek out some help for yourself. Good luck with everything and feel free to come back and let us know how things go.

  3. Suzie 5 years ago

    Forcing him into sobriety is a waste of time,he will just resent you for treating him like a child.
    Realising that you are an alcoholic is pretty devastating as you have an illness that signifies weakness,and many other negative connotations.
    This problem is a disease,no one becomes an addict by choice. But as mentioned before your boyfriend has to initiate the way back by himself.He will then need a lot of support around him during the ups and downs of recovery.
    There are so many resources out there and different types of treatment you don’t have to go to AA if you dont want to.As an alcoholic the last place I wanted to be was AA though it’s good for some.
    Its not as simple as just don’t drink.
    A good place to start is ADIS the Alcohol Drug Information Service they have different numbers for different states.
    You can have a confidential chat with a D and A worker to help you work out where to start.

  4. winter 5 years ago

    Try suggesting a weekend away – just you and him – to a place where alcohol is not available. A B&B in a small country town for instance. Ask the owners to make sure that no booze is offered with meals and that none is easily available in the house.

    If he won’t go, or agrees to go but heads for the nearest town with a pub as soon as he gets a chance – or even worse, takes booze with him, you have your answer.

    It’s not worth living with an alcoholic. It’s really not. If he won’t give up a weekend’s boozing it’s time to get out!

  5. Bubble Girl 5 years ago

    Dear Anon

    I’m sure none of our answers will be want you want to hear, but probably answers you need to hear. But by all accounts, your boyfriend would appear to displaying symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder – you can check out all the symptoms at the American Psychiatric Association’s website – http://www.dsm5.org/proposedrevision/pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=452

    Dr Phil, BB and RC are all correct in saying that the only one who can make the change is him. All you need to do is to make sure you take care of yourself – despite how much you love him, people with alcohol problems can be very destructive and will often bring those around them down with them.

    Take care

    Hugs, Bubble Girl x

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