Dating an Alcoholic? Run Like Hell! ~ Trista Hendren

Via on Sep 12, 2012

I liken living with an alcoholic to living in a war-zone.

Like one who lives in deceit, I stone myself and call for help

Your wound grows and grows

It slits my throat from vein to vein.

I put sand in you wound,

I put in your wound a giant, and around myself I light the fire.

—Hoda Al-Namani, I remember I was a Point, I was a Circle

When I read this, I thought, this is me. This is my life. But, I’m not living in Beirut. What’s that about?

If you are an addict, I’m sorry. This story isn’t for you. There are hundreds of stories and resources for addicts. It often seems it’s the families of addicts who are forgotten and who largely suffer in silence.

There will always be another excuse, another mistake, another relapse, another addiction or anger about a parent’s addiction that they need their lifetime and yours to get over. With addicts there is just always something.

And if you’re reading this and you feel yourself getting angry perhaps you probably know that someone is finally telling the truth.

Of course, I have empathy for addicts too. So much in fact that I belittled myself by staying with one for seven years.

When my husband first relapsed after his mother died, my well-meaning Christian father told me to “just love him.” But that’s the problem with the addict; the more you love, the more they take of you and everything else, until there’s nothing left to give.

I remember the night I decided to stop walking on tip-toes.

I realized over the years I had become less of myself. I was worried about his anger, or that he would relapse, or be too stressed out or my actions would cause something bad to happen. Suddenly I realized how ridiculous this all was. It was his turn to learn to deal with the reality of our existence instead of us having to shrink because of the reality of his.

I remember before the first rehab, a very good friend looked me in the eyes and said, “Run.”

His mother had been an alcoholic and it had stunted his life. His comment affected our friendship for years. I didn’t want to run. I thought I could fix him. I thought my love would be enough.

Four years later, when I found out about my husband’s relapse, I thought about this friend and the courage it took him to say this and acknowledge my reality.

While most other people tried to be polite, or pray for me, their comments seemed to gently gloss over what was actually happening. When someone doesn’t fit into the perceived notion of what an addict is, it’s hard for people to know what to say.

“Run” was the best advice I received and it’s the advice I would give my daughter if she ever got involved with an addict.

Run. Run like hell.

The reason this advice hurt so much at the time was that it would have forced me to see my part in things. And when you are with an alcoholic, you are use to suffering in silence as the martyr, wondering why the alcoholic does what s/he does.

I wasted years of my life wondering why. I’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter.

Running would have taken courage. It would have said, “He cannot do this to me.” I am stronger than this. I can do better. Instead, I stayed, w—a—y too long.

The other part is that it would have forced me and others to acknowledge the truth.

Alcoholism remains hidden in the shadows. No one talks about it. We go to great lengths to avoid the subject altogether. Both the addict and the co-dependent will do anything to hide their sense of inadequacy. There is nobody that tries harder at being “normal” than an alcoholic and his/her family.

In running I would have to tell the truth. He drinks. All the time. It is not pleasant. He is verbally abusive. My life is out of control. And the hardest one, I need help.

When I finally left my husband, I was only able to do so after taking weeks to compose a list of facts. At my office, I began to put together a black and white list of the things in our relationship that I could not accept. This included that he did not go to my grandfather’s funeral, he did not come home all night long, and he brought cocaine into our home. After four and half pages of undeniable facts, I realized that there was no longer any question of whether or not I could stay with him. The list made that impossible, even laughable.

When you live with an addict, you are never quite certain about reality. Everything becomes blurred. By writing down the facts as they happened, he could not come back to me later with his own version of the truth.

In my case, there were months of lying about his sobriety when I just wasn’t sure whether he was drinking or not. Had I begun the list sooner, instead of listening to the words I so wanted to believe, I would have saved myself at least a year of heartbreak.

Photo: Mickaw2

Before I left my husband, a dear friend from school sent me a quote from Maya Angelou. It said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them—the first time!” We must remember to trust our instincts and not wait for the people in our lives to change.

The truth was I knew what I thought the first time I met my ex-husband, but I gave him chance after chance despite it.

While I have seen some wonderful transformations in Alcoholics Anonymous, the statistics are not promising and I would not place any bets for my future on another addict.

There are millions of kind, whole and addiction-free men in the world. This story has a happy ending.

I happen to now be married to one of them.



Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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About Trista Hendren

Trista Hendren is the author of The Girl God. The second book in this series, Mother Earth, will be published in December. You can read more about her project with Elisabeth Slettnes at


106 Responses to “Dating an Alcoholic? Run Like Hell! ~ Trista Hendren”

  1. will keep this brief
    i agree with the sentiments and theme of article.
    i agree that A.A has a very poor success rate, is cult like, and creates a bizarre hierarchy of addicts who run on guilt, fear and shame.
    The only part that prompted me to write this was that you had little hope for any other addict.
    Quite a ridiculous , un educated, unaware thing to say.

  2. Melissa says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with every word of this post. Run. It’s the best advice anyone can give regarding dating an addict.

  3. Diane says:

    Remember “there but for the grace of God go I.” I’ll rely on God’s word rather than your opinions!

  4. alliswell27 says:

    I completely agree with this. I was married to a dope addict/alcoholic/prescription drug addict with mental health issues to boot. I was gradually disappearing, I felt like I was nothing and was constantly trying to understand how someone could so easily ruin their life and the life of their wife and children. It took a couple of years and a few ‘aha’ moments before I finally left. It hasn’t been easy, they are hard to live with and equally as hard to divorce from. His angers still scares me, he is unpredictable and filled with venom towards me.

    But I know that things WILL get easier.

    Thanks for writing this. It gives me hope as well as reassures me that my decision was right.

  5. SarahFaker1234 says:

    I'm sorry, but this article is written from a biased and closed mind. I am an alcoholic. And guess what? I am healthier than most people I interact with on a daily basis. The reason for this is because I work on myself and my integrity as a human being every single day, all day long. I can honestly say I am more aware, educated and capable of have and flourish in many different types of relationships regardless of my past.

    I am a certified yoga instructor. I have a degree in Political Science. I have a wonderful job, which appreciates my dedication and hard work. I have a brilliant and loving eight year old son.

    To blatantly condemn all alcoholics is the most ridiculous article I have every come across, really. And everybody that is agreeing with this, check yourselves. You are commenting on this 'Elephant Journal' page like you are holier than Thou.

    I suggest everyone take a look at their inner struggles and try to relate with others that may be suffering instead of running.

    WOW, really….WOW.

  6. Carlos Von Siviour says:

    I am an alcoholic. I have never been abusive or violent towards my girlfriends and I know not to bring a child into my life. I made sure that all of my girlfriends understood that I didn’t want children before we had a proper relationship. All they had to deal with was someone that thought everything was hilarious after 7pm, told them that he loved them a lot and occasionally did humerous childish things. We still shared the chores evenly and I earned more money. You can’t say that all alcoholics are a bad choice. Only 99.999999%.

  7. Vicki says:

    My dad, mother, two brothers and to ex husbands were all alcoholics, my ex husband is in the throws of passing on do to throat cancer from all the years of alcohol being poured down his throat, and he is only 58, I am currently leaving my alcoholic boyfriend, because when we got together he told me he only had a couple of beer on a Saturday night, after moving in with him I realized he drinks closed to 400 beers per month, Carlos and Sarah maybe you should read an article or too on high functioning alcoholics, you were actually uninvited to this post at the beginning, this post was not meant for Alcoholics, especially ones in denial.

  8. Robert says:

    Coming from Italy I met a girl, we dated 8 years and married 5 months. I never met alcoholic girls in Italy, I was totally new to this. I did not notice she was an alcoholic until I discover after 3 years that she could not spend more than 5 days without drinking 2-4 glasses of wine. I think brain cells die really fast after 10 years of drinking, my ex started to get less smart about many things, and depression took over. Is a sad decease as I could not understand how is it that a 36 year old person, is not sure what to do with her life. She made my life miserably, and was always looking for an activity that would full fill her life, she would eventually start traveling to a few countries and getting very lost in her own world of depression. I dont think an alcoholic person is capable of loving themselves enougth to quit, less love her husband or boyfriend. I think this article is right on. RUN AWAY!!

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