Dating an Alcoholic? Run Like Hell! ~ Trista Hendren

Via Trista Hendren
on Sep 12, 2012
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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.

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


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

  1. Maria says:

    Yep, how I wish my mother had run, how I wish I had run.. It's the hardest thing when you love and hope and want to keep trying, but there's no doubt that staying in the relationship enables them. The support addicts need comes from objective, detached professionals.. if you love an addict get them that.

    • Trista says:

      Yes, it does. But we do the best we can with what we know. Sending you (and your mother) strength, courage, wisdom and peace.

  2. Fracine says:

    The alcoholic has a DISEASE as do those who enable he or she. Statistics prove that the families of the alcoholic are even sicker than the alcoholic. Alanon is a fantastic resource for those who suffer from their disease of codependency. People do not CHOOSE to be alcoholics any more than people choose to have cancer. Treating codependency is your hope for change just as the alcoholic treating their alcoholism is their only hope for change.

    • Trista says:

      I spent a year in Al-Anon and learned 2 things:

      1 Take what you like and leave the rest.
      2 I would never get better by staying with an alcoholic.

      I believe there is a genetic component to alcoholism, but there is also an equal amount of choice involved.

      What was making me sick was living with an addict. Codependency is not a disease. It is a condition many women are breed into being. I now believe in woman-centered recovery.

      "Most important is that we not identify ourselves with such labels as codependent or addict, or get stuck in chronic recovery as if we were constantly in need of fixing. The goal is to heal and move on, embrace life's ups and downs, and move from recovery to discovery. Then we can break through the limitation imposed by hierarchy, work together for a just society, and free our capacity for courage, joy, power, and love." – Charlotte Davis Kasl

    • anonymous says:

      Yes, so true! This disease effects everyone around them. Loved ones/ enablers can run, but they too are sick, and are still going to have to deal with their own issues. They are usually sicker than the addict. This disease is not about the chemical, it's about how we think, feel and behave in life. Once the drug is removed, we must reconnect spiritually…with ourselves, others and the universe. For Trista, never say never…one can always learn a great deal from another person (especially those who have gone through living hell and come out survivors) if you open your mind to them and are willing to listen. It takes patience and tolerance- these principles by which we should all live and it's a difficult process.

      • Trista says:

        I did a lot of work on myself over the years, and got the most from women-centered recovery. This article is one aspect of my story, certainly not all of it. I do not believe that Al-Anon is the cure-all for families of addicts. It can do more harm than good in my experience.

        And yes, certainly I have learned a great deal from my ex, but that learning came at a very high price. Had I stayed, I am not sure what my quality of life would be now, or if I would even have survived it. I can say with confidence that my life today is 300% better as a result of leaving a toxic situation.

        To say that loved ones are sicker than the addict seems both unfair and untrue. If this is the case, why is it only addicts who are sent off for 90 days of "rehab" and not their sicker families?

        • Kristin says:

          Al-Anon and AA definitely do more harm than good for most people, although the people who do benefit often give heartfelt testimony to their beloved program. The disease theory and "spiritual sickness" are not only outdated and pseudo science, it hinders recovery and can be a killer. The 12Step rehab industry is ineffective. The War on Drugs, criminalization of addiction has not helped substance use disorders in the least. Best thing(s) to do for alcoholics is to seek medical help as well as a licensed LPSW or MFT. CBT and trauma therapy are most effective. Be wary of CAC as a practitioners only credentials. SMART Recovery and HAMS as well as many on-line support groups are good adjunct therapies. Dr Gabor Mate is an excellent resource- "The possibility for renewal exists so long as life itself exists".

    • Boogie says: childhood friends family was totally disfunctional. Dad was an alcoholic and cheated on his wife constantly. Mom was an enabler and was verbally abusive. Low and behold first son grew up, is sucessful but has had 3 wives and was arrested for hitting his wife. My friend is an alcoholic and does drugs. He also cheats. He had two kids, both of which are troubled. The boy is an alcoholic and drug addict. The girl has major mental health issues. It is totally a family thing. I would some learned and some genetic.

  3. Nicole says:

    Thanks for this. I ran but it took fifteen years. It came down to him or me, and i chose me.

    • Trista says:

      Yes, there is not an awareness of how hard it is to run. Addicts are not all bad or we wouldn't love them in the first place. There needs to be more open discussion about this issue and how it affects women.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with you. Save yourself while you can.

  5. Laura says:

    Thank you. I needed this at exactly the right time. I have been in a relationship with a verbally abusive man for a couple of years now who refuses to get counseling or do any work on himself. There have been enough ‘good’ episodes and good memories to keep me here but I am leaving. Everything you say is true also of these kind of co-dependent relationships: you have grown up with stories so you think everything can improve if you just try hard enough, that if you leave you have failed. But you haven’t. You have to choose yourself. Thank you again, Trista. <3

    • Trista says:

      Sending you strength, courage and wisdom on your journey Laura. I hope you have a good support system around you – you will need it. Remember to nourish yourself – and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Big hugs to you!

    • Guest says:

      This is the story of my 19 year marriage. I'm still here but I'm working towards ending it. This essay gives me courage and sanity as did your response. Thank you Laura.

      • Trista says:

        Thank you for sharing. Sending you lots of love as you get through this last stretch. It will get better, that much I know for certain. 🙂

  6. Anonymous says:

    .Wow, very well stated. It's so hard to believe when you are in this situation, but the stats show they rarely change much. This is true for substance or mentally disabled people like the bipolar, who refuse to get treated. I gave years of my precious life away and finally got free. I wish I had those prime years back. And they do sometimes try to hide it, so trust your instincts if you feel something is not right. Run, best advice, I wish someone had said that so bluntly to me.

  7. Pam says:

    Agreed! You cannot and will not help a person with addiction by staying engaged in the pattern/relationship; it keeps them entrenched in the addiction and will tear your life apart. It is hurtful and damaging to everyone. Strongly encourage them to seek professional help then pack your bags and run like hell for both of your sakes!

    I had one encounter with an addict and the thing that always sticks out in my mind about this person was the level of extreme guile he employed to keep his addiction hidden. The entire first year of dating him I never once saw him drunk or saw any evidence of a drinking problem – until that one night, right? I spent a handful of months after that trying to help him since he seemed to sincerely want to get better and it looked like he was earnestly trying but really he was just doing the same hiding routine (of course). A couple of months after we parted he called me to say hello and asked if I could meet him briefly since he was in town. He sounded stone, cold sober and lucid on the phone; he was far from sober when I stopped by the restaurant. I stayed briefly for small talk then left and did not answer his phone calls after that.

    I have compassion for him and I do think addiction is a disease. I also know I am in no way qualified to treat his disease and the best I can do is not contribute to it through good/helpful intentions or let myself get pulled down by it. I hope he gets help.

    • Trista says:

      Yes, people often blame women for staying with addicts. What people don't realize is the great lengths many people go to to hide their addiction. I have talked to many women who have lived with addicts for years and not known it. Sometimes even with hard drugs like heroin or cocaine in the house. If you don't grow up around drugs, you don't know the signs to look for.

      Thank you for sharing your story Pam!

  8. Karen S. says:

    Alcoholism is a family disease and all are affected whether you believe it or not. It's too bad that you weren't guided to Al Anon and that you didn't participate in your OWN recovery by attending that 12 step program where you can learn to 'be happy whether the alcoholic/addict is sober/clean or not". It's also never too late to recover from an unhealthy relationship even if you are with someone else now and years have passed. I hope that others who are in relationships with alcoholics who read this will learn about Al Anon, (and Nar Anon, etc which are 12 step groups for friends and families who love someone suffering from disease that is cunning, baffling and powerful). Running away is not the answer.

    • Trista says:

      Your comment is filled with a lot of assumptions. I spent a year in Al-Anon and learned 2 things:

      1 Take what you like and leave the rest.
      2 I would never get better by staying with an alcoholic.

      I believe there is a genetic component to alcoholism, but there is also an equal amount of choice involved.

      What was making me sick was living with an addict. Codependency is not a disease. It is a condition many women are bred into being. I now believe in woman-centered recovery.

      "Most important is that we not identify ourselves with such labels as codependent or addict, or get stuck in chronic recovery as if we were constantly in need of fixing. The goal is to heal and move on, embrace life's ups and downs, and move from recovery to discovery. Then we can break through the limitation imposed by hierarchy, work together for a just society, and free our capacity for courage, joy, power, and love." – Charlotte Davis Kasl

      • Karen S. says:

        Can you explain 'but there is also an equal amount of choice involved'? I would dare to say that what was making you sick was your reaction to living with an alcoholic, not simply living with one. Living with someone with cancer doesn't give you cancer.

        • Trista says:

          You can choose to take a drink (or drugs) or not. You don't have that simple choice with cancer.

          Also, let's say for the sake of argument, you chose to marry someone who has cancer. There is much more information available on cancer, and one would have a better idea of what they are getting into. People also have much more empathy for people with cancer, so you would likely have a better support system.

          Alcoholism is still, for the most part, a secretive problem. Knowing what I know today, I would tell anyone living with an addict to get out ASAP.

          Telling someone not to react to their living situation is like advising them to go swim in toxic sewage and then blaming them for getting sick. You have to get out of the toxic situation (or not get into it in the first place). The longer you stay in, the harder it will be to heal.

          In all my life, I have yet to hear a happy life story from someone living with an alcoholic. Sure, people can and do get by. But life shouldn't be just about getting by.

          And speaking of cancer, how many "co-dependents" do you know who cringe it out and end up with cancer? I can think of many just off the top of my head, including my grandmother.

          • Karen S. says:

            There are plenty of ways and places to learn about the disease of addiction support systems abound. There aren't any charity walks (yet) as far as I know to raise awareness about addiction vs cancer but it's certainly a mainstream topic. There's still stigma, I agree but it's much less than it was just 10 years ago. Just consider all the reality tv shows about it! Celebrity Rehab, Intervention, etc…
            There are plenty of people who have happy lives who live with alcoholics and addicts, especially those in recovery. I don't think you even used that word in your article! Recovery makes all the difference! It's unfortunate that you don't seem to understand what that means or entails. Just go to an AA or Al Anon meeting and ask to meet people in recovery who are happy! And they are not just getting by!
            Reacting to a situation is different than responding. Running away is reaction, sudden and without reflection. Educating oneself and making a rational decision about whether to leave or stay with someone with a chronic and deadly disease is a response. I hope that you continue your investigation into what the disease really is, there are some gaps in your understanding.

          • Trista says:

            I have been to AA meetings and know many people in recovery.

            That said, I still would not chose to be married to one, whether they are in recovery or not. Recovery is a slippery slope for many. Some even say "relapse is part of recovery."

            I would not put my life or my children's lives at risk again.

            I spent years reflecting before leaving my marriage. It was not something reactionary that I just did. I don't know that there is a recovery or AA book out there that I have not read.

            My only regret is that I spent so long reflecting.

            I don't think we are going to come to any sort of agreement here. I don't really wish to understand anymore about addicts. They have taken up too much space in my life as it is. I have come to believe I will never fully understand addicts. I'm on to happier times.

            If you have a cheery addict story to tell, perhaps you should publish it.

          • Sarah L says:

            A couple things about AA and Alanon. AA and Alanon does not engage in public controversy, is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics or institution, neither endorses not opposes any causes. Best part, it is based on attraction not promotion. Step One: We were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable. Step Two: Believed that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. and so on…
            I have dated and alcoholic with the delusion that I could cure them, forgetting that I was powerless over their inability to stop starting to drink again and again (kind of what the definition of alcoholism in a nutshell) I went bananas myself (second part of the first step) I chose to leave for now but people can recover from the "getting crazy" part when living with an alcoholic through this 12 step program (spiritual program of action) IF THEY CHOOSE. AA and Alanon do not hold the corner in the market nor do they advertise in such away. Recovery is in taking of the 12 steps, meetings are simply a place to gather and hopefully hear some solution based recovery. That may be helpful to folks.

          • Anonymous says:

            But she said she did go to Al-Anon meetings. I got out of the article, and she in her responses as well that the article was for people going into a relationship with an addict. We don't choose our family members, but we choose our dates. And a lot of the responders here said they spent a lot of time with the addict already, so when they finally do run, it has been a well-thought out response. I agree with you that there are people who live happy lives with addicts, but they seem to be the exception not the norm. Also the article seemed to be especially helpful for those who have co-dependent tendencies, as a warning to them.

          • Abe says:

            Exactly – do you work for Al-Anon or something Karen? Let it go!

          • Mimi says:

            HI Karen,

            I've done alanon, read everything and anything I could on alcoholism, been in counseling, the whole nine yards. I've come out with a single nagging question. How is it possible to love someone who is too drunk to care they are hurting you? What I mean is-love isnt just a feeling, it's a choice. We choose to show love. Love is also about intimacy, safety, trust. If someone puts their addiction ahead of you, if they lie, break promises, lash out , treat you mean, verbally abuse you, ignore you… are they showing love? And how can we possibly really love them when, for a whole lot of us, there is no intimacy?! I can show infinite amounts of love and kindness to my AH but is it even real if there's no intimacy? What am I, are we,really loving about them? The sometimes brief moments when they seem normal and attentive? If we have to distance ourselves to stay with the alcoholic, what's the point? Again, love is about intimacy and its a two way street. Saying it's the alcohol talking and its a disease only goes so far. Someone with cancer has cancer, they aren't lying and hurting you. Most people I know with cancer fight like hell to stay alive to be with their loved ones. An alcoholic (not in recovery) fights to keep drinking. Rather than be in the trenches alone I'm sticking within like he'll.

          • Mimi says:

            …sticking with run like hell ( curse you auto correct!)

          • Emma says:

            I happen to have a very happy story about living with an addict in RECOVERY. My husband struggling with addiction for nearly 20 Years. After we met he committed to the AA, and has been sober for 10 years. In recovery and therapy he has done the hard work, and is living an honest, open and healthy life. In sobriety he has given me the gift of his love, constant support, and has become the most amazing parenting partner I could possibly ask for. Yes, he could relapse at any time, but I’m not living in fear wondering if that will happen. I am living in the present, day to day, with this wonderful man. He is far more than his addiction. His addiction does not define him, nor does it define any addict. Your story is just one, and should not be used to describe the story of all addicts. Telling someone to run from an addict? That is your choice to make in your own relationship, but you have no right to tell anyone else to do the same. You seem to carry a great deal of resentment and bitterness over your relationship. Of course it is a nightmare to live with an active addict, but you cannot compare that to a life with someone in recovery. There is a distinct difference between an addict who is active, and not committed to the program, and one who is sober and committed. It is a insult to all addicts who have worked in staying sober in recovery, to group the two together as one and the same.

    • Esperanza says:

      I have so much sympathy for people who are battling addiction and I have friends who are doing so but the honest truth is that I do not believe it is possible to be happy in a relationship with an addict. Everybody has the right to be content and feel safe but remaining in a relationship with an addict I believe is a denial to oneself of that right to live a happy and fulfilled life. Everybody deserves better than this and where there are children involved, I think that the non-addict partner has an obligation to remove the children from this unhealthy environment.

    • rachel c says:

      Thank you for your words. They needed to be said.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for the article. While I agree it's mostly women on the other side as the co-dependent, I as a male was the one dating the alcoholic woman. My instincts were right in the beginning to want to stay away, and I did for a while, but gave in after she spent two months pursuing me, and because she was hot as hell. Even after we started dating she warned me about her "issues," yet I was awe struck, seduced by her beauty. Eventually she dumped me as I had become but a shell of what I once was, and she moved on to her next victim. The worst part was her coming back and basically wanting me to be her platonic friend/therapist. I declined. Unfortunately I work with her, and she still vacillates moods, either completely ignoring me or acting as sweet as can be, continually denying her actions from the day before, and worst of all blaming me for being "too sensitive" if I ever get upset at the way she treated me. She'd play the game of "come closer, so I can stab you." As I work in the social services field I always try and see the good in people and their ability to change and grow, but I get paid to do that and don't sleep with my clients. A good friend said I should charge her anytime she wants to talk, but no money could make up for the biting words and projection I'd put up with.

    So yes, run like hell, and thanks again for the article.

    • Trista says:

      Thank you for sharing your story – and giving us the guy side of it. I so relate to what you said, especially the last part – and this particular sentence: "She'd play the game of "come closer, so I can stab you."

      Yes, no money can make up for any of it.

    • Pike says:

      Man I think we dated the same woman!

    • Mike says:

      Holy Smokes, I am right there with you man. No reason to get specific but I did RUN even though she is drop dead gorgeous, sex great, etc. It's not worth it cause I cared too much and tried to help. I dropped her off at an inpatient program at a Hospital (she has done this in Hospitals numerous times before me). She really wants the help but the co-dependent has to completely get out of their life if they want to work on themselves. I miss her and want to help but she is beyond it and I know she will relapse sooner or later and drive me nuts. It's a vicious cycle

      • Juan says:

        Hot goes away!! I too dated a hot american girl for 1 year. She would be eventually become really bad with drinking and sad with her life. She join peace corps while dating me and had sex with half my country. True story, run away as this is nothing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for your story, I have the male version here. For 2.5 years I've been with an extremely good-looking and charming record producer who's suffering from the downfall of the music industry. I'd like to believe that he's talented, as I'm typing this I realize how superficial it all is. He acted exactly like your girlfriend. I always ended up helping him, being there and hoping that my love will make him change. 1.5 years ago, to "save" him from depression I agreed to start a music business with him, with me investing a huge amount of money. At the same time, we thought he hit rock bottom and was serious about getting into AA. Between now and then he relapsed many times, while each time with his charm he promised me to change. Now the business is actually doing quite well but besides the constant emotional abuse after his drinking, I discovered cheating. I know this is the last nail in the coffin but he's fighting to keep the business. Deep down I'm secretly hoping that if I take everything away, it's truly his rock bottom and perhaps he'd change for good, but at the same time I'm also afraid of carrying the business alone… I know what's ultimately good for me is to sever all ties, NOW. It helps for me to write this out and makes me realize what a mess I'm in, and how delusional I have been…

  10. Brett says:

    Thank you for this perspective, Trista. Untreated addiction is hell on everyone, as you so eloquently showed in this essay.

    And the disease is treatable. In my experience addicts in recovery are the most honest people I've ever met because their lives depend on it. Honesty and kindness are a practice for them.

    So I would just add a few more words to that title: "Dating An Alcoholic Who Is Not In Recovery? Run Like Hell."

    • Trista says:

      Thank you for your comment Brett. The only issue I take with this new title is that my ex was in recovery when we married. I didn't know enough about recovery then to know how common relapse is. Three years and another child later, all our lives were turned upside down (again).

      And yes, you are correct in saying that addicts in recovery are some of the most honest people out there. Addicts (recovered or not) are often kind, wonderful and charming – or none of us would fall in love with them in the first place. However, if they do relapse, you are right back to living in hell.

      The reason I wrote this specifically to people who are dating is to bring greater awareness of what life can be like living with an addict before they jump into a more serious relationship.

  11. p2bkk says:

    Al Anon is for people that are sick enough to want to live with alcoholic.

    • Trista says:

      I think there's a lot of truth to this, however, Al-Anon is what people usually try to shove down your throat once you tell anyone you are living with an addict.

      I had made a commitment to attend Al-Anon for a year when I went to the Betty Ford Family program (which could be another 1-2 articles at least!).

      I don't regret the time I spent at meetings because it ultimately led me to leaving the relationship. Seeing the same people crying week after week about the same BS I was experiencing made me realize there had to be a better way.

      We need more – and better – options. AA & Al-Anon have a monopoly on the recovery business. These programs are 80 years old and very resistant to change despite the fact that we know so much more about recovery today.

  12. Abe says:

    Agree 200%.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this simple and truthful message. I can relate, my husband (soon to be ex) is bi-polar. I've heard (and witnessed) many stories about living with an alcoholic. It mimics mine and others experiences of living with someone who is bi-polar. If they are irresponsible and don't take their treatment seriously… run.

    • Trista says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I imagine there are similarities – I had not thought of that. 🙂 Sending you strength, courage and wisdom on your journey!

    • holly troy says:

      i married a man with anxiety disorder. same thing. he didn't take his treatment seriously and i walked on eggshells for years. it's a slow creeping in. i am so glad i left!

  14. LynnBonelli says:

    Thanks for this article. One reason Al-Anon didn't work for me was because of the same sentiment that I am reading here by people claiming the family is "sicker" than the addict. I was born into an alcoholic family so any "sickness" I developed was at the hands of my alcoholic father. I will not take the blame for enabling his behavior. I also attended Al-Anon & found it another form of enabling having to listening to the stories of people who still couldn't heal after decades of attending meetings and decades of "their" alcoholic being out of their lives (some had even died long ago). It was as if reliving their pain was all they lived for. I felt helpless & hopeless, if they couldn't heal after 20 years of 'doing the 12 steps' then how could I?? (cont)

  15. LynnBonelli says:

    (cont) That doesn't mean Al-Anon doesn't work for some people. But it isn't NECESSARY for healing. Over and over we hear the saying to remove the negative out of our lives to make room for the positive…if we've tried & tried & the situation is still toxic then the only thing left to do is leave. Leaving a toxic relationship doesn't mean that one is still "sicker"…it's self-preservation.

  16. Anon says:

    My brother is an alcoholic & whilst sober for 14 years, for the first time in about 8 years, I am feeling relaxed around him. There is a definitive connection between him being a much nicer person to be around the last 7 months & his return to his AA meetings. Without them he became a ‘dry drunk’ & I, once again, became scared of him. What I have witnessed before my very eyes recently is a complete change of character, the whole family has breathed a sigh of relief. That said, after many years of our family experience with my brother, and also working in the field of recovery from addiction, I agree with Trista, recovery can be a slippery slope. Just when you think all is going well, and bang, back to where we started. I feel privileged to do my job & to share in people’s spiritual transformations, to be a part of something that may contribute to people’s & societies improved happiness is an honor for me… But it is my job, I have learnt to leave it behind when Si come home after work. My brother is my family, I will always love him. But would I want to be in a relationship with an alcoholic/ addict recovering or not??? NO, I have come to realise that my personal happiness needs to be my priority, I was in some sort of toxic relationships for many years, maybe I’m bred into it, maybe sick, I’m not too fussed on why. What I do know is that I am not now & have no desire whatsoever to return to one. I guess I would rather be with someone who is willing to look at themselves and personally develop & this certainly can come with addicts in recovery, an admirable & attractive quality, but for me it does not make up for their ability to, sometimes years later & out of the blue, quickly return to type. Finding someone who is emotionally mature, ie willing to look at themselves and experience personal growth, who is not an addict is preferable. I wish anyone, whatever their choices, happiness & inner peace, but for me their the very things I lose when dealing with toxic relationships & the toxicity of addicts can be intense a lot of the time. I will always be there for my brother as long as there is no emotional abuse, & right now I live my job, but personally, I’m going to stick with the run theory for me, Ive come through difficult times & I deserve the easiest life I can give myself.

    • Trista says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. You said it so very well. I think the hardest relationships are those we can not run from – children, parents, siblings. I wish you all the very best on your path.

  17. Brandi says:

    So at what point does a person who has recovered from an addiction deserve to be in a loving partnership? Have we found the one type of person on this earth that doesn't deserve that? I'm recovered from an eating disorder, and my fiance is recovered from alcoholism. We are both dedicated to our spiritual growth, the growth of our relationship, and our yoga/meditation. I've been in so many horrible relationships, none before with a former addict. I've been with men who were abusive, rude, immature, incapable of forming deep connections, cold, etc. My partner now has done his work, probably more work on himself than anyone who has commented negatively in the forum. I couldn't ask for a better partner; always understanding, always sensitive, always respectful. If he slips back into his addiction… well it's no different than someone slipping back into a horrible depression, or me slipping back into my eating disorder, or someone having an affair or multiple affairs, or someone slipping back into any not so great habit that is damaging to self and others. In any relationship, you deal with that when it comes. Most of us are risks waiting to happen. In a partnership, you have to decide if you are willing to trust, open up, and give it all that you've got. Are we all just supposed to look for partners who are completely normal, disease free, without any flaws in their past? Everyone is lovable, worthy of being loved, and most of all everyone deserves a fair shot. And people ARE capable of changing. It takes hard work and a lot of support. If you've had a bad experience with being with a recovered addict, than that is really awful and I'm happy you saw yourself out of that situation. But to draw the conclusion then that anyone who has suffered from mental illness in the past shouldn't be in a relationship ever in their lives is a bit ridiculous and really offensive to those of us who are awesome, mature, lovely people.

    • Trista says:

      I don't know that you are in a position to say what it is like to live with someone who is an active alcoholic. Yes, people can recover, and I hope for your sake, your partner stays in recovery.

      If you relapsed into your eating disorder, you would hurt primarily yourself. Living with someone who has a drug and alcohol problem is different. Instances of verbal and physical abuse are heightened. Your finances would likely tank. There is not an area of your life that would not be affected.

      Everyone deserves love. That's not the point of my article though. I wrote the article to cause those dating an addict to pause and consider if this is a path they want to take or not.

    • ZenLes says:

      Thank you for your post, Brandi. There cannot be a belief that NO one ever recovers from their addictions, nor that people who were former addicts will always relapse or that they are not capable of having solid, meaningful relationships. It is not always necessary to run. We cannot lump individuals into a single box of addicts. Addicts, present and former, come in all shapes and sizes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Brandi! Very well said and we all deserve love <3

  18. Tanya L. says:

    Great article, Trista. I couldn't agree more.

    People rarely change. They are who they are because they chose it every day. Every damn day.

    The stories of sober, sane people who went through "recovery" are few. And with all the whole people in the world I think I will save myself the misery.

  19. margaret clapp says:

    BULLS EYE. Why isn't here more "real" support available for the wives of addicts? I'm saddened by your story; and, bolstered by your resolve. Keep writing.

  20. William Space says:

    The new age tendency to run and buy a new yoga mat and find all the material things that equate with happiness and to have multiple orgasms only then to slow down and evaluate why we are faced with our own particular challenges in life needs to be watched because we can't take back the past. We may only have one chance at true love and if we run out on that because we don't his or her shoes, how they order food, or because can't buy us a house right now we might lose the only chance we ever get at a real love. Also sometimes people have an addiction they need to overcome and you know what? If you live in the moment with them and if they are committed to overcoming it then they will never run out on you.

    Have you ever heard the expression hang their self with another rope? I know I would not have gone out with who I was when I met her. The amount of growth and learning I've done in the last year and a half is astounding. Unfortunately I think she is probably still in the same place and blaming it all on me. Going through the recovery process with an alcoholic is as healing for the partner as it is for the alcoholic. Congratulations on running away from the alcoholic but if you got involved with one you were messed up too. You might have enjoyed yoga more than dealing directly with your codependency or what have you but then again you might still have those issues. The point is if you love someone and they really want to get better than you should feel grateful for that love and try and it see it through. You pose a happy ending to the story but to that I would say maybe.

    Often times the recovered alcoholic is ten times the man of an ordinary man. He's spiritual, understanding, caring, tempered, and full of encouragement.

    There are a lot of men who don't realize there drinking is a problem but when faced with the ultimatum of the booze or her turn it around. A.A. meetings are full of men that were given the choice and stopped. I know because I have been a very active participant. My love sadly left me before I got it right. It took about a year for me to learn all my triggers and stop relapsing.

    The relationship we could have had would have been very deep. The gratefulness to her for standing by me and believing in me would have been unparalleled.

    As it stands she is still the same person she was when we met. She wakes up and she smoke two American Spirits and has her coffee before she starts her day and is probably making plans with another guy to start healthy habits after she quits. I haven't had a cigarette or used cocaine in two years and I haven't had a drink in a year. All the while I've been doing yoga and practicing meditation. I've finished school, started graduate school, and repaired my relationships with my entire family as well as taking a prominent role in my nephew's life who is coming from a broken home. I'm working and have started writing and started an online business.

    I wouldn't be surprised if she was with another person who is in the exact same place I was when we met. Myself and her serious relationships before all fit a a very similar profile. Some has much more money than me and less behaviors people would say run to but she loved me much more for who I was and how I treated her.

    All of the confusion and fear surrounding alcoholism led to a deep mistrust and near impossibility for communication in the relationship when I was coming to grips with my addiction. All she could focus all of the white noise of people saying run run run and how whether I had relapsed or not and how many days I had been sober. Sobriety isn't a number. It's not numerical. Someone can be sober four years and not be healing at all. The mind isn't a steal trap. It doesn't work in and on and off switches or black and white. Long after I had become sober I would drink if alcohol was under my nose for too long.

    The point is if you love someone you should listen to them. Love them. Grow with them. Be a part of them. Four years later when her husband relapsed I'm sure not all was right home. Too much blame is put on alcoholism and not enough emphasis on real communication between people. Be mindful it's not that hard to get published on some website or even pose as some advice guru. Even then a lot of the so called experts are just talking out of their asses and don't stand up when the cards down. Live your own life. Listen to your own heart. If you can't hear it then do more work on yourself and don't be afraid to find that ability to listen when with somebody else before your perfect. <3

    • James says:

      Given the highly manipulative nature of your response, William, and your attempts to portray your ex as somehow stunted and less evolved than you for exercising her right to not be with you, I'd say it's pretty safe to say you haven't changed and grown nearly as much as you like to tell people you have. Your whole attitude to your ex, your sense of entitlement that people should stay with alcoholics, your reality distortion that leaving an alcoholic is somehow the unhealthy response – is extremely toxic. Whether you drink or not, you still think like an alcoholic.

  21. Anon says:

    I think we all need to respect each others feelings and choices as we are all entitled to them. I see some sense and logic in all of the blogs, as polarised as they are. We are all on our own personal journeys that tend to shape who we are, how we feel, our opinions etc. In my previous blog to Tristas article I write that I would prefer my partner not to be an addict or alcoholic whether in active addiction or recovery. Right now I stand by that and my stance is no doubt derived from my journey so far – I feel I need to minimise my risks of any more hurt from an unhealthy relationship & one with an active addict in my opinion would be unhealthy; unless they were totally committed to change; and one with an addict in recovery could have the potential to be or become unhealthy/ controlling etc. That said if my gut instinct was that this person had the potential to be a supportive, loving and healthy partner to me, and me to him, then I would not judge anyone on what they have been through and I would give the relationship my all. I am not 100% certain if my opinion is completely realistic or whether it is laced with cynicism… if the latter then I look forward to continued healing and my change of heart when my journey further unfolds; if it’s the former my feelings won’t change; time will tell and for now I will just keep trying my best. Wishing all well, Namaste :))

  22. Roberta says:

    It's sad to read that recovering addicts or alcoholics should never have a chance in love because people should run from them. Once recovered, they can be the most loving and understanding people because of their journey through hell and back. People should run from the runners!!!

  23. jearuiz01 says:

    I do agree that Most of us are risks waiting to happen. In a partnership, you have to decide if you are willing to trust, open up, and give it all that you've got. Are we all just supposed to look for partners who are completely normal, disease free, without any flaws in their past? Everyone is lovable, worthy of being loved, and most of all everyone deserves a fair shot. And people ARE capable of changing. It takes hard work and a lot of support. If you've had a bad experience with being with a recovered addict, than that is really awful and I'm happy you saw yourself out of that situation. But to draw the conclusion then that anyone who has suffered from mental illness in the past shouldn't be in a relationship ever in their lives is a bit ridiculous and really offensive to those of us who are awesome, mature, lovely Alternative heroin rehab

  24. Anonymous says:

    "Congratulations on running away from the alcoholic but if you got involved with one you were messed up too." Wow, William Space, I think that statement is a little unfair. I don't think she mentioned that she was aware he was an alcoholic when they first got together or even that he was an alcoholic when they first got together. But that is a completely reasonable assumption you are making (holds up sarcasm sign).
    Everyone's story and experience is different. Running is not always the answer, staying is not always the answer, the alcoholic is not always the only problem, the gf/bf/wife/husband is not always the only victim, aa is not only full of men, al anon is not only full of women, etc. Different strokes work for different folks but you can't say, with no intimate knowledge of the author or her x at all, that she was wrong to run. That is completely ridiculous. She sounds like she is happy now and is glad she made the decision she did. To me, that means, in her specific case, that she made a good decision.
    Roberta, nowhere did anyone say that recovering alcoholics and addicts should never have a chance in love because people should run from them. There are major differences between an alcoholic, a recovering alcoholic, and a recovered alcoholic which you seem to ignore with your post. The author did not prevent her x's future chances at love by running and find her own safe, healthy, honest love elsewhere. Depending on their specific situation, that may have been the decision that made his healing possible so that he could find love again. He still has every chance he earns for himself to get himself to a place where he is able to love and be loved in a healthy way again.
    I am so thankful that with all the problems I have had in my life, both of my own making and the making of others , that I have never closed my heart and soul so much to believe that everyone gets one shot at love. I am also thankful for the ability to take responsibility for my own actions and to never have to say that I was powerless over any of my own decisions or that only some higher power that may or may not exist can cure me of my insanity. Alcoholism may be a type of disease, current research shows it is. But a "lifestyle disease" is a lot different than other diseases. It is not a disease like cancer, you can not possibly choose to stop having cancer. And I, at least, will always believe that you can possibly choose to not drink alcohol. It may be incredibly hard for many people to make that choice, but it is a choice as far as I am concerned. If I came up with steps one of the early ones would involve taking responsibility for your actions, just like everyone else is supposed to do for all the other things they do wrong.

    -Man still currently dating alcoholic woman who was not an alcoholic when they met, started dating, or fell in love
    (She became an alcoholic 2 years into the currently 4 year relationship but I just found out about 2 months ago. She has relapsed/slipped maybe 15 times in those two months and talks a lot about how she wants to change but her actions tell a much different story. She says shes open for counseling yet she has been unable to get herself or us to counseling for 2 months. At the time she started abusing alcohol we were living 2000 miles apart while she was in grad school. My brain says run and my heart says stay, but I currently don't have the strength or courage to be fully committed to either.)

    • sistermaryredundant says:

      Agree. William Space is using the old AA trick of believing that the non-addict partner is just as messed up in different ways and deserves just as much of the blame as the addict. The creator of AA left out a very important part of dealing with life in his teachings…being a responsible partner in a relationship or family. It's very destructive propaganda that has permeated the AA belief system. Alanon was NOT created (as claimed) by "Bill W"s" wife, but by Bill himself and he was an abusive, cheating man, even after he got "sober".

      • Max Schaffer says:

        AA is about healing not about hurting others or seeking revenge. If you are attracted to an alcoholic/addict you probably have some of the bad stuff in common with them. Most likely co-dependence. Your not responsible for their disease but you are responsible for your interaction with that individual. Two people with strong codependent traits will stay together for a very long time and put each other through hell… this is reinforced by the fact that a lot of codependent behavior looks a lot like love. If you put up with someone who is messed up… you are messed up. All problems are of our own making. In other words ' You deserve whatever you will put up with'. Bill W wasn't perfect but his work has saved more lives than any of the comments on here.

  25. Shera Davis says:

    This is so perfectly written yet so beyond difficult for many in the throws of the situation to accept. My Mother never ran. Instead she believed and supported and ultimately, enabled him. All while I observed and downloaded my ideas of how relationships are supposed to work. I've had to do done tons of codependency work because of what I lived with for 18 years and i still constantly question my decisions. You are right. RUN as fast as possible, particularly if you have children. He evenentually moved from alcohol to much harder stuff and now he is dead from his own choices. RUN NOW…there are people who will help you create a new life. I'm one of them. Thank you Trista and congrats on showing the word your strength so the world could deliver you a second, greater love.

    • Anita says:

      I agree, RUN RUN RUN – easier said than done. At least your issues are resolved now sweetheart and he can't hurt you or anyone else ever again. I am still in the midst of hell!!!! I pray each day one thousands little prayers for resolution.

  26. Gail says:


  27. Sharna says:

    I was really sad when reading this article. Choosing to stay or leave a relationship from another human being that is dealing with a disease called alcoholism is a personal journey and experience of growth, compassion and understanding.
    Do you really believe that every human being that struggles with alcoholism is going to abuse love if it is shown to them? I find that really sad to read.
    I am not saying you are wrong. I am saying though that making blanket and black and white statements in general may not be as productive as you imagine. This story seems to be about your journey, so I challenge you to look at your heading (which tells others what to do).
    Co-dependancy is no less an illness that alcoholism, except one is learnt and the other can be a genetic physical illness. Either way, both people have work to do on self.
    I do agree though, that it is terribly hard to stay in a relationship with another being that is ill, but is not doing the groundwork to be well, one day at a time and work on their relationship and issues.
    I have just left a relationship that was badly damaged by co-dependancy and alcoholism. I feel terribly sad and guilty as I see that beautiful souled man suffering and working hard through several different avenues to get well. ALcohol is poison to some people.
    Thank you for the thought provoking article.

    • Statistically speaking, that is sadly true. I used that title after spending a year in Al-anon hearing the stories of hundreds of women who shared a similar story – and then starting a blog where I continually read the same thing from women all over the worlds.

      I showed love, and love, and love for years and years. The only thing that came back to me was abuse and pain. I have no doubt that had I continued to say, my children would have suffered enormously.

      In fact, statistically speaking, 88% of child abuse cases involve alcohol and drug abuse.

      We are all suffering in some way – and that is tragic. But exposing yourself and your kids to someone whose addiction causes pain to your entire family is not something I could continue to do.

      Thank you for your comment. Sending you love and light.

  28. Dax says:

    I agree very much with the article and its sentiments. Moral of the story (as I read it) "Sometimes we need to take care of ourselves (find someone new and make a happy life for ourselves) and let the ones we love take care of themselves (manage their own disease.) Agreed. 100%

    But… I wonder if the author of the article and its readers would feel the same if we replaced the word "Alcoholism" with "Depression."

    I know there are lots of differences between alcoholism and depression. They aren't exactly the same and I'm not claiming they are. Clinically depressed people don't cause much physical harm to the ones they love. Not like alcoholics do. I get that. But… They cause just as much (in my experience) emotional harm to the ones they love.

    Where they seem to be similar though, is that depression seems to be an addiction too. There are many similarities, how a depressive manages their disease, the medications to take, the coping skills needed, counseling, inner struggles, inexplicable relapses, miscommunication… the list goes on.

    In the end, all I'm saying is that if you're dating a depressive, it's a long row to hoe and you might consider running. For all the same reasons listed in the article.

    There are millions of kind, whole and addiction-free women in the world. This story can have a happy ending…

    • There are many connections between addiction and depression. Many addicts are self-medicating. David Sheff's Clean is a great resource if you are interested in learning more about that. I have to imagine depression on it's own is easier to treat, so long as someone were willing to get the help they need.

      I totally see where you are going, I just don't have enough personal insight to comment more on it.

  29. Toni says:

    This is very disheartening to read as an adult woman who has 2 years of recovery from alcoholism. I feel the prejudice and judgement passed against millions of people based on the action of few is sad. There are many lovely people in recovery. The length of recovery isn’t key. It is the quality. Are they “walking the walk?” My perception of the article is; because I have a disease of the mind, body, and spirit that I am not capable of a loving relationship? I am too much of a risk. I am not a disease. I suffer from alcoholism. I have chose not to date, as yet, as I am still working on myself. Also I haven’t met anyone “normal” or sober that I would want to give that much energy to. I’m waiting until I know I can have a loving, giving relationship with another person capable of the same. My recovery has included much deep digging into past relationships of all kinds so I don’t make the same mistakes again, that I did in my past. . I would prefer a relationship with someone who has done the same. Even non addicts and alcoholics have bad relationships. I would never make a recommendation to someone based on my past relationship experience and negative judgement. That is inflicting my negative experience and energy onto someone else. I would ask questions and encourage a person to look inside themselves for the answer. I’m sorry for your experience. I know you come from a place of love. I look beyond the defects of others and love people where they are in life. If I’m not comfortable with that I distance myself. In AA we say live and let live. With that I will leave you and get on with my recovery. Namaste _/_

  30. Toni – I honor you and your sobriety. I believe that men and women live out their addictions very differently and my work has been primarily in working with women who have been with abusive addicted men, as that is the place I came from.

    It is true that there are lovely people in recovery. It is also statistically true that abuse of all kinds is magnified ten-fold when in relationship with a person who is in an active addiction. My primary concern is for those women and children.

    Sending you love & light – and continued strength, courage and wisdom in your recovery.

  31. Claudia Kuzniak says:

    My first-hand response: I have never come across a group of more honest (emotionally, financially, spiritually, etc.) people than those who work the AA program, well, honestly. The addiction wants the victim dead, and will use all sorts of methods to achieve this goal. Recovered (notice the suffix) alcoholics are the most enlightened (and truly emotionally available) people I know because-in order to recover-they have to face "things" and do "things" and change "things" that normal people are rarely motivated to do…because normal people do not need to slay a beast like this. I'd trust a truly recovered drunk over a "normie" any day.

    • That's wonderful input. My experience has not been with recovered alcoholics, so I really can't write about that. This article is about people who are active in their addiction.

      My concern is protecting women and children so they won't suffer from someone's addiction like my children and I did. I wish I had known more about addiction when I entered the relationship – particularly before marrying and having children with someone.

      There was a nagging voice deep inside me, but sadly I ignored it. My hope is this article validates someone else's nagging voice so they can make a better choice than I did.

      Sending you love & light.

    • Kay says:

      I read Elephant Journal for hope, inspiration, and education. Waking up to read about how I don’t deserve love, how people need to run away from me, disgusts me. I understand an alcoholic won’t change for anyone until they’re ready, on their time. I know this is absolutely heartbreakingly as our families have waited on thr sidelines. I understand driving the point home to women sticking around in unhealthy alcoholic homes that nothing they do will change their addict, that they have no control over what someone they love does about their addiction, but that’s not what this article accomplishes…in fact, far from it.

      ”While I have seensome wonderful transformations in Alcoholics Anonymous, the statistics are notpromising and I would not place any bets for my future onanother addict.”

      Wow, how inspirational.

      EJ, you just lost a reader.

  32. Joanne says:

    Beautifully written and full of truth.

  33. Mary G says:

    I was drawn in for 3 years and it nearly finished me off… After the last sorting him out before his 3rd hospital admission to dry out I was totally exhausted. Couldn't go t the hospital with him as I was ill myself…. The barrage I got after his return was awfull. The usual distortion of the true facts, I was a horrible person selfish and totally uncaring for not going amongst other issues he had with me not caring.
    I walked away and realised I couldn't do this again for my sanity and my life. I would have ended up having a breakdowns..

  34. Emily says:

    Thank you so much

  35. Thegi says:

    Yes, you can run. In fact as a daughter of an alcoholic, that’s exactly what I did. But let me tell you the truth in running. You can’t. At least not for long. The real issues still exist within, no matter how far you try to go. They may lie dormant for a while, and things will be good. But then they will come up to surface once again. Maybe in a different relationship maybe in a harder lesson than before. So as you continue to run, just keep in mind – the real courage is in NOT running. The real courage is stillness, looking within, realizing the pain and acceptance. Maybe one day forgiveness. But the external is just a reflection of self. You can’t run from that!

  36. Dana says:

    Thank you.

    This helps me feel much better about walking away from a situation where I thought I was being “tested” in forgiveness & understanding. It is funny how we put the blame for others actions on ourselves.

    Thanks again & cheers to you in the happy marriage!

  37. Toni says:

    Tristan, Don't read this. I'm sorry, it's not for you.

    This article stays in my mind. It is harmful to other humans. Perhaps a review of the meaning of "ahimsa" would be beneficial. I'm trying to absorb what place it has in Elephant Journal. How does publishing articles of this type support their "dedication to the mindful life? " I think this article should be removed. It's a biased opinion and defamatory to millions of good people. It's not about overcoming a difficult time, it is prejudiced and bashing to many people who truly try to live a mindful life.

    "Elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create an enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet."
    Where does this article fit that mission Waylon Lewis? Do you feel that posting articles that are harmful and prejudiced to groups of people is going to, "help us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet?" I'm a recovered Alcoholic, therefore undeserving of trust and love? No matter how hard I have worked on my recovery, both through AA and yoga, I don't deserve love? Alcoholics somehow fall outside the tenants of ahimsa? Or is it OK because the controversy sells?

  38. Daniele says:

    Thank you for writing this.. It is what I needed to hear.. I just got out of a relationship with an alcoholic.. He relapsed right before Christmas and the old happy crazy in love us turned to garbage.. Just like that he became

    A different person who seemed to be Indifferent to me or my feelings. I felt like I was being punished because I loved him,not the addict, and now he’s gone. he just switched off and I was left with all the

    Questions and feelings, trying to grasp what was going in his head.. I had to end it because I felt like I was becoming sick but am still riddled with questions, guilt and my sense of self has been shaken. I’m 24 and I have been through difficult times.. Loosing my brother in an accident last year and my mom after years of battling cancer. This hurt feels just the same. I found a lot of release In your words and realize it’s not my job to understand his addictions or lose myself trying to sit tight along the ride.

  39. Carla says:

    Such a perfect article. Some of your comments capture a situation which is so slippery and difficult to explain – walking on tiptoes, becoming less of yourself, you are never quite certain of reality. true, true and true. thankfully I got out of my situation 9 years ago and also have a happy ending. i imagine your article will help many people still struggling.

  40. Anonymous says:

    I do not agree with the author's statement of "If you are an addict, I’m sorry. This story isn’t for you.". The reason being is that I am an alcoholic (recovering, not active nor do I wish to be active ever again in my life) and sometimes it takes a story like this to help us addicts (you say this like it is a bad word and that is somewhat hurtful) realize the impact that we really do have on other people's lives. If you choose to be with someone who you know has an issue such as addiction and they do not actively seek help for this, then you need to leave anyway. Not only to save yourself but to help them save them. The reality is, an addict is a selfish person who really is not going to take you or your feelings into consideration if they are active in their addiction; the only thing that matters is their substance and the next time they get to use. In my case, I usually did not take my feelings into consideration either because it did not matter. The other thing is that you can try to support a person all that you want when they are recovering but if they are really not in the recovery process and they are just going through the motions (and yes, you can tell the difference) nothing is going to get better. An addict needs to want to get better not for you or your kids or their job or for anything other than themselves. An addict cannot get better just because they hurt your feelings and you are sick of feeling crappy because of their behavior. An addict can only get better on their own, when they are good and ready to stop feeling crappy and hurting themselves. I am sorry if this hurts any of those out there that may be involved with or were involved with someone who had an addiction issue but it is the truth. I wish it was not sometimes when I look back on my life and all of the hurt I dished out when I was using, the only thing I can do now is keep moving forward in a positive manner and be the best person I can be for myself, my family, and my friends.
    I am sorry to hear you "wasted" so many years with this man and I am sorry that you seem to see all "addicts" the same as you see him, we are not all the same. We should not be lumped into one pile together.
    One other thought, we all (everyone on the planet) suffers from something at some point, we all need to not only be gentle with ourselves in life but we need to learn how to be gentle with others as well.
    And, the last one, if you are currently with someone who is using or you suspect they are using (after they have said they are not) just save yourself now, you cannot help them, you cannot bring them out of their hole, your love is not enough (I know harsh but truth). And if you are involved with someone like this and you have kids, go as fast as you can, your children should be your first priority, not saving someone who obviously does not want to be saved.
    Thank you for your article.

  41. Chelsea says:

    "…and I would not place any bets for my future on another addict."

    I am glad that you have moved from the destructive relationship that you were in. Having done the same, I have lots of afterthought on the subject. Thank you for sharing your perspective, it is helpful to know what others have experienced.

    I just want to say to you now, that being a friend, having compassion, does not mean that you must try to live with someone. I am sure you love this man still, but to offer the advice: RUN like hell, gives me the impression that you are suggesting we turn our backs when we come to a junction with someone who is struggling.

    Do not place bets for your future on another addict, rather put your prize on their future, and anything you do will have the potential to help them see it. I understand that if that means avoiding the person, than that is what is going to help you for now. But to regain the desire, the compassion, that it takes to not run, change your perspective on the relationship. Do not think "we share lives so I can have a future" rather, "we share lives so we can come to our future."

    -for benefit

  42. cjs1020 says:

    Thank you for having the courage to write and publish this article. For some reason there seems to be a taboo against sharing this (very valid) opinion towards addicts, but frankly, it needs to be shared. I had a very similar experience with an ex, the father of my son, and this is the first time I have read a truly honest similar story. AA and Al-Anon are wonderful groups that serve a purpose to many people, but they are not always the choice for everyone, nor is staying in a relationship with an addict.

    Everyone wants to tiptoe around the fact that when you agree to spend your life with an addict, it IS going to be more challenging than spending life without one, and sometimes you have to do what is best for yourself and your family. The best advice I was ever given was to take my son and get out of that relationship, and I as I've watched from a distance as his father struggled for the past several years, I have never once regretted my decision. With distance and a clear head, you don't get caught up in the lies and wanting to believe them. I feel that you are perfectly justified in saying that you will never be in a relationship with another addict, and I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for this article.

  43. Red says:

    Thank you for writing this. It's what I needed to hear today. Those who love addicts have their issues and it's a vicious cycle in relationships, and it really is true, the more you love the addict, the more they take, if you let them.

  44. Terry says:

    I take you _________ to be my wife/husband. To have and to hold from this day forward. For better or for worse. for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long was we both shall live.

    I am a greatful recovering/suffering alcoholic. I caused a mess with my drinking and gambling but nothing super crazy. I agreed/decided to go to rehab to get help. While in rehab all of my relatives and close friends sent me letters of courage, support, and hope. All but one person. That was the wife who decided to start talking about divorce. She ruined half of my time in rehab messing with my head while I was trying to get better. Shortly after rehab we had a few arguments. She decided it was a good idea to get a lawyer, file for divorce, and take the kids. I proceeded to lose control, start drinking again, and then made the HUGE mess. Gambled all the bank account away so she wouldn't get a dime. I didn't care about nothing. She gave up on me then I gave up on me.

  45. Terry says:

    This is a tricky topic and everyone's story is different but also a lot of the same. I think the divorce rate is 50%. I live in pain knowing the mess I caused. This is a disease I am beating now. Now my lovely daughters have to live in a broken relationship. I hate that with a passion and there is nothing I can do about that. What I can do is stay sober and raise my girls the best I can. She ran from me and this disease and it made me worse. If she would have loved me like the wedding vows say I think we would still be together. I am a good man. I ran into some problems that I didn't recognize at first. She is going to miss out on the good man I am because SHE RAN. It's too easy to QUIT these days. People don't give a fuck about the people they are supposed to love. Quitters. 50% Quit. The way I look at it. Go ahead and run cause what if I would have came down with Cancer and she ran. She is WEAK and a quitter. I am not a quitter. I am here to fight for my life and WIN and Damnit that is what I am going to do and she loses out.

  46. Me2 says:

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story and your happy ending.

  47. Esmé says:

    I love this article so much that I bookmarked it so that I could come back to it from time to time. I first read it right at the end of a horrible break up– The person I was dating was an alcoholic Who was in complete denial. We moved in together after one year of dating and right after we did, my life so completely out-of-control. What you said about living in the alcoholic’s reality rather than your own really struck a chord, for that is what I did for almost 2 years until I decided that even though I loved hiM, The relationship wasn’t good for me. So I left. Thank you for writing this article. And one day if I have a daughter In a similar situation, I will also say the same thing. Best wishes to you– E.

  48. anonymous says:

    What about your own daughter who is engaged to a guy who has gone black out drunk at least 3 times. But still give him a chance, despite stating i am going to dump him. from the mother who hates this idiot

  49. Shanna says:

    I also should have run … 15 years ago, when our relationship began amidst a swirl of drugs & alcohol. I was an occasional user of both, recreationally. My mistake was not seeing that he had a highly addictive personality – he did not understand how to use randomly at parties. For him, it was an every day thing. He started out on speed, and told me “when I’m around you, I don’t even think about drugs. I want to quit.” Great, I thought. I can help him get off drugs. And he did, within a year.

    Thinking our relationship could now progress to a normal level, I got comfortable & secure. We were great friends and had fun together. Then, he started using weed on a daily basis. This didn’t cause tons of problems, and I would smoke too once in a while. But he became addicted & started spending way too much money on it. He’s only had undependable & very sporadic jobs for the past 15 years, and I have worked my butt off to support us. He would lie about gambling, lie about “finding” money when he had really forged a check in a relative’s name, constantly blamed his employer for problems at work – the list could go on. He’s had a few health problems in between too and now is finally healthy. He had a bout with alcoholism about 4 years ago, drinking 12-14 beers daily. His mood would change at the drop of a hat, from crying to nonstop talking, to joyous laughter. It was so freaky to witness. Once while drunk and crying, he even said “I want to have a baby. I think that’s what I need to get my life on track.” WHAT?!?! I told him that our lives would need to be on track way before we could ever think of having a baby. He had no job, and my job offered no insurance. Previously, he said that he could never handle having children. Now that, I believed, and agreed. Even when sober, he is unwittingly selfish & careless sometimes.

    He finally quit drinking daily & had a couple of jobs that lasted for a few months each. Things were starting to look up & I figured if he would just get a stable job, things would be good. Fast forward to a year ago when he began drinking heavily again. About 4 days out of the week he would get completely blitzed. Here we went, on the emotional roller coaster again. At some points, he would be talking so much, that I would leave the room & go outside – then come back in 5 minutes later & he would STILL be talking – completely unaware that I had left! It was absolutely exhausting. Then the insults would come. He would belittle me and berate everything I do – although was still the one keeping the household running. He contributes about 15% and I do the rest. Then would come accusations…I’m cheating on him. I’m the reason he drinks so much. I need to stop telling him to not drink so much. I could never do better than him. On many nights, I would up getting into the shower & crying – just thankful for a few minutes of peace away from his horrible behavior & hoping that he would soon be in a drunken sleep.

    Rational discussions while he is sober seem to get through to him – but then it all falls away as soon as he starts drinking. This is still continuing, all the way up until last night when he hid vodka and beer from me. When I got home from work, I could tell he was not acting right, so I said something. After he thoroughly made me sound crazy and paranoid, hours later he admitted that he had several shots before I got home. Deep down, I usually know to trust my intuition – but his insistence that something is wrong with ME somehow always wins out, and makes my thoughts seem invalid. I am really at my wits end, but still cannot justify kicking him out (it’s my house, he has no job & owns nothing…not even a car). If I did kick him out, I would have no problem just giving him my spare car and helping him get on his feet elsewhere. But, I’m sure his pride would get in the way of me helping him & he would probably just end up sleeping under a bridge or something. Then of course, he would blame me for all of his life problems. At any rate, since he would have nowhere to go, I would feel beyond terrible kicking him out. It’s not that I hate him in any way, I want to help him & I love him. And that’s the problem.

    Anyways, sorry that I’ve written a book here. Just helps a bit to share my experience, and maybe others can identify with it. It’s a tough road. I have to agree..just run when you can, before you get in too deep.

  50. Megan says:

    I was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic for 7 years. I thought I could help him. He dragged me down to his own hell and refuses to take responsibility for his abuse (physical and emotional). He blames alcoholism for hitting, choking, kicking, pulling my hair out etc. He cries to his family who give him whatever he wants. I'm not saying all alcoholics are like him but I refuse to believe I am "sicker" than he is because he is extremely manipulative and if you know anything about domestic violence you know it's about POWER and CONTROL. And he threatened to kill himself if I left on multiple occasions. I refuse to feel bad for any alcoholic who CHOOSES to beat someone else just because they have a disease! No excuses! Alcoholism may be a disease but the second you lay a hand on another person and continue to do so to a worsening degree, you get zero sympathy. Take responsibility for your actions. If you think alcoholism is a disease, you will have it for the rest of your life. Accept it and take the steps to make your life better and stop being abusive. Break the cycle!

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