I’m in a five-month long-distance relationship. My boyfriend visits monthly. His alcohol and drug use have been red flags since we met. His father is a recovering alcoholic. He has been depressed for several months, although he takes anti-depressants.
I have recently realized his drinking is indeed a problem, and I have become worried sick for his well-being as well as potentially setting myself up for heartbreak. I have no concerns about how he treats me.
Over email/telephone, I voiced concerns about his mood and drinking. He volunteered: they are problems; they have been for some time; he thinks about it everyday; and things must change. I was relieved to hear that he talks to his mom about it.
During his visit this weekend, we conversed. He was reluctant to seek professional attention for his problems, although he identified a doctor he thinks he could see about his prescription (refills/changing the dose/trying a new medication). He saw an alcohol counselor in the past, and did not want to do so again.
I told him that part of me does not want to get attached to someone who abuses alcohol. He started crying. He said something about how I may be a reason to stop drinking. I said I wasn’t good enough. He added his health.
I pressed for a plan:
His short-term goal is not to drink until Friday (today is Sunday). He mentioned visiting next Saturday, but I don’t know if that works for me. He mentioned other, longer timeframes for sobriety, so I’m not sure how fixed it is.
I had asked if he had ever not drank before, and he said he didn’t drink in college (although he drank heavily before that), and he didn’t drink for a month last year.
As far as his mood, he said he wants to see how it changes when he stops drinking. He hopes to run more, which improves his mood.
I am already a stressed-out graduate student who now has concerns about potentially getting serious with someone who may be likely to have an ongoing alcohol problem, depression without staying on top of treatment, and who doesn’t seem to be good at managing money, which may be related to all of the above.
How do I support him long-distancely? Do I ask him if he’s been drinking? Where do I draw the line and call it quits? I realize I haven’t said anything nice about him, but that’s because of the 450 word count.
“He said something about how I may be a reason to stop drinking.”
“I said I wasn’t (a) good enough (reason).”
Letter Writer, you are only a few months into this.
YOU ARE ONLY A FEW MONTHS IN. Only few DATES/visits in, if they happen monthly.
Can you see this as being in the “Should we keep doing this?” decision-making phase of dating, not the “for better or for worse” place?
What if you took all the effort you’re about to invest in this man and invested it in yourself? That time you spend worrying about him and trying to get him through another day of not drinking could be spent on your studies, your dreams, your future, the people around you in the place where you live now. Don’t you have enough on your plate?
There are organizations and resources who are completely devoted to helping people with addiction problems get sober. There are people and places who will help him make it one day at a time. The person who can work on a plan with him for not drinking is called a counselor or a sponsor. It does NOT have to be you.
I know you like him, he’s nice, he’s nice to you…
…But he is so much WORK right now, my dear Letter Writer. You are so smart and cool and collected and you are asking GREAT questions. I can see this guilty caretaker logic working under the surface, like, “I *knew* alcohol might be a red flag from the beginning but I dated him anyway, doesn’t that obligate me/didn’t I have my chance to bail/he’s trying/don’t I owe him a little more time” and I want to tell you “NOPE!” You are NOT obligated, it’s okay to change your mind about what you can handle, and sometimes “red flags” at the beginning turn into “GLARING ISSUES WORTH BREAKING UP OVER.” I think you knew what I would say when you wrote to me, so, here I am, telling you what it’s too late to tell my younger self: Ending this relationship now is most likely a really good idea for you.
Your script, should you choose to accept it, could be: “I’m so sorry, but I’m not the right person to work on this with you, and it’s time we ended this.”
Love and strength to you and to him.