Ask Erin: Should I Lighten Up About My Partner’s Drug And Alcohol Use? 

Al-anon is a solid starting point for dealing with a loved one's addiction crisis.

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all. 


Q.

Dear Erin,

I am having a crisis!

About seven months ago, I entered a relationship with my friend of a few years. When we first met, he was in Narcotics Anonymous and completely drug/alcohol-free. He entered the program after being a heroin user.

When we first started dating seven months ago, he told me he broke his sobriety because he doesn't think he really has a problem with drinking. He said he just wants to be normal and be able to enjoy drinks with friends. I quickly realized he was also smoking weed, and later I found out he was taking psychedelics and lying to me about it. 

He was a nightmare to be around, and if I hadn't known him before this I never would have stayed!

After only a couple weeks of drinking, smoking, and drugs, he decided to be "straight edge again.” Immediately, our relationship improved and we had been flourishing and growing since.

Last weekend, he went to a party without me, and I immediately got a terrible gut feeling. I suspected he was under the influence, but he denied it. I have felt weird and disconnected from him since. Today he told me that he wants to drink again. It started with him saying there is nothing wrong with a beer or two. Then he said he would smoke. Then he said he doesn't see a problem with shrooms. 

I said I'm not comfortable with this and he immediately responded like a child. He said things like "I'm a grown man. I can do whatever I want" and ”You want to control me lighten up!" He even called me a square. :-(

Basically, before my eyes, I imagined our relationship going down the toilet. I don't want to be with the disgusting, arrogant pig that he is when he drinks.

I love him so much, but I don't tolerate drug use in my relationships. He is making me feel like a loser and a control freak, but I thought we were on the same page all along. I'm really torn apart.

Please help!

I don't want to lose him.

A.

I think you know, in your gut, that the alarms going off for you about his drinking and drug use are spot on. While neither of us can diagnose what’s happening with your boyfriend, it’s clear that there is a problem. 

When someone continues to drink or use drugs, despite negative repercussions (in this case, the repercussions being the impact on your relationship), that’s usually a good indicator that they have a serious issue with drugs and alcohol. 

Now is the time to set your boundary. I know you love him and are afraid of losing him, but pretending this is going to go away is not going to work. You will lose him to the drugs and alcohol.

Think of it like this: If you enjoyed smashing your hand through glass, as a way to loosen up (party, have fun, socialize, etc.), and your partner said, “Hey, the blood and glass leftover is a real pain in the butt to clean up, and I’m afraid you’re really going to hurt yourself one day,” would you stop the behavior? If you didn’t, wouldn't that be an enormous red flag? 

In 12-step meetings, something that is often said regarding the disease of alcoholism (which extends to drugs, sex, spending, gambling, etc.) is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. (*This quote is widely credited to Albert Einstein, but who knows?) 

Now is the time to set your boundary. I know you love him and are afraid of losing him, but pretending this is going to go away is not going to work. You will lose him to the drugs and alcohol. 

That definition of insanity I mentioned above — applies to you as well. 

He is right; he’s a grown man, and he can do whatever he wants. But, you are also a grown-up and can take responsibility for your boundaries and what is acceptable to you in a relationship. Getting mad over and over and staying in this unhealthy situation creates a dysfunctional relationship in which the alcoholism can exist. 

For any hope of ever repairing/rebuilding with him, you need to take care of yourself. 

I highly suggest you look into Al-Anon meetings. As someone who has been on both sides of this relationship equation, I can tell you that getting the support and help you need to create healthy boundaries is essential. 

He is the one who needs to sort out his drinking and drug problem. You can’t do it for him. If and when he does that, a new relationship could potentially form between the two of you. That requires you getting your side of the street in order. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to set the boundary and be willing to let him go.

I know how painful that seems, but it will be far more painful to remain in an unhealthy dynamic that is likely to spiral further and further down. 

If you’d like any further resources in your area for support groups and/or therapists, do not hesitate to reach out to me again. 


If you have a question for me about relationships, boundaries, friendship, sex, addiction, Labradorite, reproductive issues, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at rarelywrongerin@gmail.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo

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