I'm sober but my boyfriend says I'll drink again

What he thinks is just what he thinks. But I could use his support and encouragement

Published October 12, 2010 12:20AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I've been a moderate drinker my entire life, but over the past five years I've developed a drinking problem. Hitting the bottle for me coincided with a series of traumatizing life events that happened one right after the other -- a terrible car accident, multiple job losses, near-foreclosure, problems in my marriage, devastating lies about money, the illness and death of a beloved parent, another near-foreclosure, bankruptcy, a bitter separation from my husband, legal troubles, divorce. I started drinking. I now have a problem.

I've decided to stop drinking and have entered rehab. I don't like everything about rehab, but I'm committed to being open to the process and, most important, to not drinking anymore. I'm trying to figure out where to go from here. My boyfriend and I have had a happy two-year relationship (when we or I were sober), but we drank together. He doesn't have a problem, as I understand it, but he does drink. We've had some great times drinking together, and have had some terrible times. I've done and said things I'm not proud of, drunk.

He's joining me in not drinking. He's also been helping me stay with the program, driving me to my meetings when I need a ride and talking with me as I begin to figure out what recovery means. He's been incredibly supportive in his actions. What bothers me are his words. He's the kind of guy who has always spoken without thinking at times and I've long known this. It's not malicious; he's just one of those guys with few filters and probably a slight wiring problem and he's been dealing with this his entire life. I can be overcautious with my words at times (when I'm not drunk) and I appreciate his openness most of the time. But several times since I've started this he's stated, casually, that he thinks I'll pick up again at some point, will get drunk again at some point. I've been very clear with him: "You can think that if you like, but it's NOT helpful to say this to me right now."

Words or actions: Which should I be paying more attention to, knowing what I know about him? It may be that I'm at a point in my life in which his openness and filterlessness (?) are detrimental to me, even though I don't attribute his comments to malice. It may be time for me to move on.

I'm working my program to the best of my ability, but I know that we drunks are notorious for lying to ourselves and to others. He knows this, too. But I still need for him to believe in me at the moment in spite of what he knows. I need a hug and a "I know you will do your best" and a ride to meetings, not a ride to meetings and a "well, you'll probably start drinking again once this is over." It may be true. I can't predict the future. At the moment, I need to believe.

I really don't want to leave him. I love him and he loves me. We've built a good life together and are both eager to be sober together. There are many good, solid and worthwhile things about our relationship. I really don't want to leave him at all.

Any thoughts you have would be so helpful.


Dear K.,

Here is a suggestion that will help you. For the time being, arrange your own transportation so that attendance at meetings does not depend on the maintenance of outside relationships. You will feel healthier and stronger if you make your rehab your own personal priority and make your own arrangements to get there. It will give you independence and relieve you of the fear that having your boyfriend drive you to rehab might undermine your recovery. Plus it will eliminate the possibility that if you and he have a fight you will find it more difficult to get to meetings.

You don't have to get into an argument about whether his words might actually undermine your recovery. The point is that you will feel better and get more out of the experience if you  arrange for your own transportation. If you need help making these arrangements, ask someone who is also in recovery, or the people running the rehab facility or chairing the meetings.

Now let's talk about your boyfriend. You say he doesn't have a problem, as you understand it. But he does drink. But right now he's joining you in not drinking. But he says he thinks you will probably drink again.

That sounds confusing.

Right now, I suggest that you keep it simple.

You say you are trying to figure out where things go from here. You don't have to do that. I mean, to be very simple-minded about it, we already know where things go from here. They go into the future. And we know what the future is. The future is unknowable. So where do things go from here? They go into the unknowable. So if it is unknowable why are we trying to think about it?

I know that sounds kind of juvenile and literal-minded, and of course it is possible to form and execute plans, and in that sense the future is knowable. It's just that in early recovery you need to keep things simple, and  "figuring out where things go from here" can drive you crazy. So for now, just back off on the whole figuring-out-things deal. Trust how things are going. Relax and get some sleep.

Keep it simple.

If your boyfriend wants to continue joining you in not drinking, he will be helped in that lofty aspiration by finding some meetings and attending them. But let him find his own meetings at which to join you in not drinking. If he tries to join you in not drinking by joining you at your meetings, he's going to offer to drive you there, and if you let him drive you there things will get complicated again and you will lose the opportunity to arrange for your own transportation, which, as I said, has its own rewards.

Recovery seems to work better when we make it our first priority and find our own transportation. We're more accountable that way, and more independent and reliable, and it gives us a little boost in self-esteem.

Plus, when we're late, we always know why.

Write Your Truth.

Want more?


By Cary Tennis

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