Alcoholism: This word probably makes you feel uncomfortable, right? I grew up without talking about this disease, and didn't realize its severity until someone I loved suffered.
It's a serious issue, and it's about time we start talking about the real consequences of alcoholism.
I met him in March 2011. I was enjoying my last weeks as an undergraduate and had just returned to my hometown after taking a vacation. My best friend just so happened to be in town with her boyfriend; they were visiting him.
We all ate barbecue together, had a few craft beers and went back to his place. When we arrived at his apartment, it just looked like a typical 24-year-old's bachelor pad.
Sports memorabilia scattered the walls and piles of dirty laundry littered his bedroom floor.
Then, I saw his guitar. I asked him to play me a song and he started strumming his favorite Pearl Jam intro. With a gleam in his deep, brown eyes and a smirk on his face, he stared at me and started singing. I was already falling for him.
Our love story continued for a few months, and in July, I noticed something was wrong — very wrong. He had me, 21-year-old girl, absolutely fooled, head-over-heels in love.
Although I learned that summer that he had a problem with alcohol, I chose to stay with him off and on for three years — three years that ultimately changed my perception of relationships.
Here are the 10 things I learned from dating an alcoholic:
1. Alcoholics are good at hiding.
We both lived in different cities (about three hours apart) and spent the majority of our relationship texting and talking on the phone.
He would call me in the evenings, usually mumbling and slurring his words. I often made excuses for him saying things like, "Oh, he's just tired from work and falling asleep on the phone."
It turned out he was visiting the liquor store after work and purchasing a fifth of vodka he would consume every evening. Finding a wad of receipts in his car's glove box was how I found out.
2. Alcoholics aren’t drinking because of you.
I blamed myself for so long because I thought I was doing something wrong and causing him to drink. One evening, I planned a romantic dinner for us. I made homemade pasta, played Frank Sinatra and we danced together in the kitchen.
He left to go to the bathroom and was gone for a while. I plated our pasta and waited for him at the kitchen table. He returned, drunk out of his mind, and began to eat.
He was so wasted he couldn’t bring his fork to his mouth and then spilled the entire plate of pasta down his shirt.
Sobbing, I went to the bathroom to discover an empty liquor bottle he had hidden behind the toilet.
At the time, I thought I was the force that drove him to drink. But, we were honestly happy and in love.
Aside from his alcoholism, he was a man I pictured myself being with for the long haul. He wasn’t drinking because of me; he was drinking because he had a serious disease.
3. Alcoholics are often hard to trust.
We officially broke up in early 2012. I was calling him non-stop during my three-hour drive to visit him. No answer.
We were supposed to go to his parents’ mountain house for a long weekend. When I arrived at his apartment, I saw him passed out on his couch, through the window.
His door was locked, so I asked a neighbor to break in. There he was, bottle of vodka in hand, drunk and sleeping.
I grabbed the bottle of vodka and poured the remaining toxic liquid down the sink. Then, I went crazy. I started going through all his drawers, his closet and even under his bed.
I filled three garbage bags with empty liquor bottles he had stashed.
Shaking and sobbing, I woke him up and told him we were over. That night, I went to my parents’ house and finally told them everything.
Alcoholics are hard to trust. He often made plans with me, but alcohol would get in the way.
4. Alcoholism is life-threatening.
I hadn’t spoken to him in a few days when I received a call in late 2012 that he was in the hospital. Of course, I rushed to be by his side.
I entered his hospital room and immediately started crying. Who was this man I was staring at? His entire body was swollen. I gripped his shirt and he gave me a kiss on the forehead.
He had been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, which occurs when the kidneys cannot remove waste. His body was being pumped with fluids and the nurse told him that if he continued to drink, he could die.
Alcoholism is a serious disease and can often lead to other life-threatening health issues.
5. Alcoholics have to be willing to change.
After he left the hospital, his parents forced him to go to rehab. He told me he wouldn’t be able to contact me for a few months and he loved me. He wanted me to wait for him to get out of rehab, and then, we could discuss our relationship.
At the time, I thought he was sincere when he said he wanted to change. Turns out, I was wrong. Within a few months of him leaving rehab, he received a DWI and totaled his car.
You cannot change an alcoholic; he or she has to decide to get help and change on his or her own.
6. You can't drink with an alcoholic.
He tried to convince me after his time in rehab (and before totaling his car) he was completely better. He even told me drinking occasionally would be fine.
One night, I was in my hometown for work and snuck out to meet him. We went to his favorite taco bar and he told me it would be fine if he drank a beer with me. Although I was hesitant, I gave in.
He was quite persuasive and good at convincing me his relationship with alcohol was finally better.
So, one beer turned to three, and then I caught him drinking airplane bottles of vodka in the restaurant’s bathroom. Drinking with an alcoholic is a downward spiral and something you just shouldn’t do.
7. Alcoholism commonly runs in the family.
My best friend who introduced me to him was married in 2014. I was a bridesmaid and he was the best man. Facing him and his parents at the wedding after all we had been through was extremely nerve-racking.
I met one of his friends who pulled me away and offered shocking news: His dad also suffered from alcoholism and used to hide liquor bottles under the toilet lid.
Alcoholism commonly runs in the family and his dad was also suffering from the same disease.
It finally made sense to me why his mom tried to convince me to stay with him after rehab.
She had been a supportive figure in her husband's struggle with alcoholism and thought I could do the same for her son.
8. You have to move on.
After dating an alcoholic on and off for about three years, I decided to cut all ties from him. He continuously sent me drunken text messages about how much he loved me, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
Finally, I told him I had to move on. I sent him a message to let him know I was moving to New York City in August 2014.
I also told him I was deleting and blocking his number. I've stayed strong and for the past six months, he has just been a memory.
9. Learning to trust again is hard.
After dating an alcoholic for so long, dating new people is extremely hard.
He was an expert at hiding a serious disease from me and at convincing me to stay with him as he overcame alcoholism.
When you first start dating someone, there’s a lot to learn. It's hard to trust someone new after being with an alcoholic for so long.
He defied my trust and made me think every significant other in the future would have a huge flaw.
This is not the case; you have to stay strong and understand there are other people out there for you in the world.
10. Talk about alcoholism.
For so many years, I hid my relationship with him from my family and friends, but it’s important to talk about alcoholism. Many people suffer from this disease and chances are, you’re not alone.
Some of your closest friends and family members may have also been in a relationship with an alcoholic.
Either confide in people who you trust or seek therapy. Dating an alcoholic will change your perception of relationships.
You need to work through these emotions and talk about alcoholism and its impact in order to have successful relationships in the future.