What It's Really Like To Date An Alcoholic

by Sheena Sharma
Jacqui Miller

Bzzz. Someone was buzzing my apartment intercom at three in the morning on a Saturday.

I ignored it at first, but it wouldn't stop. Half-asleep, I rolled out of my bed.

"Who the f*ck is it?" I said. I was displeased, to say the least.

"It's me," a guy said. I recognized his accent. I let him up. The next thing I know, the guy I'd been casually sleeping with was standing at my front door. He was drunk.

“Hey, lovely.”

I hadn't invited him over; this was not your average booty-call situation. This was a cut-and-dried, got-too-drunk-and-showed-up-at-someone's-apartment-stalker-style situation.

“What are you doing here?” I gasped, my eyes drooping but still as wide as ever. “It's Saturday. It's 3 am. I need my beauty sleep."

“I know. But listen. You're...the kind of woman I need,” he slurred, pushing his way into my apartment. “You're fun and beautiful and intelligent. So intelligent. You're not like other girls." He grabbed my face. "I could be with you…”

“What? What the hell are you talking about?” I shrieked. He'd never mentioned wanting me in that way before. In fact, he'd always done his best not to talk about feelings. Trying to have serious conversation with him felt like running through a maze.

Sober, he was a different animal. He was stoic and avoidant and unwilling to talk about anything that really mattered. He'd never been real with me before. Sure, there was the occasional “You're hot,” but nothing beyond your average superficial compliment.

None of his admission seemed real. And if it was real, I sure as hell didn't believe him.

Emptiness filled his eyes. I remember wondering if he even knew where he was.

"You need to leave," I said. "Now." I pushed him out the door. I could hear him whimpering outside like a stray puppy. I leaned against the door, resisting with my hands and softly banging my head.

This was what I got for becoming close to an alcoholic. Well, as close as they let you.

He wasn't the first alcoholic to enter my love life. A few months after I met him, I met another guy who drank too much and made empty promises while he was drunk. For a while, we played a game of cat-and-mouse, and it seemed innocent -- until I realized there was no way out of the game. Chasing him led only to a dead end.

Sober flirting turned into a full-on, drunken love-fest.

“You're special,” he said. As he got up, he wobbled like a penguin. “There's something about you. There's something here.”

"I think so, too," I said. I was just as drunk, only a little more with it. My heart felt like it had wings. Wings.

A few days later, I thought I'd handle my friend's confession by confronting him straight-on.

"Would you like to get lunch today?" I asked him. "Like, a date."

He said no. Not only did he say no; he denied everything he'd said to me the night before.

I was heartbroken. I felt f*cked with and deceived. This was a kind of evil I didn't deserve. And it was there, standing in the rain hungover as I've ever been, that I realized those men had two things in common: their draw to me, and their love for booze. My revelation was painful and poetic at once.

My dad is an alcoholic. My mom divorced him because of his drinking when I was a baby, and I've tried to block that little detail of my life out of my memory, because it's ugly. But without my permission, it's served as a driving force for the kind of men I choose. That, my friends, is a little psychoanalysis from my therapist.

The relationship between my father and me is reduced to late-night phone calls (the calling part is on his end) and unanswered text messages (the "unanswered" part is on my end). He'll tank a few Scotch-and-sodas, get too drunk to remember his own name, and start talking smack about my mom, whom I love dearly.

This relationship is eerily familiar. I'm reliving it now. Despite my best-laid plans, I've invited men struggling with addictions into my life. They're my "normal."

Like my father, the men I choose are wildly out-of-touch with their emotions. Liquid fuel is the answer to all their problems. To address anything embedded deep within them, they absolutely need alcohol. This poses a problem for me, because I need someone who isn't afraid of sitting with his feelings. I'm an emotional being.

I'm currently juggling two alcoholics and wondering how the hell this has become my reality. I know they need to fix themselves, but I can't help but want to fix them. From the outside looking in, I know my efforts are fruitless.

But, like them, I'm also flawed: My heart is too big, and my hopes for these men are even bigger. My love is wasted. I have too much love to give, and I'm putting it in the wrong places.

Anyone who's ever dealt with an alcoholic knows that dealing with one is like dealing with two completely different people: There's the alcoholic's drunk persona, and there's the sober persona. Being with one is like playing romantic roulette. As much as I've tried to get them to love me for who I am, I've realized that I'll always come second to the drink.

Nothing I do matters. Because the alcoholic will get drunk and become that man I so hoped he wouldn't become, and there's f*ck-all I can do about it. Well, there is one thing I can do: I can remove them from my life entirely. But I don't know how.

Someone once told me that in order to break patterns, you have to make the conscious decision to do so. You don't just wake up one day cleansed of your demons. Breaking my pattern won't be as easy as it was to fall into it.

So far, it's felt impossible.