Why Love Wasn't Enough To Save My Relationship With An Alcoholic


Two and a half years ago, I met him on a Brooklyn rooftop overlooking New York City. It was an evening in early September. I could try to describe the pinks in the sunset over the skyline, or the contrast between the warm summer air and the cold vodka sodas I was drinking. I could try to detail the way I felt when he'd smile at me, or the genuine interest I had as he talked about his childhood in India.

But, it wouldn't do this meeting justice.

As we developed our relationship, I felt all the things I'd always imagined I would feel when I met my person. His personality was as compelling as his giggle was. I could listen to him for hours, on topics ranging from books and music to the indexed search he was building at work.

I felt confident because I knew he found me equally mesmerizing. I have never known someone so attracted to my person and my mind. It was almost overwhelming at times. He loved me completely.

I started to realize there was a problem after we had been dating for about three months. I invited him to meet my friends for the first time, and he agreed. It was around Christmas. We had gone to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. We were joking about how my friends would be meeting him for the first time. I also laughed and said that it would be the first time we'd be hanging out without alcohol.

It was just a joke, but it made me take a pause.

Then, a month later, we were at a party when his best friend pulled me aside and told me I could be exactly what my boyfriend needed. He told me to keep an eye on my boyfriend's drinking. He explained he had been unable to get through to him in the past, but that he hoped I could succeed where he had failed.

At first, it was easy to ignore or downplay my boyfriend's drinking problem because he was a happy, fun drunk. He was the life of the party, and everyone loved him.

I could overlook him taking shots when everyone else was having a casual beer. I could pretend it wasn't a big deal when his sister told me I could change him. I could even try to pretend I couldn't smell the alcohol on his breath when we'd meet for date night.

I knew in the back of my head that it wasn't right. But, I was having fun. So, I chose to overlook, ignore and pretend instead of confronting the inevitable. This all changed when he started talking about living together and marriage. We were no longer just having fun. I had to take a step back.

I knew I couldn't make that kind of commitment to someone who lived such an unhealthy lifestyle. So, I started asking him to change. He started resenting me for refusing to move forward with him. I started resenting him for refusing to drink less. So, the cycle began.

The following year was full of misunderstandings, disappointments, breakups, makeups, drunken fights and semi-sober reconciliations. We both went to therapy. We wrote contracts that laid out the terms of our relationship we could agree to.

We even tried to be “more casual.” But, we always landed back in the same spot. He wanted more of a commitment, and I was too terrified of committing to an alcoholic.

We had our longest breakup during this time. We didn't see each other for almost eight months.

We had been seeing each other again until about a month ago. I could tell he was working hard to be better, which was refreshing. Being able to openly talk about his problem and his efforts to change felt like a step in the right direction.

I honestly started to believe he was choosing me over alcohol. I didn't realize how hopeless this was, until one night when we had made plans to meet once I got out of class.

He said he was going to get drunk with a friend while he waited for me. I asked him to take it slow. I didn't want him to be drunk when he met me. He got mad and refused. I subsequently refused to meet him. I felt the cycle starting up again.

When we met a couple of days later to talk about what happened, he came, ready to work it out. But, I came ready to walk away. This time was different. The hope that things were actually getting better was multiplied with disappointment when I realized they weren't.

They never would. He would never be able to choose me over a drink. This is not because he didn't want to; it was because he couldn't. I told him I knew for sure that I couldn't make a life with him. He told me I was wrong.

He asked how I could doubt us so much when he was so certain about our future. I admitted I didn't have a good answer for him. He insisted I was making a mistake.

I agreed that it was a possibility, but it was a mistake I was willing to make. My heart broke as I was breaking his. But, I knew I had to walk away.

The thing about loving an alcoholic is this: Love will never be enough. You can't love someone out of an addiction, and you can't hope the person will love you enough to change.

The truth is, he couldn't have loved me more. I know that now. But, all the love in the world can't stand up to addiction.