My 32-year-old boyfriend lost his mother at age 18 and was a marine for 8 years. He is a wonderful man when he is not drunk, but that is his favorite pastime. He comes home and drinks 8 to 18 Bud Lights, sometimes staying up til 1 or 2 am during the week when we both have to work. He is in bed by 11 if not drinking, which may be 3 times a month if I am lucky. I want him to stop drinking and to find a new group of friends (he has only hung around these people for 4 years). All of his friends are the same 28 to 35-year-old people who just sit around someone’s house and drink til the wee hours of the morning. I have been dating and living with him for over a year now and love him very much. I just need help — he drinks like this, he sucks his thumb in his sleep, and I wonder does he need help? Please offer me ideas of what I should do to make this situation better.
Your boyfriend is having a problem with alcoholism. You’re not describing social drinking here. Even worse, he’s slipped into an alcoholism lifestyle. The lifestyle change is gradual and gets worse each year. It goes something like this:
Ages 19 to 22: You are drinking with hundreds of peers as college students, in the military, in local pubs/bars, and everyone is at the same social level — a marginal job, working on a career, and thinking about a family or a long term relationship.
Ages 23 to 26: By this age, 50% of that original group has disappeared from the drinking scene. They have started a career, family or healthy relationship. Like you, some have matured and are interested in keeping their job and relationships. In public, those who have left are friendly, but they don’t invite you to their home.
Ages 27 to 30: By this time, those hundreds have dropped to about 5%, mostly those people who continue to have a marginal life — an unhappy job, no family, poor finances, etc. While many of these folks take pride in being hard-core party-goers, they’re not invited to dinner by their original friends and often find themselves living in their parents’ basement or being supported by a romantic partner. As they drink, they blame others for their situation.
Ages 30+: At this point the individual has a combination of alcoholism and alcohol lifestyle. Their social activities focus on alcohol-use and their alcohol need/dependence overrides all other considerations such as a career, a family, or a relationship. They are reduced to having only that 2% of their friends who are actually “drinking buddies” — those people who are friends only because they have heavy drinking in common. At this point, they’ve probably been arrested for alcohol-related crimes, lost jobs, and lost relationships. They whine that no one cares about them anymore. You’ll notice that he has none of his original friends (they’ve all matured) and is now socializing with that 2% from other groups of friends. It seems those 2%-folks meet in bars and agree to drink together.
If your boyfriend were 22, you would have a better chance in this situation. Alcoholism makes individuals very immature and selfish and while he needs help, he is likely to reject help. He is likely to reject your attempts to help and change him. His alcohol and drinking lifestyle may be more important than anything else, including the relationship.
In such situations, I recommend placing the relationship on a type of probation. Give the relationship four months, try to convince him to seek help or change his pattern, and work to make the relationship better. Offer to participate in alcohol programs with him. If nothing has changed in four months, you’ll need to move on. It’s sad, but you need to understand that he is not concerned about how you think or feel about his drinking, his alcoholism buddies, or his late nights. He may not care enough to change or mature. In that case, you’ll need to move on to protect yourself as he shows no interest in improving the relationship to make you feel more comfortable. He is not protecting you, so you must protect yourself.
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