Having a positive attitude and being a supportive partner is something I highly recommend—unless you’re dating an addict. When you first meet an alcoholic, you may not see his or her drinking as a problem. Drinking is very social, and when you’re attracted to someone, it’s easy to get swept up into the moment. Many relationships begin by talking and drinking all night and then falling into bed for hot, drunken sex. If you don’t have a problem with alcohol, you probably won’t see that as anything to worry about. In fact, you’ll probably be excited you found a great connection. Alcoholics can be friendly, outgoing, and the life of the party—all coping skills they had to learn to cover up their deep shame and unhealed pain. When intoxicated, they can become an open book. It’s easy to mistake that behavior as emotionally availability. Especially for women who are nurturing by nature, it seems natural to feel compassion for an emotional guy. Particularly if he’s really hot. You get drawn in before you even have a chance to recognize what you’re in for. What you really need to do is run in the other direction.
Most abusive relationships involve alcohol and/or drug use. If you are involved with an addict, you are actually in a triangle relationship. Your lover’s first priority is his or her disease. Be it alcohol or hard drugs, he or she will lie, manipulate, cheat, steal, or do whatever it takes to get their next fix. If you try to intervene, they will lash out. When I say you can’t change anyone, that is especially true of addicts. You may think that all your problems would go away if he or she would just stop drinking or taking drugs. Unfortunately, that is never the case.
Addicts become addicted because they can’t stand themselves sober. Most of them grew up in a broken and/or dysfunctional home, usually with an angry and abusive alcoholic. As adults, they act out the behavior modeled for them as a kid. They are usually in denial and think, or at least say, they could stop drinking or using anytime they wanted. They may even stop for a few days to try to prove their point, but they’ll soon become irritable and return to drinking to take the edge off. If it ever comes down to a choice between you and an addict’s addiction, their drug of choice will always win. For that very reason, you need to always put yourself first.
If you are dating an addict, it is just a matter of time before he or she hurts you or becomes abusive. Your love cannot help them. Only the addict can decide if he or she is ready to get help, and even then it’s a long and difficult process. Abuse frequently intensifies as he or she tries to get sober. Get out of the line of fire and save yourself.
The following checklist will help you recognize an addict before you get too involved. If you can check off three or more symptoms and behaviors below, he or she is toxic and will only make you ill if you stay.
___ All our dates involve heavy drinking.
___ He or she can drink a lot without seeming drunk.
___ He or she always has more than just one drink.
___ Everything he or she does involves drinking.
___ He or she doesn’t go places that do not serve alcohol.
___ He or she has a drink before we go out.
___ He or she has alcohol in place of a meal.
___ Once he or she starts drinking, he or she drinks until falling asleep or passing out.
___ He or she gets defensive if I question his or her drinking.
___ He or she is moody and irritable when not drinking, but happy and enjoyable when drinking.
___ He or she neglects work, school, or other responsibilities to drink.
___ He or she is behind in his or her bills or rent but still buying alcohol and/or going out.
___ We miss or are late for appointments because of him or her.
___ When I’m with him or her, I drink more than I usually do.
___ I have ridden in the car with him or her after he or she has been drinking.
___ I’ve told a lie to cover up his or her drinking.
___ I have been hurt or embarrassed by his or her behavior.
If you’re unconvinced you should leave a relationship with an addict, I highly recommend finding an Al-Anon meeting in your area. Al-Anon is for people who love an addict. Visit www.al-anon.org for more information.