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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hugs and Alcohol

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 27, 2016

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There are many ways to be hurt by an alcoholic partner, even if he’s in recovery, but figuring out who’s responsible for that hurt can be a lot more complicated. That’s because alcoholics, be they sober for ages or still steadily soused, are well-practiced in victimhood, which makes them very good at explaining hurt in terms of what you’re doing to make them unhappy and very bad at taking responsibility for their actions. So if you consort with addicts and want to avoid undeserved blame, you’d better know how to tolerate hurt, tell right from wrong, and stand up for your own convictions. Otherwise, you’ll also end up with a lot of unnecessary heartache.

-Dr. Lastname

I married my recovering alcoholic ex after he’d been sober for three years. We went through hell and back together and I stuck by his side through it all, but our marriage only lasted six months— it took that long for him to tell me he isn’t attracted to me anymore and kick me out. Of course, I smelled the booze on him as he said it, because he’d actually relapsed. I’ve moved on somehow, but still feel angry, especially since I just got off all my anti-depressants. My goal is to figure out how to get over this massive, mind-blowing disappointment.

If we knew the surefire way to completely get over disappointment (or grief, heartache, the finale of The Good Wife, etc.), we wouldn’t be writing this post, not just because you’d already know the/our patented answer, but because we’d be so rich that we wouldn’t have to do anything all day but eat grapes hand-peeled by our army of helper monkeys and therapy dogs.

Unfortunately, we can only offer the smart-yet-less-satisfying way to deal with disappointment, which is to accept only the blame you deserve and learn from the experience. It’s not advice that will make us millions, but it does help.

Unlike your ex-husband, you didn’t stop loving someone because he made you feel uncomfortable, so you probably won’t stop being hurt by his betrayal too easily, either, no matter what you do. When you can’t stop the hurt, it’s natural to feel like you must be doing something wrong, but that doesn’t mean you actually are; you’re just learning from sad experience, namely that you can’t judge sobriety by sobriety alone.

Your ex’s years of sobriety were a real accomplishment, but many sober alcoholics continue the bad habits that come with addiction, which makes their sobriety, and stability in general, precarious and insufficient for being a good partner. Like your ex, they can still look for immediate satisfaction in many other unhealthy ways, without regard to long-term consequences and without much capacity to tolerate hurt, frustration and boredom without doing something negative, even if that something isn’t getting sloshed.

Most marriages, no matter who’s involved or what their relationship to booze, are frustrating and humiliating at times and require patience, restraint, and an ability to ignore minor issues. When the barely sober “dry drunk” is faced with this stress, however, he’s more likely to lose perspective, get nasty, and seek comfort elsewhere. So, while not drinking is an essential component, sobriety is also measured by the way one responds to hurt, pain, and injury. In all probability, there were warning signs of your ex’s weakness that you didn’t know how to recognize, but now do.

Perhaps the fact that you went through hell and back together, as you put it, was a warning sign; loyalty stops being a virtue if it prevents you from dropping bad relationships. Perhaps you get as over-attached to relationships as your ex does to booze, and if you don’t learn to be more selective in your attachments, you may relapse (into another bad relationship) just as easily as he did.

In any case, don’t let the resulting pain tell you that you’re weak or a failure. Let it teach you to hold back from commitment, regardless of loneliness, until you do careful screening of prospective partners. Then you’ll be stronger as you look for something better, even if you don’t feel better in the process.


“I feel devastated and weakened by the debacle of my marriage, but I know that being single is a lot better than marriage to a bad partner and I now know what a bad partner looks like. Regardless of how I feel, I will benefit from this experience.”

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