I get a few emails and admit that sometimes it takes me a while to answer them. Since retiring, I haven't been as vigilant on checking email as I used to. It would seem that now I would have the time--LOL--but funny how I seem to fritter away time doing all kinds of things and still stay up until midnight.
Anyway, in an email post, a fellow wrote to ask my thoughts on dating an alcoholic. First some background, I haven't "dated" in years. As a matter of fact, when I first met my wife, it was at a party, and she was drunk. Our attempts at dating ended up being non-dates. We worked as graduate students in the same building, saw each other every day, so we would just hook up and go do something together. We attended a lot of graduate student parties where there was a lot of drinking. By the end of the evening, she would usually be drunk, and I would watch over her. Some of the greatest times that we had were when we got away from the party scene and went camping on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Like Lois experienced with Bill W. when they would hit the road on the motorcycle, getting away from the parties and having a geographic cure were times of peace and normalcy.
When I look back on those crazy years, I see so many red flags. But I was in love and that does strange things. Also, I was already co-dependent so I thought that I could change things, protect her, make her happy, and so on. Our relationship has had a lot of ups and downs. But since we both have been in recovery programs, things have been much better. I love her and know that she loves me. Are things perfect? No. We are both sick people getting well. There is not much use pretending otherwise.
So when asked whether I would date or be in a relationship with an alcoholic, I have to say that I would not. I once heard someone say that they would no more start dating a practicing alcoholic or even someone
in their first five years any more then they would have unprotected sex
with a rabid streetwalker that was foaming at the mouth. Funny, I didn't think of any of that at the time C. and I met.
I am attracted to alcoholics because the ones I know are intelligent, funny, spontaneous, and loving. Sober alcoholics who have worked the steps, have a sponsor that they use, have a heightened level of accountability and spirituality. But I also am aware that the alcoholic and I think differently in many ways. Maybe we each are broken in places that still need fixing. And eventually those broken parts grind against each other.
My experience would be to take it easy and go slowly....in all relationships. If you meet someone who sparks something within, take a breath and listen. You may hear something that is really important, like "I got drunk at...." or "I got arrested
at..." or "I hate so and so because blah..blah..." or "I like to party..." or "I'm new in sobriety..." or "I can handle my drinking ." These would have me signalling frantically for the waiter to bring me the check. And admittedly, the scariest statement made to an alcoholic might be "I don't know what's wrong with me. I just pick jerks and assholes. I am like an asshole magnet. I think my chooser is broken." Flashing lights, danger alarms, and the Augah sound of a diving submarine should signal to run for the door. But so often, we choose to ignore what we are told directly because the
rules don't apply to us: "She will change for me", "I'm different" or "Love can conquer all". Really? Ummm....no, what you see is what you get.
But there are some exceptions to the rule out there. There are people who we meet who get their act together, we get our act together and things work out. But the big "rule" that seems to be truth with few, if any, exceptions is we pick our mirror. So if you want to date an alcoholic, then proceed with caution and be aware that you might be like
"Forrest Gump" when he opens that box of chocolates. You don't know what you may get--it could be a box of crazy mixed up nuts and not some smooth center. It takes practice and a lot of being centered to get the picker tuned up and "stick with the winners".
I've written before that I wish everyone would work the 12 steps. It provides a level of accountability and insight that is so important. Those who simply go to meetings and say that they are recovered may actually do great harm. The best relationship to have is first is with yourself, the one in which you have your own best interests at heart, where you trust yourself and won't compromise yourself when you see a red flag or a boundary that is broken.
yourself, listen to your flags, triggers, intuition, feelings and
issues. With awareness, loving kindness and forgiveness, you can change
what no longer supports your beliefs about life. Sacrificing
yourself for someone else is not love and it's not healthy. Accept your
limits, know them and state your boundaries. If it
looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is still a duck regardless of how dynamic and charming it is.
Dating someone in recovery can be boiled down to this: The Odds are Good, But the Goods are Odd ~~Anonymous