Friday, March 16, 2007

Red Flags

Dear Aunt B,

I am 31 years old and have been single for a very very long time – 5 years. In those 5 years I’ve met a few guys and dated a fair bit but 7 weeks ago I met someone very special someone who I click with but several issues are coming up. I’m scared that I may be finding things to sabotage the relationship, or that I am being naïve – we get on so well, we talk, connect, click, really like each other and are really attracted to each other. He calls when he says he will, says all the right things, spends time with me and my friends but he drinks 7 days a week, from 3 beers up to 12 beers a night. I’ve asked him to cut down and he agrees but has only been sober or didn’t drink at all once really. He starts drinking with his brother when he gets home from work, has cut down a bit for me, I virtually [do not] drink so it’s a problem for me. It also stinks and makes him snore.

He is putting on a lot of weight almost 5kgs in the short time I know him, eats a lot off junk food, eats triple the amount I eat and it is so off putting. I am a bit of the obsessive eating disorder type, always worrying about my weight and am watching someone cram wedges in his mouth.

He has an 8 year old son who I met once and told his dad he didn’t like me. So the next day my boyfriend barely spoke to me, touched me or looked at me in front of his son.

Later when we spoke he told me how important his son is to him, told his family that I was in a mood (which I was) and twice has laughed at me when I’ve told him how insecure I get.

Am I fooling myself? It’s 70% fantastic, loving, has potential and then there are these things – I am not sure if I should be having such issues after such a short time or if I am looking for trouble.

I would love your advice!

Dear Reader,

This is a tough one, my friend. I may have to shoot from the hip on this and hope, fervently, that I do not hurt anyone's feelings.

At 31 years old, I assume your fella, is similar in age? Regardless, I think, you have every reason to worry here. We'll attempt to address the most important situations first.

I don't know if you've read any of my other posts? In the event that you have not, I will tell you, I am an addict in recovery. I drank like a fish, lived with a man, who drank like a whale and we are both recovering from drug addiction, where my drug of choice, was Heroin. I have been clean from heroin for 9 years. I tell you this, so you may know two things; there is hope, it is possible to rise above addiction and I speak from experience.

True love, is deaf, dumb, blind, crippled and crazy and sometimes, plain ol' stupid. Often times, you will not see fault. I do believe they call it, "Falling in Love," for a reason, you just might "Fall."

Your guy, without a doubt in my mind, is an Alcoholic or so it appears. You just can't sugar coat this. He may be, what they call a, "Functional Alcoholic," but the label fits. A person that drinks more than an occasional beer, as in this case, is no longer a social drinker. There is no gray area here. It is only gray, if the person is in denial and paints it gray. Now, this does not mean he is a bad person. In fact, I think he may have fallen into what I like to call,

*The Great American Myth; The Drinking Male™

Let me explain, using my own Dad, as example. My Dad is 77, so this is many, many years ago but it aptly applies to today...

When my Dad was 17 years old, he was getting ready to leave for the Navy. His Father, a Captain, in the Navy, told him, he was a man now and he wanted to teach him one of life's most valuable lessons. He sat him down, with two shot glasses on the kitchen table. He put water in one of the shot glasses and whiskey in the other. He then, dropped a worm, in each shot glass and told my Dad to watch. A couple minutes passed and my Grandfather asked my Dad, what he saw? He stated that, the worm in the water was still swimming and the worm in the whiskey had died. My Grandfather nodded his head, pulled out two more shot glasses, filled them with whiskey, handed one to my Dad, held one up and downed it. He then exclaimed, "That's right son, always drink whiskey and you'll never have worms. Now, drink up." This was his homespun initiation into manhood. True story!

You may have even read this story somewhere else, as I have but it may be, that is how Father's ushered in their sons, way back when. In the 60's, 70's and 80's and possibly, even today, father's still had the idea, that on their sons 18th Birthday, it was proper to throw them a booze party. I've heard, the likes, of Dad's taking their sons to a strip joint, a night out of drinking and painting the town, "Red, White and Blue." This mentality, was instilled, that to be a true man, you drank, it is your God given right. The myth, was ingrained, that you work hard, 40+ hours and when you did, you deserved to buy a six-pack of beer. That is the "Manly" thing to do. What a crock o'crap, huh? To further screw up America, we as women, in our fight for equality, have picked up this premise, as well. Statistics show that women and addiction have skyrocketed.

Unfortunately, many people, men and women alike, fell into the clutches of addiction, along the way. It's much more complicated than simply thinking that this observation is why we drink. There are three contributing factors in addiction. They are;

* Predisposition

* Socio-Cultural

* Environmental

Having a parent(s) who may be an Alcoholic/Addict or have the mentality, can be a huge contributing factor. A learned behavior is another. Going to College, binge drinking or even hangin' in the 'hood, doing drugs, watching what other people do, thinking it is what is normal, can, as well, instill a behavior, bad behaviors, at that. Values and beliefs, not to mention, the way we are hard-wired, our DNA, all play a factor in Chemical Dependency.

So, why did I tell you all this? I tell you this because I want you to realize, that it is not as simple as asking him to limit his drinking. It is a rare scenario, where anybody that drinks 7 days a week, even a simple six-pack, does not do it for a reason. It is actually rather complex, more than I can explain to you, even here. I would suggest, your investigation of addiction, to understand it better. There are medical issues, that now factor in.

*Quite often, drugs and drinking, go hand in hand. We must understand that they and their effects are also one and the same. A chemical is a chemical. Take what you learn and put it in your tool belt, it will help you understand this insidious disease.

Why is he drinking? This has to be your question, to ask yourself and possibly him. I'd bet that there are underlying problems, things he's running from, things he shutting up, chasing away. I've yet to meet anyone, who didn't have valid reasons, in their mind, why they drank. Life sucks and to live life on life's terms is not easy. Even if, all the problems go away, it's not easy to physically stop drinking, especially, after you've been drinking, at least, a six-pack a day. Now, it is a physical dependence, not just a mental, shake off the blues, situation.

Red flags must have already gone up, concerning his behavior. You would not have written me, unless that had happened and you wanted validation. Yes, I do think you need to be concerned. It's no joke and not to be taken lightly. Jumping into a relationship, with someone who is clearly an alcoholic, is a serious undertaking. Now, I am not saying it is not possible, for him to get clean. What I am saying is that all the wishing in the world, from you, won't get him there. He has to realize that his behavior is not normal. This is and does, go hand in hand with step one of Alcoholics Anonymous;

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.

How does a proud man, admit that he has fallen, especially when he believes the, *Great American Myth?™

It has to start with him understanding that alcohol has had an adverse effect on him, his relationships and will ultimately, cost him his life. He must realize that his 8 year old son should not have to watch his father, in the throws of addiction. Also, let me add quickly, that although a Father should be concerned, what their child thinks, it is not that child's decision as to who his Dad's life partner will be, should or shouldn't be. They often have a hard time accepting anyone. His Dad needs to understand that but to behave as he did is quite regrettable and wrong. That gives the child license, to be mean, if you ask me. The child may not like you but he needs to respect you, show respect and behave accordingly. I stand with you on this one. I'd point this out to your guy that you realize that, they don't have to embrace you but he should understand that you will be afforded respect and nothing less... NOTHING!

You also mentioned that his behavior, concerning eating, bothers you, right? You have every right in the world, to be concerned about his eating habits. But you must proceed carefully here, as well. Your habits are yours, his are his. You'll have to approach it, realizing that eating is also the way we were raised and so on. Eating healthy does not always come naturally. If you are serious about this guy, I suggest you just begin to show him, how to adapt. If you cook for him, make something that is good but close to a comfort food. He'll equate that, "Hey, this eating healthy gig's not so bad?" I mean something like a nice chicken breast, baked with Mashed Cauliflower (tastes just like mashed potatoes) with butter and a nice salad. You have to start somewhere, right? But I think, you've got bigger fish to fry here. Meaning this situation with his alcohol abuse, is where you need to start. This sure is no Overnite Delivery, a fix that happens quickly.

Your Answer

It is my impression, that you have a lot of red flags here, as I mentioned before. I ask you, to ask yourself, are you capable of "fixing" this fella? Do you want to fix him? It is possible to be supportive but you can not,

I repeat, can not fix anybody. Nope, they have to fix themselves and they have to do it for themselves, first and foremost.
If you choose to be supportive, I offer this analogy,
"Take that bull by the horns and ride."
This early in the relationship, you really have nothing to lose by being perfectly honest. Call it like it is, kindly, or walk away and cut you loses.

Say what you mean, mean what you say and try not to say it too mean.

AA/NA helped me and long before my true addiction surfaced, I had gone to meetings about addiction, to understand my own Father's (my real Dad) alcoholism. Study all you can and I will put links here to help you. You need a pretty big Tool Belt to tackle this one, if you do, choose to do this.
My inner loyalty, to you, says get out while the gettin's good. But if you truly care about this guy, you need to tell him so but that you will not live with his drinking. See, you have a right to be happy, too. Do not feel guilty, if you walk away now. As I said before, you can't fix anybody. This is our first mistake, thinking we can take charge of things. We can't change anybody, we can only suggest, advise and support. No, the change has to come from within, in the person that is having the behavioral problem. When you challenge someone's values and beliefs, get ready for some flak. Now, it may very well be that he doesn't like this drinking every single day and he may be aware that he has a problem. You need to sit him down and calmly, patiently ask him, if he perceives himself with a problem. Whatever you do, do not have a condescending tone. This will cause him to put up a defensive wall. He will take a survival posture and will virtually be unable to look at his problem. You've got to come off, in a loving manner. At the same time, you must make it a point, that he knows, you can not and will not live with this behavior, no if ands or buts about it. You don't have to and you won't. Now, he can go and get help, look at this, do something about it or you can go on your merry way. It's quite possible and plausible, that he may have to enter a Rehab setting. I don't believe he could physically, just quit. I recommend seeking Medical Advice, in a Treatment setting. This is very important. Please see it as just that, possibly the single most important thing I tell you; Seek a Professional!!
Tell him, it's time, to pull the Band-Aid off. Even if you were to walk away from him tomorrow, you are planting a seed. You are letting him know, that his behavior is not acceptable and he needs to get help. If he's not real receptive to jumping into a Rehab, ask him to go to an AA/NA meeting. They'll plant seeds also and they can be your support group. It's free and the coffee, is usually palatable. They are real people, who've walked down the same path.
I guess the big question here, I pose to you, is what are you willing to do, or what length are willing to go, to support your guy? Only you can answer this, right?
If you choose to support him in recover, realize that it's a life long battle. It is treatable but you must brace yourself for the storms. I guarantee this will not go away on its own. Start with talking, not pointing the finger but merely asserting understanding and willingness to support him, if he chooses to get clean. You'd better stand by what you say, too. If you tell him that, you can not tolerate this situation as it exists and if does not choose to get help, you will walk away, you'd better mean it. If you allow it, you will enable him and he will not believe that there are repercussions for his actions. You've got to let him fall before he can pick himself up. If your love is important to him, he'll see that he will lose you, if he does not seek help. Most of us addicts have to hit some form of bottom, to realize that we need to climb out. It is a treacherous climb. Throw him a line, by giving him the information, where the meetings, are located. Tell him you will help him, only if he helps himself. He'll either grab hold of that line or lay there till it stinks enough. When it stinks, as you've already said it did and he's not willing to smell it and realize he is offending, get out.
Be prepared. Have your list of meetings, do your homework if it's important enough to you and hand it all to him. Then, it is "His" decision. If you put it just like that, then he'll feel just that;
That it's his decision!

Work on one thing at a time, Girlfriend. Pray and brace yourself. I wish you only the very best. Now, go get it!

Keeping It Real,

Aunt Babz

The relative success of the A.A. program seems to be due to the fact that an alcoholic who no longer drinks has an exceptional faculty for "reaching" and helping an uncontrolled drinker.

In simplest form, the A.A. program operates when a recovered alcoholic passes along the story of his or her own problem drinking, describes the sobriety he or she has found in A.A., and invites the newcomer to join the informal Fellowship.

The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Newcomers are not asked to accept or follow these Twelve Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so. They will usually be asked to keep an open mind, to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read A.A. literature describing and interpreting the A.A. program.

A.A. members will usually emphasize to newcomers that only problem drinkers themselves, individually, can determine whether or not they are in fact alcoholics. At the same time, it will be pointed out that all available medical testimony indicates that alcoholism is a progressive illness, that it cannot be cured in the ordinary sense of the term, but that it can be arrested through total abstinence from alcohol in any form.

(Click Here for Help)

**The body stops producing endorphins. Endorphins are our body's natural pain killer. We have receptor's in our brain, where the endorphins plug in. Try to picture sockets, in the brain, similar to a car. Where you would screw in the spark plug, the endorphins plug in, when we are in pain. The correlation being that the receptors, when there is a constant use of i.e. opiates or any kind of chemical, stop producing. They think they no longer need to produce the chemical.

*How alcohol produces intoxicating effects in the brain is not entirely understood. Most drugs have a specific receptor in the brain. For example, cocaine acts through the dopamine transporter, heroin acts through the opioid receptor, and marijuana acts through the cannabinoid receptor. These are proteins in the cell membrane that shuttle the drugs into the brain cell, where they act much like your body's own neurotransmitters to excite or depress nerve cells. Alcohol, however, appears to have no specific receptor in the brain. Instead, it seems to affect the receptors for several neurotransmitters, including the gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) receptor. GABA is one of the major messenger chemicals in the brain. It reduces the transmission of impulses between nerve cells. Alcohol can either increase or decrease GABA function in different areas of the brain, leading to inhibitory effects (such as loss of judgment) and excitatory effects (such as feelings of exhilaration). Other receptors that may be affected include those for N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), glutamate, endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine. These are all natural substances produced in the brain that control things like behavior, memory, sensation, and mood. The variety of chemical pathways that are disrupted can explain the myriad effects that alcohol has on behavior and brain function.

For additional information, see the following websites:

This comment was sent to Aunt B via email...


Thank you very much for a very honest answer. It’s funny I have teased him about being an alcoholic but as you said it’s a functional abuse of alcohol – he acts fine, he seems fine.

I have read all your advice and will take it on board. There are a few issues we will need to address and at least this way I can support him and have a potentially healthy relationship rather than fix him or feel like a victim. If he can’t see himself with a problem or is unable to seek help – I feel so much for him already; I am not sure where this will go. I really appreciate your answer.

What really scares me is while there are so many good things and such a good connection; there are so many cons as well. I keep finding issues and problems with things and I am wondering if I am a wannabe fixer and a bit of a control freak who is after the perfect boyfriend. I also need to accept several of my own habits and tendencies as my own and his as his.

Thank you for also saying that you have dealt with your own addictions and sought help –

Much appreciated

Phew I feel so much better getting this all out and seeing what I have to deal with; I was thinking that I am such a sabotager.

*The Great American Myth; The Drinking Male™ is a Trademark of BoAB


Xmichra said...

Well. I am going to just say this, and maybe it will make some sense...

When you reach a certain age of dating maturity (that age is wide on experience) you have these flags that go up. And honey, you have 'em. Those flags are telling you that 70% is just not good enough, and your pretty certain to go down hill from there.

The thing about relationships, is that they are a two way street. There are a few things that are what I call "unforgivables" and you hit two of them.

1 - we all have issuse with insecurity, but if someone proffesses love or respect, they would never USE that to thier advantage. Nore would they belittle you for them. It is the strength of ones character that shines in these moments.. or the lack of.

2 - children are bizzare creatures, but they are usually honest about their feelings. Though misguided in what the child "hates".. it is usually a projected thought process of the things they fear. Lossing another mommy, being second in his dads life, or maybe he actually doesn't like you... but regardless of that, an ADULT would sit down and let these feelings become a conversation. And an adult wouldn't react like an even bigger child by snubbing you because his eight year old son doesn't like you.

The thing about human nature is that it is far from natural. We look so hard for potential and love that sometimes we convince ourselves that 70% is fine. We can do that. But you know what, you can't. And I will tell you why in this instance.

He doesn't respect you.

Yes, he likely has a drinking problem, and an eating dissorder. But that doesn't help the respect factor. It will take a long time for him to come out of this cycle, if ever.. and I am not going to tell you to leave. But, I wouldn't. This isn't something that you can fix, this is his thing. And you have only known him a few weeks. You just don't know what a person is like until that 'honeymoon phase' is over... and you know as well as I do that if that phase is over already you are not in for a very fun ride.

If I were you I would cut my losses, and find the 100% that I deserve.

Xmichra said...

Whoops! please note the followong edit!@ ---

Yes, he likely has a drinking problem, and an eating dissorder. But that doesn't help the respect factor. It will take a long time for him to come out of this cycle, if ever.. and I am not going to tell you to leave. But, I would. This isn't something that you can fix, this is his thing. And you have only known him a few weeks. You just don't know what a person is like until that 'honeymoon phase' is over... and you know as well as I do that if that phase is over already you are not in for a very fun ride.

Aunt B said...

Xmichra, WOW! good insight, really good. I think this is another angle, a tangible angle!

Butch@CCD said...

Such a good post Babs, really good!