Does My Boyfriend Drink Too Much?

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    I don’t come from an alcoholic family, but since going to college drinking has been a big part of socializing. I met my boyfriend when I was in my early 20s and he was eight years older than me. Over the years I have become less interested in getting tipsy and more interested in exercising, eating healthy, exploring the city I live in, hiking, pilates, yoga, traveling and just thinking about life and consciousness and why we’re here, spirituality…

    My boyfriend, however, seems to continue his same drinking patterns. There is alcoholism in his family, and when we have time off he always wants to grab a beer or go to a happy hour or spend time somewhere watching a game and drinking the day away. I usually have to be the letdown and tell him I have to go home and do work, which makes me feel lame, but I’m creative and like to work on creative projects. Drinking seems to be the default thing he wants to do. (Though he does go hiking with me sometimes and loves to cook/travel.) He says he is not an alcoholic because there are people in the world who get up in the morning and drink some wine, but needless to say he loves to drink and often has more than two drinks/day. (But usually doesn’t get sloppy. That’s reserved for one time a week, maybe two. Holidays are worse. I’ve talked to him about it, but he just seems to stare at me blankly until I stop talking.)

    Now, he lost his job two years into our relationship. It’s now five years later. His drinking became worse and worse – culminating in a DUI and a potentially very scary accident on the freeway. Thankfully no one was hurt, but he refused to talk about this incident or the fact that he could have killed someone or himself. He also never wants to talk about his job search or our future. He basically says I nag him anytime I try to bring up his drinking or job search (which is not that often). He just won’t talk about it. Ever. He says it makes him depressed. And he’s living off savings so I’m not supporting him so what’s the problem.

    He hardly wants to be intimate anymore and blames his depression and place in life, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it (I don’t know, because he won’t talk to me). He often says he’s a loser and I should just break up with him, but it sort of feels like a challenge. Like he’s being defiant. Meanwhile, I hate to see him drunk and hungover, playing video games and checked out after drinking binges. (This isn’t every night, maybe once/twice a week – argh, why am I defending him?).

    He loves to unwind with a scotch at night. I don’t know if he’s an alcoholic, per say, but alcohol is a huge part of his life. He loves it. And it sucks that it seems to always crop up when we travel or take day trips somewhere – again, I like one or two glasses, but four+ every time and then the stumbling and smelling it on his breath. I don’t want to tell him to not drink or change him if it makes him happy – he won’t go to AA or see anyone. He says he can’t afford it. And he just doesn’t want to, let’s be honest.

    I just turned 30 and don’t know if I want alcohol to be that big a part of my life. It’s bothering me more and more to think that if I stay with this guy we will often be on alternate levels of consciousness – reality is different when you’re sober vs. when you’re tipsy – and I realize more and more that when he is opening up and talking to me he is drunk – and when he is sober he is quiet, reserved, unable to communicate. He says life is boring, that’s why he drinks.

    It all seems tied together, like he’s hiding from reality: Lack of communication. Intimacy. Drinking. Job search.

    I asked him if he had plans for our future or his future even and he said he doesn’t think like that and I should think in the present day – the moment – but we’re going on seven years now and I feel like you should be able to talk about the future with the person you love.

    Again, I love hanging out with him and besides the above we share so many similar views. He’s home to me – he would never hurt or abuse me. He’s funny, charming, considerate. He takes care of business and is highly intelligent, brilliant even. But I know he’s never going to give up drinking. And it depresses me that it’s always such a huge part of his life and he won’t talk about spirituality or religion or life/future stuff with me. He says I’m too much in my head and should live in the moment. I think that’s a cope-out.

    Argh. I think I need to break up with him. I just… how much drinking is too much drinking? I guess when I say it is? Looking for advice. Something. Alternate points of view. Anything really.

    I’m lost and currently not lovin’ it…


    Unfortunately, he does drink too much and yes he is an alcoholic. As painful as it may seem or will be, it is necessary for you to break off this relationship as it will only get worse and he will drag you down with him. There isn’t anything that you can do as this is a disease and professional help is what he needs. You cannot be his lover and his therapist at the same time. Leave that for the professionals. If you were to ask him which does he or the alcohol, I am afraid his answer won’t be you. I know. After a 10 year relationship, he choose the bottle and I had to end the relationship. It is difficult to walk away from the one you love, but in the end, you are worth much more than what he is offering you. You are young, so don’t waste these years trying to succeed with someone that will only bring it to a sad end. Use this time to heal, reassess your own values and look for someone that will meld with you. Wishing you luck and a new relationship that will honour and love you for the wonderful person that you are.


    I have had relationships with recovering alcoholics and active alcoholics. The focus you have, on your boyfriend, is a backwards, and dis-empowering approach. You are giving away your power, by trying to decide if your boyfriend drinks too much. So if half the people you asked, said “no he doesn’t drink too much” then all of the sudden you would be okay with this behavior, I think not. You need to find your truth. YOU have to decide — does he drink too much for you.

    You have no control over other people, places or things. You are powerless over the alcoholic. The only thing you have control over is your self, your actions, your emotions, your boundaries. So the thing for you to decide is — is his lifestyle too much for you? You can’t change him. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend you try to be overly understanding, overly responsible, overly giving, overly accommodating, to get him to change. That is all still manipulation.

    Your job is to now make decisions, based on what is in alignment with the highest good of your life, your truth. Then if he wants, he can come along. For instance, you might say, “I am not going to drink this weekend,” he may say he wants to, so you say “okay,” and you go do your separate things. He has a choice, if he wants to be hanging out with you, then he doesn’t drink. Now you have to let go of the outcome. This is where the work comes in. Your job is to find acceptance, that his path is his path. That he may not want to follow your boundaries. And his choices have nothing to do with you. Noting to do with YOU.

    You decide how to live your life, if his lifestyle choices are in alignment with yours, then great. If not, then you move on. But I can tell you from experience, that alcoholics change when they want to. You might be served by doing some studying on codependency. You really have one priority, and that is finding out how YOU want to live your life, then setting healthy boundaries around that. Regardless of whether or not someone likes them, wants to follow them, will change. We do this work for ourselves. We love ourselves first, and healthy relationships grow from that. Not from trying to change, cajole, bargain, manipulate other people to live the way we want them too.

    You are right where you are supposed to be. Take one day at a time. The answers will come. Keep seeking and you will find the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


    That fact that you’re asking the question means that you already know that answer. From an outside perspective I would say; yes, he’s an alcoholic. Clearly!

    It’s very easy for me to jump up on a soap box and shout at you to LEAVE HIM, but you have to come to this realization yourself. In fact, nothing I, or anyone else, says matters. You have to look in the mirror and have an honest conversation with yourself.

    Like (the wise) Megyn suggested; if I were you I would look into and learn about “co-dependency”. It’s not a “bad” thing. It’s, largely, just a product of an empathetic person in a difficult situation.

    Please do not judge yourself. That’s easy to say but very, very, very hard to do.

    Chalk it up to experience.

    Yoga and meditation can help you as well as (free) support groups (Al-Anon).

    Your friends and family may not be able to help so I wouldn’t expect too much from them. You’ll have to really delve inside – really learn how to love yourself.

    You’re going to be fine! You’ve already taken the hardest step – reaching out. The rest is easy – comparatively.


    To Megyn.. Thanks for the well presented information for Lost and Lovin it. You covered many aspects of the situation and where she is at this point. I especially liked your statements of ” not being overly understanding, overly giving, overly accommodating, etc, as these are very clearly aspects of a co-dependent relationships. And it is very easy to become this way when trying to convince yourself that the person is worth staying with. Sometimes in the search to be loved we don’t hounour ourselves first and enough. Hopefully Lost will find herself first and move to where she needs to be.

    Ryan Viola

    From my Point of view I just want to say that I think your boyfriend is in limit. May be you are not from alcoholic background, that’s why you are thinking a lot.


    I was reading your post and thinking that your boyfriend sounded like a heavy social drinker (which is “normal” in some cultures). That was before I read that he had already negative consequences from his drinking (the DUI) and that he said that “life is boring that is why he drinks”. I think that in some cultures alcohol plays a big role in socialising and people always drink something when they meet. Also people consider normal having a drink or two at night. However, 4+ drinks (what do you mean exactly by drinks? standard drinks?) every time he drinks (which seems to be everyday) and getting sloppy drunk 1/2 times a week seems a bit too much. Apparently he does this on his own (you didnt mention that it happens in a social context) and apparently also to cope with negative feelings. You are seeing this as a difference in “lifestyle”, because you seem to want to spend your free time in a very different way. This would be of course a problem and already difficult to cope with. However, I think that your relationship shows more problematic elements. I think he has an unhealthy relationship to alcohol, you two are lacking intimacy (basic in a relationship under my point of view) and you are probably obsessing about him, unable to make a decision and making excuses for his behaviour (codependence). You can’t choose how he is acting and what he is doing. You can only take care of yourself so as some people suggested, you need to find out for yourself what to do. I would recommend you would get some external help (therapist?) and give this relationship a break until you find out what your feelings really are and what your decision is. Feel free to message me (I have been in a very similar situation lately…). I wish you all the best

    Joshua Denney

    @lostandlovinit I don’t have much to add, since there have been plenty of great things mentioned already, and you seem to know what you need to do. I did want to mention the film Smashed, which may help you see a different side to your situation. Yes, it’s “just” a movie, but I found it to be quite realistic in its portrayal of addiction and alcoholism, and co-dependency.


    Thank you all for your help and guidance. They’re very helpful. Very empowering. Very hard.

    I think I am co-dependent on him. Argh.

    As for what he drinks, it really depends – mostly wine/beer and then ending the night with scotch or whiskey. Sometimes he’ll make drinks – like margaritas, Rob Roys. He’s very good at making drinks. He’s definitely the type of person that never wants the party to end and is jovial among others and wants people to keep going because he doesn’t have a stop button. His words. And it’s fun. Sure. But it’s also distracting for what I want to do with my life.

    So…it’s a bummer. Yes. When I leave him I stand to lose a significant chunk of change. He hasn’t paid me back yet, and he just doesn’t have the money. He feels bad about it, but…yeah. I think if I stay for that sort of reason it’s just going to drive me insane.


    I agree with most on here in that, you are posting here because you need external validation that your concerns are valid. We can not tell you that, only you know what is right for you. One thing I noticed is that you listed off all of his good qualities. I have no doubt he is an amazing person who is capable of some great things. Unfortunately when people are addicts, be it alcohol, drugs, gambling, hell even love. The other dynamic that develops is one of codependency. The addict/codep relationship is generally very toxic. You said he doesn’t abuse you? do you mean physically? Just from reading your synopsis, emotional abuse may be present, that can be even worse.

    Alcoholism can be in the form of physical addiction or psychological, sometimes both. My ex had a psychological dependency on alcohol, his answer to his problems was to run to the bar with his friends and get drunk, because it was “fun” and sometimes reality isnt always fun. I put up with the drinking and the drunk driving. Its not just disrespectful to themselves, its disrespectful to you, their family and anyone who cares about them none the less the innocent people on the street they could kill. DUI is now and forever will be a deal breaker for me. Its a red flag to an over arching attitude problem and lack of self accountability and awareness. The fact he doesnt want to talk about it, means he knows he was wrong but doesnt want to own up to his bad choices. A relationship with someone like that is going to be a hard road to hoe.

    You can not love someone into changing, that is the mantra of the codependent. I hope you find the peace you seek, remember it all starts and ends within us!


    Wow…Crazy how life goes. I was looking for answers about the same question, and here i am reading all these magnificent responses. I’ve went to my very first Al-Anon meeting earlier this week. At first, i stepped back, because i saw a lady i knew. But then, it was my place, she and i are in the same boat.
    I was so tired…so so tired when i got there. The night before, I’ve watched my bf getting drunk again, counting the beers, sitting through a lot of yelling, madness, anger from him.
    For months I’ve tried in all ways possible, to control his drinking. Tried it all. Tears, manipulation, lies. You name it. I’ve wasted countless hours sitting here beside him, just to watch if he was getting drunk again. Instead, i could have just taken care of myself.
    The morning after, i took an important decision. It would be the last time i would sit here, trying to control him.

    I didn’t realize how crazy i was becoming, i didn’t even know what co-dependency meant. This is my first relationship with an alcoholic. Myself, i don’t even drink socially, i never drink, and I’m 42 y.o. For some reason i cannot still grasp, I’ve always been saddened to see ppl having addictions, even with strangers! It affects me a great deal. Like i carry them all in my heart. Especially alcool. I am a cashier in a grocery store and i see the same ppl coming every morning at 8, hands shaking, getting beer. It hurts me still, and i make a great deal of effort to get detached from this.

    I wasn’t aware of my bf’s addiction when i met him. I saw him having a beer or two like my dad, and that didn’t worry me. But i had a little surprise…
    No, he’s not a bad person, he has an illness. I know it now.
    No, our efforts to control other people’s drinking habits won’t succeed. Always a failure.
    And the sooner we understand that we are powerless, the sooner we can heal too.
    Yes he is mean with me when he’s drunk, he screams at me very often for reasons that escape my logic.
    And yes, he’s always full of promises the day after, very apologetic. He truly feels the shame to have lost control again.

    But i am stronger now, i saw my own issues too, i know i can regain the control over my own life and look away from his.
    It won’t be easy, in fact it’s gonna be hell! Yesterday i was battling anxiety cause i was at work, and he was at his home. I could not see what he was doing ( if he was getting drunk again, when he said he wouldn’t) but i managed and didn’t call him.
    I went straight at my place after, and he gave me a call. Yes he was drunk. Was my worry useful in any way? Not at all.
    I may leave him, i may not. I feel so much better to know that i will be fine, no matter what….! Because I’ve got ME! I am not him, i am not living his life. I used to be in peace, i used to take care of me. Now i became co-dependent.

    Whatever you do, don’t take any spontaneous decisions. Prepare yourself a while, repair yourself too.
    Love won’t change him, no matter how much you give.
    But love him anyway, whether you’re with him or without him. That’s gonna change YOU!


    Just for an update, I decided to move out of my boyfriend’s apartment about five months ago. Life has been really great, and it was only with the distance of being apart that I realized how much he was ignoring me in the last few years. It was all good as long as I didn’t challenge drinking habits (ask him to DD sometimes, or maybe just have a few instead of unlimited), talk about the future (for us or him), ask him how the job search was going (he was unemployed for over five years), or talk to him about intimacy/communication issues. By being apart, I saw just how much he really was not “seeing” me and was completely disrespecting me as a human being. I feel kind of like a fool, to be honest, to hold on SO LONG to a relationship because of sunken costs/dreams/whatever. But it’s hard to have a future with someone who doesn’t want to communicate or want to kiss me.

    With all this said, I do still love him. Even though I feel like an idiot saying so. I’ve left it open with him and said that if he wants to talk about the above or work on us, if he sees a future with us at all, then I’m open to talking… but so far he’s ignored my requests, yet he doesn’t want to stop talking to me and still sends me pics of beautiful sunsets and stuff he’s cooked that night, etc. He just doesn’t want to change or talk about what he loves to do (drinking, not working, etc). And I suspect he doesn’t even really want to be with me either. I feel like when a man – or anyone – wants to be with someone else, they reach out and try in some way. He’s just not trying at all. It’s very eye opening to see. That I was the one really reaching out and he wasn’t meeting me halfway. Hurts though.

    I’m glad I did this at the age of 30 though and not decades from now. Still, it’s really hard – but I’ve found that I can be independent and live on my own. It’s kind of nice. Plus, friends and family have been very helpful and supportive of my transition. It’s nice to know there are people out there that want me to succeed. And to be happy.

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