Life with an Alcoholic

As long as I don’t pick up a shift, Sundays are usually our lazy day. Yes, we can get a tonne of errands and cleaning done. But we like to sleep in, laze around a bit, and just plop down in front of the tv at the end of the night to watch so old Bar Rescue reruns.

And, there’s alcohol.

This past Sunday we had to go visit the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s father, about a 45-minute drive from here. So he got up a bit earlier than me and had a few sips of whiskey and a beer for breakfast. When I hopped in the shower a little bit after noon, he was sipping on a Snapple cooler. And just before we left, he finished the last half shot of whiskey.

Then we had to stop and buy more booze.

After driving for 45 minutes, we pulled up in the driveway…….. and he pulled a cooler out of the bag in the back seat to “slam back a quick one” before heading inside. Another cooler while we sat around and chit-chatted. Then it was off to dinner. We beat his dad to the restaurant, which meant he had time to sit in the parking lot and slam back a radler. Then there was a pint with dinner.

When we got home afterwards, my shoes were barely off before he was cracking open another drink.

And this all leads to more intense discussions and fights about his drinking. Some of the fights are long, drawn-out duels of stubborn quiet and harsh looks. Others are loud and frightening, ending with me bawling my eyes out and him sleeping in the other room. And sometimes, like last night, it just takes one or two comments to set a timer in him, waiting for me to do one thing just slightly not the way he wants it so he can explode.

Last night, I heard music coming from our room after he went to bed. I poked my head in the door, expecting to find that Bowser Kitten had hopped up on my desk and turned on Spotify with the keyboard again. He seems to have a thing for Talk Talk and Violent Femmes. Instead, I found AAB laying in bed watching a video on his phone. Then, I walked away to go get ready for bed.

When I came back, AAB was in a mood. He accused me of being “uppity”, meaning I wasn’t acting the way he wanted me to so I must have some sort of attitude problem. I told him I was just trying to pull some blankets out from under me, and flipped. Grabbed his pillows and half-yelled something at me about being “uppity” when I saw him laying in our bed because I apparently didn’t want him there. Then he stormed into the other room. I had to go in there a few minutes later and tell him I was just checking to see if my computer was on, and was surprised to see him still awake. His mood did a complete 180 and he crawled back into bed with me.

And this was a pretty normal weekend for us.

I will be perfectly honest with you: life with an alcoholic is anything but easy. It’s frustrating, maddening, depressing, and makes you doubt everything you ever thought about yourself.

Between my college and university friends, my line of work, and my family and friends outside of that, I have known a startling amount of people with alcohol issues in my life. You would think that I, of all people, would know better than to get romantically involved with someone with an alcohol problem. It wasn’t even like his problem was a secret: I worked at the store he came into twice a day to buy his booze. That’s how we met.

Alcoholics are not bad people. They’re just people who are not able to control their cravings and need for alcohol, to the point that it changes their mindset and their behaviour. Many people can have issues with alcohol, get help, and go on to live very normal lives. Some people have to abstain from alcohol altogether for life, while others can have a few drinks every now and then without relapsing completely. But being with someone who is in the deepest throes of their addictions, someone who is not in control, can really take a toll on both you and your relationship. Before you get involved with someone with an alcohol problem, consider a few things that I’ve learned in the 2 1/2 years that AAB and I have been together so far.

1) They will lie to you about almost anything.

“I swear, I didn’t have anything to drink before we got to the restaurant. I just didn’t eat today, so those two drinks hit me really hard.”

“I only hit the beer store today. I didn’t stop at the liquor store because I didn’t want any hard liquor.”

“I’m not day drinking. I just had a quick drink with Harry after our shift, that’s what you can smell.”

“I’m putting money aside so we can take a vacation together this year. It’s all coming out of my former drinking money! Aren’t you proud?”

Over time, an alcoholic becomes an expert had lying and hiding things from loved one. They’ve had years, maybe decades, to practice their excuses. They’ve gotten away with things to some extent for so long that they think no one can see through their wall of bullshit. With this mindset, it takes more effort to tell the truth than to lie to someone’s face, no matter how much they love them.

No matter how supportive of them you are, they will lie to you. No matter how much they say they won’t lie to you, they will lie to you. You will reach a point where you have to question every single thing that comes out of their mouth, and question what isn’t coming out of their mouth.

2) You better like guilt trips

I’m pretty sure I hear the words “I just can’t win with you” more than “I love you” these days. AAB will tell me something that he knows will upset me, but try to frame it in a way that makes he sound like he was trying really hard to be good. When I’m still upset, he makes it sound like there is absolutely nothing he can do right in my eyes.

I’ve known alcoholics who guilt their friends and loved ones over anything. It’s a way of deflecting negativity away from them. If they can make someone else feel bad for the way they treated them, then maybe they won’t notice their addiction.

Also, AAB has made sure I can never leave him because of the ultimate guilt trip. While his drinking is still really bad, it’s better than it was before. Instead of a 60oz bottle of vodka and a few beers a day, he has a bunch of coolers and maybe a mickey of whisky. And he’s made it known that if I ever try to leave him, that’s all it will take for him to snap and go back to his old ways. He’ll wind up drunk and be living on the streets, all because I couldn’t just be supportive of his struggle and put up with his “bad habit”. He’ll be a drunk on the street and it will all be my fault.

3) You are constantly doing too much and too little for them, even if you’re doing exactly what they said they want you to do

I once knew someone who drank themselves into a ridiculous amount of debt. They maxed out credit cards and took out payday loans that they just never paid back. When they got into a relationship, they told their partner to take complete control of the finances. Together they drew up a budget, settled on an “allowance”, and even looked into starting to pay off debts.

This lasted almost 4 days.

Then the yelling started. “You’re too controlling. You’re such a nag. Why can’t you just treat me like a real man and let me live my life?” All their partner had done was do exactly what they were told to do, and apparently, that was all wrong.

I go through this with AAB quite a bit. He’ll tell me to hold him accountable for his drinking and the things he says and does while drinking. Of course, the second I actually do that I’m suddenly “uppity” and “a nag”.

These plans they make are made with good intentions. That’s as far as they’ll ever go through, usually. The second any of this interferes with their ability to drink at will, it all goes out the window. And the second you try to stick to the plan that goes against them being able to drink at will, you are the enemy.

4) When you think about everything you’ll miss out on because of your partner’s drinking, you’ll start resenting them, even if you love them. Especially if you love them.

My friend I mentioned above will never be able to buy a house with their current partner. They can never get married because that would mean legally joining their finances which would ruin his credit score because of his partner’s ignored debts. He’ll never be able to take a vacation, or buy a new car, or enjoy pretty much any of the nicer things in life that he had hoped for. Instead of joining finances towards a common goal, he has to keep a tight eye on his finances while his partner squanders away his own paychecks on booze each week.

And I’m in that same damn boat.

There were things I wanted in life that I know I will never have as long as AAB and I are together. He’s in the same drunken debt hell as my friend’s partner. Even the little things in life that I had wanted, I know I’ll never be able to have. Like I always wanted a little mini bar in my home. I had the beginnings of one when AAB and I met, and he drank his way through that. I can’t even keep booze in the house for myself without hiding it.

Speaking of that…..

5) You’ll start hiding things.

The last time I left a full, unopened bottle of my favourite whisky (which I have to go across town to find) on top of the fridge, AAB drank it and then hid the bottle behind other bottles so I wouldn’t notice it was empty. I’ve lost count of the number of bottles of liquor he’s stolen from me. He once even stole a Christmas gift I got for my dad and drank it.

Now, I have a collection of little make-up bags full of mini liquor bottles hidden in my sock and underwear drawers so he doesn’t drink them. I have my good booze hidden in my closet and my knitting bag. I have my emergency cash hidden in envelopes taped to the bottoms of drawers because he’s taken money from me. And I know I’m not the only one who does this.

I’ve known people to hide alcohol, money, prescription medications, even cold medicine from their addicted loved one.  It’s not because any of us want to hide things from them. It’s because if we don’t hide things like these, they’ll get stolen. The money would be taken for booze, booze would be drunk, cold meds are taken when booze isn’t available.

And it really sucks, knowing that you have to do this.

6) They’re probably going to get pretty damn mean

After a bit too much whisky, AAB gets mean. He flat out admits that he’ll say things to me that he knows are hurtful, just because he knows they’ll hurt me. When he’s drinking and I do even the slightest thing wrong, he’ll want to mentally and emotionally hurt me as bad as possible.

A few of my very close coworkers (my work family) know a bit about this. They’ve seen it in him, and have seen it affect me. They also know that I’m very accident prone, and have been showing up to work with random cuts and bruises since long before I met AAB. Still, Sugar has pulled me aside multiple times to make sure I know that she’s there for me if any of those injuries are from him. All it takes is one bad night for him to go from screaming to slapping someday.

And that scares the hell out of me because I’ve seen it happen way too many times.

I have nightmares about the day he finally snaps, and this seems to be a common thing among some of the people I talk to in online groups for loved ones of alcoholics. I know people who won’t leave their loved one home alone with their kids, or even their pets because they don’t know how they’ll treat them once they’ve had a few drinks. Me, I have nightmares that he finally snaps and hurts me real bad. The worst dreams are the ones where he hurts me and the tiny adorable Bowser Kitten too.

7) You’re going to worry all the damn time

A lot of the alcoholics I know drink during the day, even when they have to work. Quite a few of them drive vehicles. A bunch of them work jobs involving heavy machinery. One even worked in medical settings at one point and was responsible for distributing medication to patients. Can you imagine knowing your husband or wife is going to be half-drunk, behind the counter in a pharmacy-like setting, and their job requires incredible focus and accuracy to make sure they don’t give out the wrong meds and kill someone?

I worry when AAB gets behind the wheel of our van because I never know what he’s had to drink beforehand. I worry when he’s at work, whether he drinks there or not. I know other alcoholics work there because they were customers of mine too. I worry when he shows me pictures on his company’s website of the machines they use because there could be a drunk person on that machine right this very second while he’s working with it. Sometimes when he passes out in the afternoon on the weekends, I worry that his body is just going to give up on him after a decade of heavy abuse and he’s just going to die right there in front of me.

 

Don’t get me wrong, AAB is a great guy….. sometimes. If he wasn’t, I would’ve walked out on the first date. He’s smart, sweet, artistic, caring, and generous. But alcohol destroys all of that and leaves him a tired, cranky, mean shell of the person he was before.

I don’t know what will happen with the two of us. I have dreams of leaving him, of starting over again, but I can’t do that to him. He’s already said that would drive him to drink more. I feel like I’m trapped; like there’s no use in trying to figure out my feelings for him because I’m stuck with him no matter what.

If you’re with someone who has a drinking problem, or any addiction problem at all, know that you’re not alone. A quick Google search can pull up support groups and hotlines for your area, where you can turn to deal with how their drinking is affecting your life. And if you’re not ready to reach out like that publically, I’m always here. You guys can all reach me at TheFailedGrownUp@gmail.com anytime you need to vent, need to cry, or just need to know that you’re not alone out there.

Until next time, Sunshine.

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Updates

Wow, I really forgot how much I hate having random roommates. The creepy roommate left for 8 weeks to go visit his family and came back very early this morning. I’ve been hiding out in the bedroom all morning with my homemade granola, trying to avoid him before I’m sufficiently caffeinated to deal with the world.

I have to talk to random people all day at work, where I’m awake and chipper and full of flavoured water and bubblegum. I don’t want to have to do the same thing here, not even showered, with someone who thinks that every time we pass each other in the hallway we absolutely need to have a long and awkward conversation.

I guess that’s par lately, though. I’ve kind of avoided coming on here the last few weeks because……… well, everything just sucks. And when everything sucks, my brain goes blank. I can’t even write erotic friend fiction anymore, much to the disappointment of my coworkers.

Right after Easter, our hours were cut at the store. Not just “well, guess I can learn to survive on 25 hours instead of 30 hours” cut. I mean “well, that 37 hour week was nice. What the hell am I going to do with myself when I only have 4 hours next week” slashing.

For the entire month of April, I was lucky to get scheduled for more than 4 hours a week. The boss pulled me aside, went over the scheduling and budget with me, and swore things would get at least a little better. Just not any time soon. So, I had to start looking for a second job.

Had a few interviews, got a bunch of rejections. Then I signed up with a placement agency that seemed super promising. They recruit for a place I’m dying to work for and said they always have openings there. They promised they’d send me every listing for there as it came in. That was weeks ago, and I haven’t seen anything since.

I’ve spent days going over cover letter tips because those damn things are the bane of my existence. I’ve got at least half a dozen different versions of my resume ready to tailor, and have a small collection of application packages from various local businesses. Basically, when I’m not at work I’m at home looking for work.

That doesn’t seem to matter, though. The second week of April the boss called me on one of my many days off. The transfer notices came out for our district, and I’m being transferred to our downtown location.

Now, there’s a little group of us who have worked together for years. When they built our new location, we did the move from the old one together. We’re like a little family, the five of us. So as soon as I got off the phone, I went into our online group chat to tell them the bad news. Turns out, all five of us are being separated. Four of us got transferred to different stores, with one staying behind. We have been a collective emotional wreck since that day.

This group of us is family. We’re all super protective of each other, and of the other people at our store. When the big scary customer guy came threatening me and stabbing at me with his pen, it was my work family that came to my rescue and got him out of the store.  We’ve gone to each other’s kids’ birthday parties and weddings. We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, cats, and Sundays together sitting poolside with too many drinks. MamaBear’s two sons are my favourite little gentlemen, while PapaBear’s kids are the cutest little balls of awkwardness and hyperactivity. Sugar and I (she calls me Cinnamon because of my red hair) have been leaving chocolate bars in each other’s lockers for years now. And the WorkBFF, well if I get into why she’s awesome I’m going to start crying again.

There have been a lot of tears shed, and a lot of group hugs. Our last day at this store is Saturday, and it is going to be one sloppy day. The WorkBFF and I are closing together that night, and don’t think we can make it through the shift without crying a few times. Every time we close the store together, she drops me off after work. The last few times, I’ve managed to contain my tears until I’ve gotten out of the car in my driveway.

Throughout all of this, things at home have been ridiculously strained. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend has been anything but amazingly awesome. I’ve caught him hiding alcohol from me a dozen times in the last weeks, and caught him shopping at other liquor stores to hide his purchases from me. He’s been back on the hard liquor with a vengeance, and his drinking is just spiralling.

We had planned on doing so much together while our roommate was gone. Instead, we spent more time sleeping in separate rooms than together because of the fights about his drinking. His drinking puts a huge strain on our relationship, and his lack of caring makes it worse.

At night, I fluctuate between two types of dreams now. In one, AAB gets drunk and angry with me. I know he would never hit me in real life, but he does in my dreams. He hits me, or pushes me, or tries to hurt Bowser. Whatever he does, I wind up getting hurt badly while he just rages on.

In the other dreams, he’s gone. I’ve left him and started over in a new apartment alone. I have a cute little bar cart, Bowser has a sibling, I have plants growing on the window sill. I’m happy. Even though I’m working all the time and super stressed in the dreams, I’m still happy to be alone.

I don’t think it’s possible to leave him, though. He’s pointed out dozens of times that regardless of how much he’s drinking, he’s still much better than he was when we met. The only thing that would ever drive him to drink like that again would be if I left him. If I left him he would drink himself out of a job, and a home, and wind up on the streets. If I leave, then that will drive him to drink even more, and it will be my fault that his life is destroyed. I can’t do that to someone, and couldn’t live with myself knowing I’m responsible for someone else’s alcoholism.

I’ve spent the last 4 weeks in a constant state of panicked haze. Nothing seems real, nothing seems safe. I’m constantly waiting for something more to go wrong. Every time I drive with AAB I panic, wondering how much he drank so far that day. I’m constantly worried that he’s going to hurt himself or someone else while he’s driving, or while he’s at work.  And he gets so mean and demanding when he drinks, too. The other night he announced that we’re getting a kitten, he’s picking it out, and the sometimes scratchy Bowser Kitten needs to get declawed because he’s a vicious beast of an animal who will kill anything smaller than him.

This was also the day after he out-catted Bowser Kitten in the Battle of the Bathroom Centipede. Bowser was too gentle with it, and it almost escaped. Oh, that vicious little beast, eh?

I’ve been trying to write more to take my mind off of everything, but nothing is coming of it. At least, nothing I can throw on here. I have dozens of half-finished pieces sitting on my desktop, and a few more scribbled in notebooks. I don’t know, maybe I need a new blog. Or multiple blogs for multiple genres. Or maybe just stop altogether.

I don’t know, my brain isn’t clear enough for rational thought anymore. I think it’s time for my lunchtime cry now.

“You’re Lucky I’m Not Beating You”

It was yet another fun-filled night with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend. Everything had started innocently enough earlier in the day. I did my taxes online, and he was wondering if I could do his this weekend for him. Of course, I agreed to, but said I had some ‘non-monetary fees’ he had to agree to first: for two whole weeks, Monday to Friday, no hard liquor and no drinking during the day or before work.

Now, for most people, this would be a very simple thing. But a year ago, AAB was doing all those things to the extreme. He was drinking heavily during working hours, drinking as soon as he woke up in the morning, and continuing on until he went to bed at night. He was beyond broke, spending every last dime on alcohol. But a year ago, he went to go “dry out” and to start getting his life together. He swore to me that there would be no more morning booze, no more day drinking during work hours, and no more hard liquor. Every night after work, he would buy two or three beers or coolers from the store I work at, and he was fine. Over time, a few of the rules were bent a little bit. Every Saturday when he’s done work for the week he picks up a 26 of whiskey. And when he has a really really rough day at work, he will very occasionally pick up a half-mickey of whiskey for the evening.

In January, I caught him with a cooler at 6:30am while he was getting ready for work. He swore that it was a one-time thing until I caught him again a few days later. He swore that he only started doing that when I was working my 6am shift for the holidays since he was up so early with me every day. Then I caught him going to other liquor stores, trying to hide what he was buying from me so that I wouldn’t know he was buying whiskey. He was once again hiding booze around the house, trying to drink behind my back. I would go to pull the Tide-scented Bowser Kitten out of his laundry basket, only to have a half-empty mickey of whiskey fall out at my feet. What I thought was more than 8 months of him doing so well with his quasi-sobriety was crumbling before my eyes.

So when I saw the opportunity present itself, I made my two-week proposal to him. He kept saying that he needed to get back on track, and he wanted to dry out a bit. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for him to do so. Instead, he told me he couldn’t do it. He’s fine giving up the hard liquor during the week, and not drinking during work hours. But he refused to agree not to drink in the morning because apparently he’s been doing that since he went to dry-out a year ago. He’s been doing this for a year, all the while he’s been swearing to me that he wasn’t doing it. He was lying to my face for an entire year.

And that’s where the fight began. He argued that it really isn’t a big deal that he’s been doing this because he’s been functioning just fine every day. I have no right to be mad at him for lying to me about it because he was only lying to me to protect me from his drinking. I tried to tell him that I was embarrassed and pissed off because I had spent the last year believing in him and trusting him, only to find out I was a fool and he was doing this behind my back. That’s where the real gems started flowing from his mouth.

“Hun, that’s why I lied. I hide things from you, so you won’t be embarrassed about me hiding things from you”

 

“You’re only upset because you’re a woman. Women take things to heart. Guys say shit, and then they’re jsut over it and can be buds. You’re just too girly.”

 

“I didn’t mean [insert mean personal comment] when I said it. I just say shit like that because I know it hurts you. I don’t mean it, I just want to hurt you.”

He went on like that the entire time we were cooking dinner, and well into eating dinner. He picked on my self-esteem, my work schedule, my job, and even my eyesight at one point. Every time I tried to make a point or ask a question, he would talk over me. He would raise his voice over me again and again, and then flip out when I raised my voice to try and be heard. I told him time and time again that the drinking itself wasn’t the issue right now. I understand that he is an alcoholic, and we agreed to a maintenance program as opposed to complete abstinence. If one small cooler in the morning is what he needs, either physically or psychologically, then that’s something we can work around. It was the constant lying and the smug way he rubbed it in my face that he had gotten away with it for so long that was the real issue.

Now, as I always say, I am by no means a perfect person or a perfect girlfriend. I’m sure there are things I said wrong, or things I should have said that I didn’t. I shouldn’t have raised my voice as often as I did, especially since I was doing so out of sheer frustration. And I shouldn’t have let him get to me so badly. But he said one thing that, no matter what I said or did wrong last night, he had no right to say.

“Look, it’s just a drink. Why are we fighting? I mean, you’re lucky I’m not beating or slapping you around. Just let it go, consider yourself lucky.”

He looked me in the eye and said the words “you’re lucky I’m not beating you”. Seriously, he said that, meant that, and honestly thought I should be happy with his lies because things could always be worse.

And I didn’t just stand up and leave him right then and there.

I feel horrible today. I feel like the biggest hypocrite in the world. I have spent years telling friends that if a man ever talks to you that way, you leave his ass. It doesn’t matter if you love him, he obviously doesn’t love you. But here I am, sitting at my desk in our shared bedroom, where I’m going to have to sleep next to him tonight because I’m not strong enough to leave him.

Right now I don’t know what I’m going to do. I know he would never actually hit me. He’s never thrown a real punch in his life, and we both know that I’m strong enough to more than defend myself against him. When we first started dating he wanted me to slap him for some reason; he thought it would be funny. When I refused, he slapped me across the face. I slapped him back, and then lifted him up over my shoulders and walked him to the door. I told him then that he was being drunk and stupid, so I wasn’t making him leave. But if he ever raised a hand to me again, I would have no problem dumping his ass on the porch and locking him out. And now here I am, doing absolutely nothing about last night.

I know it was somewhat the booze talking. We have these fights all the time though, and they’re just getting worse. He seems to think this is normal, that after every fight things will just go back to normal. He thinks he can say and do whatever he wants, and in the end, we’ll just be together no matter what.

After last night, though, I don’t know how much of this I can take.

Mommy Needs Vodka…..?

It’s almost 5pm and I’m just sitting down to try and write and eat some pizza pockets before the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend gets home. I got the short shift today, and it was completely dead. I basically stood on cash all day, waiting for someone to find something I could do while I was up there to pass the time. I just kept going over in my head all the things I needed to get done when I got out of there. I cleaned the kitchen before I left for work, but I still had the bathroom and the floors to do. Desperately needed a haircut from a professional, and not just from me in the bathroom with scissors trimming my bangs. Gotta clean out the fridge, wash all the Tupperware in there, wash the hallway walls where AAB puts his grubby hands after work while he takes off his shoes, and all with a killer headache from mold exposure, stress, and lack of food.

Of course, while we were in between menial tasks that needed to get done on our slowest day of the week, we stood around talking about what we all needed to get done outside of work. While we were all comparing lists, making sure no one forgot anything important, we all just kept saying the same thing back and forth to each other:

Don’t forget to pick up some wine. You’re definitely going to need a drink after today is done!

And you know what? We probably all will have a drink tonight. Or two. Or three. It’s a normal thing for us, actually. We work with alcohol, deal with people buying alcohol, and have become friends with some of our customers because of our friendship developed due to alcohol. Come to think of it, a lot of my friendships have revolved around alcohol to a certain extent. I made a lot of friends in university through a fraternity and at frat parties. Most of my friendship outings somehow involve alcohol. Even this weekend, when we have our girls’ day at the Christmas Homes Tour, we end our day at a winery for samples and wine shopping. A lot of our lives at some point involve alcohol.

I was going to write a big long post about how alcoholism is so accepted in our society today it has become mainstream, but I just don’t have it in me right now. I typed out a whole bunch, and then took a break from writing for half an hour to go attend to the bathroom. Wound up scrubbing mold off the ceiling, dousing myself with vinegar, and soaking mildew in baking soda and vinegar in the bathtub where it meets the shower walls. I have so much going on around me today, and I just can’t keep up.

Truth be told, I had wanted to write about alcoholism because it’s all around me, constantly. A good friend and member of my work family is dealing with it right now, and it’s affecting all of us. Every time they have to miss a shift, or wind up in the hospital, or go on a binge, we all have to scramble to cover the shifts they miss. I worry myself sick waiting for a text or Snapchat message (it’s the only reason I keep Snapchat, to keep in touch with them) to make sure they’re ok. We all drive ourselves nuts trying to look out for them. Some of us have more experience dealing with this outside of work than others, some of us have more patience than others when it comes to this. But it’s rough for everyone.

Part of the problem, at least on my part, is that our job is to support alcoholism. I have customers that I see multiple times a day. We know they’re not buying cheap vodka on the regular to stock a really crappy bar with. They’re there because the vodka they bought when we opened that day is gone, and now it’s time for their afternoon vodka. For most of these people, we can’t physically prove it. They don’t smell like booze, they’ve been drinking like this long enough that they can walk and talk just fine. They don’t seem drunk in any way when they come up to my counter. If I didn’t know they had already been in once or twice that day already, I would never know they’ve already been drinking.

I feel like I am directly responsible for their drinking. I know, that’s a crazy thing to think. If I wasn’t working the counter when they came in, someone else would be. But still, I sell them booze. I know damn well that they have a problem, but legally I still have to sell to them.

We’ve had some customers that we’ve become close with over the years. Some of them are our weekend regulars, picking up booze for the weekend. Some come the same day every week or stop in for a beer or two after work. Some come in sporadically, but are super friendly and talk to everyone like we’re old friends. And there’s some that are Regulars that we get to know. We had a really sweet woman come in all the time for her beers. My work BFF were ready to adopt her when we found out just how bad her drinking was. When she shouldn’t afford to buy her beers, she was pocketing vodka and beer and then distracting us with her sweetness to get away with it. When she was caught, she was banned from the store.

And I cried.

Most of you out there don’t know this, but the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I met through my work because he was a Regular. Twice a day he was in for vodka and/or beer. On our first date, we talked about his drinking in an open and honest way. When we started dating, he told me how much he wanted to quit drinking. He tried a few times to quit completely, and we eventually settled on another method of sobriety. Instead of quitting completely, he very strictly controls his drinking now. In a lot of European countries, the treatment for addiction includes smaller doses of the addictive substance. We do somewhat the same thing, but instead of a maintenance shot during the day or something like that, he has a few beers after work. He’s gone from drinking a 40 of vodka a day to just a few beers or coolers. He can even make a 26 of whiskey last the two of us a week, and that’s with me making the odd Manhattan with it.

This hasn’t exactly been easy though. He’s slipped up a bunch of times. We have some pretty major fights about his drinking. He’s had to battle with this daily. And when it came down to it, when I knew he was lying to me about his drinking and that he was drinking a lot more than he was letting on, I still had to look him in the eye and sell him his damn booze with a smile on my face.

So when another customer has a problem like that, it gets to me. I know what she’s putting her family and her friends through. I know all the different things this city offers to help someone sober themselves up, and how each of these things can fail. I know what it’s like to be the person waiting at home for a loved one who “just ran to the store” when you know they’re really just drinking. I know what it’s like to find booze that’s been hidden from me to drink the next day when someone has already sworn to me that they’re not drinking during the day. I know what this customer’s family is feeling because I’ve felt it too. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it because it’s my job to put on a big smile and just ask you if you want your booze in a bag or not.

I’ve been around this a long time, so has AAB. We both have alcoholics in our families, we both presently drink, and we both have friends who are alcoholics. Hell, I’ve got a glass of cabernet sauvignon sitting here next to me while I write this. And I feel like absolute crap when I think about the friends and families out there who are dealing with an alcoholic loved one tonight because of the booze I sold them. I’ll be walking down the street sometimes and see a really cute family, and suddenly the thought creeps into my mind: “is their mommy or daddy one of my Regulars? Are they living through their own personal hell because I told them booze?”

I’m sure there are lots of people out there who deal with this, especially in this city. We are a city full of bars, restaurants, and strip clubs. I know, it makes this place sounds nasty, but all cities are like that. We just happen to have of some of these things than a lot of other cities. I know a tonne of people who work in the industry. I’m sure at least a few of them have had these thoughts at some point. I just have no clue how to ask. I mean, what the hell do you say? “Hey man, you ever look at a regular customer and wonder if you’re partially responsible for ruining their life because you sell them alcohol? No? Well, you’re gonna start thinking things like that now that I brought it up, that’s for damn sure!”

I don’t even know where I’m going with all of this. This is just something that has been getting to me a lot lately, more than usual. I can’t get these thoughts out of my mind sometimes. I know a lot of you are reading this thinking, “Well why doesn’t she just quit her job? Find a new job, one that doesn’t involve alcohol.” The truth of the matter is I really do love my job most of the time, and I really love my co-workers. I have been looking for another job for years, one worth leaving this place for, and I’ve found nothing. Yes, I could take a job somewhere else for less pay but more peace of mind in these matters. But I’m barely keeping food on the table as it is, and financial instability is a huge anxiety trigger for me.

I really don’t know why I wrote this all out. Reading it over, it just seems crazy and silly and scary and pathetic all at the same time.

You Can’t Change Them

I just want to say something real quick to anyone out there who needs it:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving someone who is dealing with addiction. There is nothing wrong with loving a family member or friend who has substance abuse problems. And there is nothing wrong with falling in love with someone who has an addiction.

It’s going to hurt, though.

There are going to be good days, and bad days. Whether they are abstaining from their substance of choice, trying to control their intake, or are in the throws of a full-blown bender, there are going to be some days worse than others. And no matter how much you love them, how much you try to help them, how much they love you and appreciate what you’re doing for them, they will hurt you.

You can’t change them.

You are not responsible for monitoring their every move, tracking their addiction. You can’t make them get clean. You can’t guilt or shame them into rehab. They have to do these things on their own. You can give them support, you can help them when they need it, but they are the ones who have to make the decision when and if to get clean, and to what degree. They are the ones who have to put in the work.

And it’s not easy for them to get clean, no matter to what degree. It doesn’t matter if they want to stop completely, cut back a bit, or just make themselves a bit more functional: it’s not an easy task for them. They will have to deal with this constantly, every day, for the rest of their lives.

There will be times they slip up, times they fail. There will be the days when everything seems all sunshine and roses, and things seem like they’re getting better. Then there will be the days when they lash out at you, when nothing you do for them is right or enough, when it seems to you like they’re not even trying anymore. And if you want to remain a part of their life, a part of their recovery, then you have to deal with these days too.

I am in love with an alcoholic. He is not interested in total sobriety, but instead wants to manage his drinking so he can drink socially and responsibly. And I totally support him. There are days when he will have a few beers after work, we can watch TV together, and everything is great. There are days when he has a bit of hard liquor, and still manages to control himself. And then there are days when he has a bit of liquor, and is a whole different person. He can be mean, he can be cruel, and can completely shatter my heart.

But when he’s sober in the morning, I make sure he knows what he was like the night before. I make sure to tell him, “You were drinking a lot, and here is what you said to me, and here’s how it made me feel”. Yes, there are nights (or weeks) where one of us sleeps on the couch. Yes, there are a lot of tears shed.

But I know that he is a good person, and he is trying. Yes, he will have his days when he overdoes it. He has his demons to deal with, and that is never easy. Through all of this, I am trying to be patient. When he drinks and lashes out, or says nasty things, I don’t let it slide. I tell him flat out, “Just because you were drinking, doesn’t make this ok. Even if you don’t mean it, or would never think that when you’re sober, you still said it while drunk and now there’s consequences.”

I make sure to ask him what he needs. I ask him how I can help him. I ask how I can support him, how I can help him deal with things, how we can work together to help him. I will not take on the full responsibility of his addiction, I will not baby him or make excuses for his behaviour. I only want to help him do what he needs to do to get through this.

So anyone out there in this same situation, just remember: you can’t change them. You can be there for them, you can help them, you can do all sorts of things for them to make their battle a little bit easier to get through. But they have to put in the work; you can’t do it for them.

For anyone out there who needs help while loving someone with an addiction problem, there are groups out there you can join. One I’ve been looking into lately is Al Anon. While this group is aimed at the friends and family of problem drinkers, many chapters do have resources for other addictions. You can check out their website HERE for more information.