This is What Dating an Alcoholic is Like

date-addictionMy attraction to addicts is uncanny—I joke that I can find a room filled with 100 people and instantly be drawn to the ones with a drinking problem.

Growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent is a unique kind of rough. As a child, you love this person so intensely and are so dependent on them. Then there’s the inevitable fact that they are emotionally incapable of demonstrating their love in a way that will seep into your bones the way kids need it to. There’s a merry-go-round quality about the systems and functions and habits that occur in an alcoholic home. Soon enough, that merry-go-round becomes a hamster wheel and even after you’ve grown up and moved out, you still run races you’ll never win. And ache for a love deep down in the recesses of your being–in that unfillable void–that you’ll do anything to feel OK and thus you reach out for stuff: people, food, money, status, drugs, anything. Including more alcoholics to love you better.

When I was 18, I moved in with an alcoholic/addict who was verbally abusive and a perpetual cheat. He convinced me I was special and different and I was so desperate to get out of my house, that I shacked up with him and his mother in a two-bedroom apartment in Canoga Park. I was a drug addict and I had recently lost my virginity with him. I was vulnerable in a way that I’ve never been again. I also realized that my asexual tendencies at that time—which resulted from my troubled home-life coupled with sexual orientation shame and simply being a late bloomer—could be quelled by alcohol. I’ve never had a problem with alcohol like I have with drugs, except that I have used it on several occasions as an emotional crutch.

Just to be safe, I tend to abstain from alcohol for the most part.

My boyfriend was violent and angry and his family couldn’t stand him. I, on the other hand, was stupidly loyal. Despite obvious signs that he was cheating on me, including women’s phone numbers in the pockets of his jeans, folded up flyers to strip clubs and the monthly solo road trips he took to San Francisco to “clear his mind,” I simply refused to act on my suspicions. I was too afraid to be alone. My mind—or the “danger zone” as I liked to call it—was simply not a safe place for me to be without the distraction of a man.

He was the first alcoholic man, in a string of men and women, who would fill my dating diary.

I also dated women who drank and did drugs. My attraction to addicts is uncanny. I joke that I can find a room filled with 100 people and instantly be drawn to the ones who have a drinking problem. For better or for worse, there is a comfort and familiarity in the inner workings of an alcoholic that doesn’t exist with others.

After nearly 15 years of dating, fucking and loving alcoholics, this is what I’ve come to know about the subject:

• Alcoholics believe they are the biggest piece of shit that the world revolves around. I didn’t make this up. It’s a clever joke I heard from an alcoholic.

• Alcoholics feel constantly criticized and fear being controlled.

• Don’t try to boss around an alcoholic.

• You can’t make somebody stop drinking. They have to want it for themselves. (Read that several times if you need to.)

• Your phone calls/texts/emails will go unanswered, unreturned and ignored if an alcoholic is overwhelmed, overworked or feels unappreciated.

• If an alcoholic cannot handle the topic of conversation, they will ignore it (and you).

• Alcoholics tend to be self-centered and self-obsessed and immature.

• Their egos are strong. Stronger than your best intentions.

• Alcoholics fear they are not going to live up to your fantasy of them.

• Alcoholics fear failure… a lot.

• Alcoholics pity themselves.

• Alcoholics make empty promises.

• Alcoholics lie, cheat & steal.

• And they will steal your heart, too.

• It’s not always obvious straightaway that you’re dating a drinker. An alcoholic doesn’t always look like a gutter rat.

• In fact, in my dating mind, they tend to be attractive, outgoing, charismatic and rebellious in a sexy way (in Los Angeles, anyway. Think Robert Downey, Jr.) thus your resolve gets weakened more than once!

• The thing is, even if an alcoholic is in program, and running a decent one, they are still human and imperfect.

• I will always have a soft spot for alcoholics because the first person I loved was one.

After attending a 12-step program for several years, my ex used to say that I had such a handle on the alcoholic mind that I knew how to “drive” an alcoholic. Not, like, drive them crazy… but I get how to maneuver the car and can even keep four wheels between two lines along those steep corners. If there’s a landslide, I remain calm. Read more “the fix”…

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