Asked and Answered 0612: Head in the Sand?

Written by Alain Trudeau and Palika Trudeau, M.A. in Psychology



My boyfriend is drinking a lot. Sometimes he gets so drunk he doesn’t come home, and I get very scared. He says he’s sorry and won’t do it again. But it still happens. He seems to function well in many ways and says he drinks more when I pester him about it. He does not think he has a big problem. Should I just drop it?



My question for you is: Can you just drop it? Yes, dropping it would ease the immediate conflict that comes when you bring up the topic. However, can you really just put your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away?

Let’s explore this question a little further. Do you respect him less, trust him less, and feel less emotionally connected to him when he drinks? If you answer yes to any of these questions then chances are you will not be satisfied in this relationship in the long term. Although you may be capable of ignoring the issue for some time and externally appearing satisfied in the relationship, your heart will slowly close if you don’t authentically feel safe with him.

Substance abuse is a common problem that people face in relationships. And when you’re emotionally attached to someone, having invested your hopes and dreams into a life together, it is not easy to accept the fact that their substance abuse is incompatible for who you are and what you really want in life.

When your partner is addicted to a substance, they are actually in a relationship with that substance. They will crave, look forward to, and seek refuge in their addiction, not you, leaving you empty and hungry for attention and love that will never be fully delivered. It is like being in a threesome and you are the third wheel, the primary partner in appearance only.

Addicts typically lie, make up excuses and blame you or others so they don’t have to take responsibility for their behavior. In fact, they commonly feel they are the victims. They are victims of you harassing them, victims of life and just victims in general. At times they will sincerely apologize, then engage in the same behavior, disrespecting you and your relationship again and again. Being involved with addicts is very exhausting. And when you’re so tired that you have to leave, they may blame you for abandoning them, being disloyal and unloving—desperate attempts to manipulate you into staying and enabling their sick condition.

Many people wonder why their partners do not simply choose to abandon the addiction for the sake of love or family. But you have to understand that they are more in love with their substance than they are with you. They are under the comforting spell of the intoxicant, which keeps them blind to the scary fact they are now disconnected from themselves, their loved ones and life. The reliable substance consistently soothes by seductively whispering, “Everything is ok.” A much needed message which the user believes wholeheartedly, even while they are losing everything…and lost.

Basically, the user is powerless to make healthy choices, they are delusional and under a spell, and don’t even know it (hence the term “spell.”) Who actually knows that they are under a spell?

I have seen people waste a lot of time and go through a ton of suffering trying to be in a relationship with addicts and trying to lovingly help them realize they have a problem and get clean.

It’s really up to you to decide what you’re willing to accept in your life: A beneficial relationship with a healthy, available person or a noxious relationship with a person who is not emotionally accessible. Certainly leaving a toxic relationship is not easy, so consider attending a group like ALANON to help you get clarity and support you in your decision.

Life is precious. I personally recommend getting clear about your path in life, living it, and choosing a partner who aligns to your same values and lifestyle, creating a quality of life that facilitates growth, service and well being.