I fell in love when I was 25. It all seemed like magic. We were the weirdest, happiest rom-com I had ever seen! Within the first month of dating we went on a tropical vacation and spent a week in paradise knowing we were meant to be together. Within four months we moved in with each other. That’s when I realized my love wasn’t just having fun on the weekends. He was getting blackout drunk Friday through Sunday nights (on random weekdays too), and no one could stop him.
I loved him and would try to be there, offering help, begging for him to stop drinking so much so he could be healthier and in turn we could be better together. Nothing worked. He would stop drinking for a week and then binge the next weekend. He refused to seek professional help. I began to see that this would be my life with him. A half life where he was only present part of the time. I stayed with him for another year, but nothing changed and I couldn’t live that life anymore.
We’ve reconnected a few times since then, but everything is the same. My love for him doesn’t change, and his love for alcohol remains the same. I think of him often, even though I’m in a relationship with someone else now. My new guy is wonderful, kind, loving and knows his limits.
I keep wondering if I will ever truly love someone like I did my first love? I keep a small piece of my heart locked away for him. He’s a part of me, and I know I don’t need to let that go, but maybe I do need to let the dream go that we will ever be together or that he will ever change?
Also, is it fair for me to be with my guy when I know part of my heart is still with someone else? How can I let my last one go and find true love again? Is it possible? I want to think I could truly love my current boyfriend, but I still feel held back, and the doubt and guilt is killing me.
Thanks for your advice, Bonita!
You are doing yourself no favors by holding on so tightly to something in your past. I think it’s fair for you to continue to date while working through your feelings for your ex, but you should be upfront with your partners about this issue and let them know that your heart is sorta-kinda-mostly off limits until you can let go of someone from your past. And that’s exactly what you need to do.
I would like to share an ancient African American proverb with you: “Shake them cuffs and let ’em go.” You’re never going to find real love or achieve self-actualization if you’re still holding out for your ex to change, and especially when you can see that he’s got no desire to recover from his alcoholism.
A reader once criticized me for recommending that another person walk away from a relationship with an alcoholic, but I’ve dated enough addicts to know they will put their addiction first until they are personally ready to change. They will always pick instant pleasure over dealing with humanity. There’s nothing we can do as their loved ones to “change” them, per se; we can only love them, but loving them doesn’t mean enabling their addiction or putting ourselves in harm’s way.
You can still love this guy, but being “in love” with him at this point is doing you more harm than good. Put yourself first and live your life to the fullest. You don’t need a guy around to do that, either. This drunk guy loved you, sure, but it’s also very clear that you two moved way too fast—a vacation and move-in by month four?
Get the stars out of your eyes. He’s a fun-loving, functional alcoholic, like so many guys in this town, and I’ve had to learn the hard way that you should not tie your future to a person who is fine with being a drunk. Shake them cuffs and let him go, and apologize to your new guy while you’re at it.
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