Uncontrollable Drinking To Controlled Drinking: Possible or not?

Thanks for sharing your story. Most alcoholics cannot control their drinking by cutting back. AA suggests total abstinence. No alcoholic I’ve ever known has been able to cut back and then succeeded at maintaining a disciplined level of drinking. The thing that concerns me the most about your story is the abuse you mentioned. Even if he is cutting back there is still an underlying current there of an abusive personality.

Guest Post By: Francesca
going in circlesHello and bless you for having such a website and for being so helpful. Straight to the point: I’m challenged to determine whether my boyfriend of 1 year is, in fact, an alcoholic or a problem drinker that can get control on his own. I raise the question because I do love and care for him and would like to be in a relationship with the person he is when he isn’t drinking or has only had 1 or 2 drinks.

Essentially, our first 9 months were verbally abusive and all of the descriptions of that I’ve read from others. The uncontrollable drinking daily, passing out, physical ailments starting from drinking. He has been a heavy drinker for almost 20 years, is fully functional in his career, and has had many failed relationships largely due to drinking.

I broke it off with him because I felt we simply wanted different lifestyles. I had practiced detachment. I chose not to blame his drinking or lifestyle – rather it didn’t align with mine. He came to me 6 weeks later, said he wanted to change his lifestyle, get control of his drinking, and would see a therapist to seek help for this and other matters of the heart and past (that we all have).

The bottom line now: He makes progress, has cut back, but is still drinking each day – sometimes 2 glasses of wine and sometimes 4 and a cocktail. I’m concerned I’ve convinced myself that this is “not an alcoholic”, but yet find I’m on edge and struggling to detach again as I keep coming to the same conclusion. We have no children, do not live together, and I’m a successful and very spiritually oriented woman. How can I determine if I’m the one in denial that his drinking will get under control or is that even possible?

Thank you so very much.

JC: I would strongly recommend that you start keeping a journal. This will really help you see the big picture of what you are dealing with here. You may be able to identify negative emotions going on inside of you due to being in this relationship. Here are a few good articles to check out:
Controlling Alcoholic
If you are getting abused by an alcoholic there are some ways that you can avoid letting these behaviors continue to affect you…
Avoid Being Abused By An Alcoholic
This is about the 6th time in the last four years that I have been right where I am. Its so exhausting. My partner is at it again…
Alcoholic Relapsing
When an alcoholic gets sober what are the chances of them relapsing? It’s said in AA meetings that if someone who has a drinking problem, quits and decides to drink again, they will go right back to where they started…

14 comments to Uncontrollable Drinking To Controlled Drinking: Possible or not?

  • C

    Being with an alcoholic is exhausting. A vibrant individual will lose their personality – the focus will be on the alcoholic – their wants and needs only. I can assure you it will get so much worse if he continues to drink. Am sure he is sneaking more alcohol when you are not looking.

  • Mary M

    Drinking is only an outward expression of many much deeper issues. If he has had many failed relationships it’s more than just the drinking that caused the break-ups. Since you mentioned abuse, I’m sure you will encounter some very disturbing personality changes even if he is controlling his alcohol problem better. I’d guess he has an anger problem and possibly some serious insecurities that will surface.

    I also totally agree with “C”, I’d guess he is slipping a lot more alcohol behind your back than you are aware of.

    I’d think it wise to keep the relationship as close to “good” friends as possible and not passionate lovers…at least until he has proven that he can really control his drinking. Even if he does drink less, the changes are huge that he will return to his previous state and possibly even be worse.

    If you are moving forward with this guy, proceed with GREAT caution!

    I also have to ask why be with someone like this?
    I have to wonder if he has a “controlling” personality?

  • sc

    I agree with C and Mary. My father quit drinking when I was 8, I saw him relapse about 5 or 6 times b4 his death. It was easy to tell when he was drunk; by the way he talked and walked. Every time he relapsed my mother and sister would take him (he would go willing) to Shick to dry out. He started to (sober) scapegoat me from age 13 on. I struggle to this day with the backlash of that and I have had many years of therapy and support groups.
    My xah was successful, kind hearted, very funny and drank wine every night. He was a very controlled drinker and this is how he got under my radar. As time went by he started to blamed and criticize me.
    He had an abusive childhood and I thought with all my knowledge I could show him how to work through it
    and we could have a good life together. I finally began reading on alcoholism/marriage and realized everything I analyzed about our relationship
    Is what alcoholics do. The alcoholic affects the brain but once you take away the alcoholic then you have someone that has a lot issue they have never dealt with. They drink to num the feelings while the rest of us work through our issues to have a better life.
    I have always felt attractive and good about myself but having lived
    In all this, I am struggling to get back to where I was.
    This will be something you will deal with for the rest of your life, in one way or another. The good side of him is real and the bad side is just as real. You never hear anyone say, my x husband was an alcoholic
    I sure hope I can meet another one.
    It’s easier said than done. But, there is a reason you are questioning the relationship. My thoughts are with you. Rehab with Dr. Drew
    And Intervention can teach you a lot about alcoholism. FYI

  • John

    Francesca, I lived in denial for many years hoping that things would change, hanging on to the good times and not really absorbing the fullness of the bad times. This is only the beginning of the relationship, do you really want to have to live with the looming fear that he may change back into that abusive person at any moment? Only you can make that decision. I’ve been there and done that and will never be with an abusive alcoholic ever again.

  • James

    Francesca, you write very well and concise and I read your note with interest. Not because of the writing however, but because I started out as you are now thinking that my ex wife was a “heavy drinker”.

    Believe me, your boyfriend IS an alcoholic. This is the first thing you must understand if you are to come through this in one piece. I’m saying this because I have been through what you are experiencing right now. I must give you the advice of DROP HIM NOW because if you don’t you will be spending a lifetime picking up the pieces in the wake of trouble that he leaves behind. I know he is fascinating for you as my wife was for me. She was so sweet, kind and frankly fascinating when not drinking…but wind forward a few years…we ane now divorced, she devestated my lifemy finances and I’m now having to pick up the pieces of my life. She has drunk away all the money she got from our divorce and now wants to come back and try again. She tells me she has changed…lol…seasons change, people don’t. It’s the end of the last scene of a three act play of living with an alcoholic, and the first scene will begin to play as soon as the last scene finishes…this is how it is. The alcoholic swears they have changed, you take them back, they drink again, you come to the end of you teather, you break up…then they say they have changed and the first scene starts all over again…do you want a life like that?

    I don’t want to see you throw your life away as I did. I have been there. And, please, please don’t get pregnant to this guy as he will destroy you. He will have power over you and you’ll never be able to pull away. Alcoholics are extremely manipulative and you are being manipulated by him, belive me. The best advice I can give you is what an alcoholic gave me, and that is “You put up with the drinking or you walk away”. I walked away after a life of HELL and I strongly advise you to do the same BEFORE this man has the opportunity of destroying yours!

  • Tami

    I have been an a relationship with my boyfriend for 6 years. I never really concerned myself that he was an alcoholic till the past year when it got worse. Many arguments and threats of being kicked out have drove me crazy with insecurities. Long story short I came across this website a few weeks ago and I am so happy I did. I have used the most important tool to not argue with a drunk. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” What a blessing! I also let him listen to some of the videos (sober) so he knows what I’m going through. That was a blessing in disguise. I’m not saying it will help but what do you have to lose? He realizes he has a problem and I consider myself fortunate for that. However, I expect relapses, which had occurred but having more knowledge about this issue has helped me through. One day at a time and keeping my head up will get me(us) through it. I know he loves me, its the demon inside him that tries to destroy him. I will be damned if I will allow that to happen. Find your inner strength, (which is love)and you will have a better chance to succeed. If not, at least you can walk away without guilt because you did all you could do.

  • Tami

    I must comment on the ones that say they will always relapse. My mother and father was one of those people. They have not had a drink in over 25 years. I am so proud of them! It can be done, but then again it depends on the person and who they have by their side to help them through it. The strong will survive and I tell you this, going through this has made me strong enough to help him through it. I’m hoping I can one day come back here and tell you that we beat it but I know its a long process. Don’t expect miracles but do expect relapses. Remember you are their only strength right now.

  • Cindy

    Francesca, you can learn how to deal with his alcoholism by attending Al-anon. It takes work to stay with an alcoholic. I’ve been with one for the past 17 years. My husband is not a mean drunk, but periodically gets angry and verbally abusive. There is a good side to him that I am so in love with. Thank God there are many more good times than bad. The funny thing about him drinking is that he is on a schedule. He never drinks before five in the afternoon. He works from home. He seems to have control over when he drinks, but is not able to control how much he drinks. Generally by 11 PM he is sound asleep in his recliner with the TV remote control dangling from his hand. Through the years he has been a great provider. I am grateful that I’ve never had to work a day in my life. I have learned that I cannot look to him to make me happy. I spend a lot of my time painting and doing various crafts. I work with children at my church a couple of times a week and attend a bible study class. The key to being with an alcoholic is learning how to have your own life apart from him, while enjoying your life with him. Only you can decide with is best for you.

  • C

    Learning to live with an alcoholic!! There are millions of people in the U.S. Why would anyone stay with someone who is unable to be 100% in the relationship?

    Undependable, lies, moody, bad memory, unable to take care of themselves and surroundings when drunk, etc.

    That is just the beginning of what an alcoholic gives to a relationship.

  • SEM

    I have a boyfriend who I considered a heavy drinker until he his bottom and I realized it was a bigger problem than I realized. He had no money, didnt pay bills, never followed through with much of anything, wouldn’t listen to others when they had complaints or concerns, was defensive or would just shut completely down. We broke up and got back together. He is now limiting his consumption. He is doing it successfully (for now) I know he has done this in the past and can maintain for several years before the pitfalls of life cause him to slowly increase the amount he drinks. When I say maintain I mean he can drink a good amount on friday night and not at all on sat or the rest of the week. Or he might have one or two during the week some (not all) weeks. I am not trying to convience anyone that this can be done, but am interested to know if anyone knows someone who has done this. He is never abusive just extreamly irresponsible when he is drinking heavily, so for me it is worth sticking it out if these are just periods of problems with years of maintaining in between. Everyone in his family vouches for this but Im just not sure.

  • Cindy

    SEM, I’ve not seen a true alcoholic in my lifetime be successful at controlling their drinking problem. One of my best friends tried it several times and eventually the alcohol on top of depression caused him to commit suicide. I also had a friend who got sober through attending a 28 day rehab. When the got out they tried to control their drinking and ended up in horrible shape and back in rehab…I think your situation is a unique one. I’ve only seen total abstinence yield the best results and even then if the alcoholic doesn’t work on themselves they can still be an psychological mess, having many of the isms without the alcohol consumption.

  • Francesca

    I wanted to thank all of you that put the thought and effort in to responding to me. You’ve given me a lot to think about and also feel. I will definitely start journaling to be sure that I’m taking care of myself and listenting to what goes on inside me. I think this will help me take control of my own happiness and begin to detach further. As when I make a decision I want to really make it with no looking back or lingering chance to reconnect with him again.

    Thank you again, very much.

  • janet

    Wow sounds like you have lived it all. The disease I mean.
    Good advise to speak how awful it really can be.

  • sc

    Here are two good articles that helped me to understand the
    crazy world I was living in.



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