Carolyn Hax: Al-Anon can supply valuable insight

The Washington PostApril 8, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I am dating a very-newly-recovering alcoholic; he's been sober five months. We have known each other for almost two years and share many friends, most of whom knew him when he was still married and witnessed the toll his addiction took on his past relationship.

We have taken our relationship very slow. I have not pressured him to make any commitment other than to sobriety. As a result, we recently dropped the "L" bombs and are in a committed relationship!

Here's the problem: Our closest friends can't seem to be happy for us! My best friend told me our relationship makes her "anxious."

How do I get our friends to stop acting like at any moment he is going to go on a drunken rampage? I am not blind to the possibility of a relapse, but is it too much to ask that people see him for the loving, strong man he is for me, and stop making everything about his alcoholism?

ALL THEY SEE IS THE ALCOHOLIC

I see the alcoholic, too - but I also see a cute-ism (" 'L' bombs"), a dash of codependency (the "loving, strong man he is for me," emphasis mine), and a predominant interest in the way you appear to others.

Would you please, please please, for you, go to Al-Anon? It's not your job to change the way people look at or think of your new love. Al-Anon would be an appropriate tutorial not just in recognizing that boundary, but also in preparing yourself for the possible challenges in sharing your life with an addict. Many have been down your path and have wisdom to share.

And while it is, again, not your job to serve as your boyfriend's publicist, it would probably help settle your friends' nerves if they knew you were taking seriously the challenge of dating a man in recovery.

Your closest friends' opinions are theirs to have, period. But it sounds from your own description as if they came to these opinions through the hard experience of watching him self-destruct. That suggests they're not just being busybody downers, and you take their insights lightly at your peril.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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