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Options Give You the Power of Boundaries

Dear Harlan: My boyfriend and I are having problems. We have been together for just over a year. At least three times a month, he comes home so drunk that I’m not sure if he’s going to be OK. I’m talking about throwing up, moaning and peeing on himself. We recently moved in together, and I’m realizing that this is not just him having a good time, but a sign of a bigger problem. I’ve told him that I’m worried, but he laughs it off. Hanging out with his friends is a big part of his life, and drinking is what they do. In his mind, he’s not hurting anyone. I’m tired, fed up and sad. I’m worried he’s going to take it too far. I’m even more freaked out about how this is what I’m going to have to face in the future. Nothing seems to get through to him. We moved in together, so breaking up is a lot harder to imagine. Can you please help me? — Very Upset

Dear Very Upset:  Close your eyes. Imagine walking through the door of your new apartment. There is a beautiful purple orchid on the table. See the pictures of your family and new boyfriend on the wall. Your life is balanced, happy and healthy. Imagine it. I’m not telling you to break up with your boyfriend; I’m just reminding you that you have always have options. Options give you the power to set firm boundaries. You also can imagine your current place with a sober boyfriend. Your boyfriend has a drinking problem. It’s a problem because you no longer can take care of him. It’s a problem for you, and that means he has to control it, stop it or stop dating you. That’s it. Don’t make this about him; make it about how you feel. You are not comfortable taking care of him when he’s drunk. You don’t like feeling scared. You don’t like worrying if he’s alive. You don’t want to live like this. If he can’t control his drinking, can’t get help or doesn’t want to get help, it’s not going to work. You need to be the one who makes it clear what you want and what will not work. Be prepared to move on. For more support, reach out to Al-Anon ( and a counselor who deals with addiction.

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