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Selected Alcoholic Relationship 

Questions Answered

NOTE: The questions below were submitted to Doug and Tracy Kelley's Perfect Relationships website (no longer available). They are available here as a further resource for making difficult decisions regarding an alcoholic relationship.

Index of Questions 

My boyfriend won't let go of his ex. Where do I go from here?

My daughter is in an abusive alcoholic relationship. How do I help?

My boyfriend is physically abusing me...

Why Can't I Leave the Alcoholic?

Is It Normal for Alcoholics to Push Away Their Loved One?

Promises, Promises

The Bible, Divorce, and Adultery

Praying for a Miracle

Can I Make the Alcoholic Reach Rock-Bottom?

Should I Wait for the Alcoholic to Recover Before Pursuing a Relationship? 

Is it okay for me to drink even though I'm married to an alcoholic?

Abusive Relationship with a Co-Worker...

Husband Pursuing Other Women

Codependent Relationship Between Father and Son

How Long Should I Wait Before Resuming a Relationship with an Alcoholic? 



My boyfriend won't let go of his ex. Where do I go from here?


I am in a relationship with a man who is recently divorced, as am I. We dated each other long ago while I was a teenager. We met again over a year ago while both going through a divorce. Both of us had already filed prior to this meeting. My divorce was over in a few months but his took longer - 15 months. His ex wife is addicted to methadone, alcohol, and also takes valium, and did crack and cocaine. Her main addictions are to meth and alcohol. The divorce took as long as it did as she was able to get it adjourned due to her condition.


The problem is: Though their divorce was final last month, he still care takes of her. In fact. he even spends the night with her though in different rooms.


In their divorce they both kept the joint asset of their home for at least one year. She is on probation for drinking and driving and drug charges. She is also in need of a surgical repair to rebuild her colon since drug use caused her to have medical problems. She avoids this colon surgery yet just had a face lift. My boyfriend stays over night here about 3 nights each week. The other nights he stays at his moms or his ex wife's house - which they still both own together. I fear he is not able to let go of her and that perhaps I am wasting my time or that maybe something is wrong with me for 'not letting go of him' when he obviously can't let go of her.


He is in AA and has been sober for 27 over years. He met her in AA but she was court ordered to go at that time while he was there of free will. They married and were married for 14 years. This is her 5th relapse and it has lasted for 5 years now. 


I have tried to 'give him his space' to figure out what it is he wants and suggested he may not be being completely emotionally honest with himself over this situation. It seems to me that he just can't let go.


He is a wonderful, loving man who I care for deeply. He is good and kind and responsible and helpful to me. His actions are all good in his treatment of me. I am surprised though that he has not been able to let go of his ex. I was surprised they agreed to co-own their home for a year after being divorced.


He explains he just wants to help her get sober and off drugs and to have her surgery so she can have a life. I have told him that he has to make his own decisions as to what he feels he must do. I won't make a demand of him in regard to this life choice he must make on his own. I understand that he must live with the outcome of his decisions.


My question is: What about me? Am I okay? Am I wrong (in denial) to stay in relationship with him when he is so apparently unable to let go of his ex? Or am I being impatient that he feels he should wait until she has her colon reattached? She has been postponing the surgery to have her colon repaired for over 11 months.

And is it normal for a man and women to co-own a home after divorce? He claims he did it only because she still needs the colon surgery. Both have adequate money to hire help. In fact, he stays at her house even when she has a live in helper.


I am adding stress to his life by not 'being content' with his situation. He adds stress to my life for I am not certain where exactly I stand. So, I have thought to 'take time out' of this relationship, but each time I bring up the subject he is hurt and explains 'why' he must continue to help her.


It was my hope that once we would have a relationship together that involved 'us two' and not a third party. I believe he loves me and I do love him. His actions (other than with the ex) show his love.


I was just hoping that we (he and I) could have a normal relationship together. I do not want to 'force' him to stop helping her and being there for her since this is his life. I just want to have a healthy relationship and hope it can be with him.


Things as they are cause me many different feelings. Often I am happy, but sometimes I get downright confused and fearful of what is going on here. Sometimes I am understanding and other times I get impatient. It's not a good feeling to be in a relationship as such though we do have many good times together. I try to not think about his 'other life'.


Where do I go from here?






Hello Linda,

Thank you for writing. On the surface, yours is a complex situation with a seemingly complex answer.


But the reality is, it still boils down to the first of the Two Most Important Relationship Questions. What does he bring to the relationship? What does he take away from the relationship? You can ask these questions of yourself also and come up with a solution.


You ask, "My question is: What about me? Am I okay? Am I wrong (in denial) to stay in relationship with him when he is so apparently unable to let go of his ex? Or am I being impatient that he feels he should wait until she has her colon reattached?"


You have already answered your questions. There is nothing "wrong" with you. The way you feel is the way you feel. Your confusion is being caused by your attempts to deny your true feelings. Regardless of what his true intentions are, his actions are causing you to have these feelings. Whether he is acting out of pure kindness toward another human being, whether he still has feelings for his ex, whether he is only acting out of a distorted sense of responsibility, the end result is the same. He is NOT giving you the love, support and attention you need. He may be a great guy, and you both may have strong feelings for one another, but it seems the time was just not right for him to enter into another relationship. A person needs to END a previous relationship before beginning another. Period. End of discussion. There is no way around that. If you decide this relationship is not for you right now, that's all you need to tell him. The time was not right.


Your instincts are very good, and we admire your desire to be patient and show human compassion. You cannot do these things to your own detriment though. You will probably find that when you make a list of the things he brings and takes away from the relationship, the debit side will be longer. That will make your decision much easier. You can make the decision now, suffer the pain and grieving and move on; or you can continue in a relationship that is not fulfilling your needs, suffer longer, and still reach that point down the road. The choice is yours. You are NOT wrong in wanting an exclusive relationship with someone. You are NOT wrong in wanting to be first in someone's life. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently. You deserve the best life and relationships have to offer. It's up to you to decide you will settle for no less.


All our best, 

Doug and Tracy Kelley




My daughter is in an abusive alcoholic relationship. How do I help?


My daughter is in an a abusive alcoholic relationship and no matter what advice I give (having lived it), she finds excuses for him. It is very frustrating, to say the least, and I am afraid for her and her baby. If I push too hard it will make things worse so I am in between a rock and a hard place. Being a mom, of course, I want to fix it! How do I help?





Hi, thank you for writing. You signed your name "Agitated." That is an understatement for the frustration, fear and pain you must be feeling. As parents ourselves, we can definitely relate.


There are several issues here that need to be addressed. Let's look at the most important one first. You say it is an abusive relationship, and that you fear for your daughter and her baby. Do you mean you are afraid for their emotional health and well being, or do you mean afraid for their physical safety? This is a very important differentiation. Your decisions will need to be based on this. Your daughter is an adult and therefore responsible for her own safety. As her mother, we know how deeply you feel her pain, but that does not change the fact that she, and only she, can make the decision to leave this relationship and protect herself. We understand the confusion she is living with, and sympathize with it greatly. If it is her own emotional suffering she is dealing with, then she may need to hit her own "rock bottom" before she decides to get out of an unhealthy relationship. All you can do is be supportive of her and offer her a place to go, if that is within your means.


If however you are talking about actual physical safety, then your decision is more difficult. There is a helpless innocent child involved. If the mother is incapable of making decisions to protect her own child, then you as the grandmother have a moral responsibility to do so, even at the cost of alienating your daughter. Do not take this decision lightly. We hesitate to even suggest someone get social services involved, because their system of handling things leaves a lot to be desired. At the same time, if you have NO other recourse to protect the safety of this child, then it may be your only alternative. Understand if you take this course, they may ask if you are willing and able to take charge of the child. Are you prepared to do that? And are you prepared for the anger your daughter would have at your doing that? Again, this is a tough decision. But we stress again, if you are talking about physical danger to this child, you owe it to the child to step in if no one else will.


Unfortunately, there is NOTHING you can say or do to make your daughter see the light. It is our guess that the more you try to discuss the problem with her, the more she defends him and withdraws from you. This is the pattern in abusive relationships. If you are kind and supportive, just letting her know that you will be there for her no matter what, it may be that when she does see the light that you will establish a better, healthy relationship with her also. If she is ever open to your suggestions, we recommend sending her to visit this website: www.empoweredrecovery.com. There are many articles written there, and a ebook that can be downloaded. The purpose of this site is to offer support and encouragement to the friends and families of alcoholics, and for THEIR recovery. You would probably find it of great help to you also in your own recovery. Please visit the site and read everything there, then you can in good conscience recommend it to your daughter if she is open to it. There is an online discussion group too where many discuss their own recovery and the steps they are taking.


We wish you all the best in this heart wrenching dilemma. Please feel free to keep us posted on how things are going.


All our best, 

Doug and Tracy Kelley





My boyfriend is physically abusing me...


I have just realized my boyfriend is an alcoholic. Things were okay at first even though he drinks all the time. But 2 weeks ago I dropped him off at the club and he was supposed to be home at 1:45 a.m. However, he came home at 4:30 in the morning. I knew he was drunk and things were cool at first, then he got irritated. He began yelling at me. Then he smacked me in the face twice and choked me twice. I noticed that when he gets violent he sometimes does not remember when he wakes up. I love him with all of my heart. 


What do I do? How do help him quit drinking?


Thank you




Hi TR, thank you for writing.


We're glad you realize that your boyfriend is an alcoholic. You are not in denial about that, and that is the first major step. Now there are really only two things for you to learn/figure out.


1. You asked how you help him quit drinking. You don't. It's that simple. We spent years and years of our lives trying to help our alcoholics quit drinking. We tried everything there is to try. The painful reality is that no one can make another person do something. Ask yourself this: How would you like it if someone tried to change you? You would resist, you'd be resentful, you'd take it out on them, wouldn't you? The alcoholic feels the same. The truth of the matter is, he has every right in the world as an adult to drink himself into the grave, doesn't he? Isn't that what free will is all about? He alone has the power to change himself, just as you alone have the power to change yourself. Instead of focusing on HIM, you should be focusing on YOU, which leads to the next point.


2. You say you love him with all your heart. Why? He lies to you, yells at you and hits you. What about this behavior encourages love? Nothing. You need to figure out why you are attracted to and are willing to stay with someone who would treat you this way. What you've told us in this short email is probably only the tip of the iceberg of the dysfunctional behavior you are living with, isn't it? For the sake of yourself and your future, you deserve to learn why you would settle for a life like this. No one has to. Every single human on this planet deserves a life of peace, with people who truly love and respect them in their lives. Why do you feel you deserve less than this?


You will find some excellent self education material at this website: www.empoweredrecovery.com. Please go there and read all you can. You will learn not only how the alcoholic behaves, but how you behave in reaction to them. You will learn how to break the cycle of abusive relationships if that is your desire.


We wish you all the best, 

Doug and Tracy Kelley





Why Can't I Leave the Alcoholic?


My name is Marcie, I have been with an alcoholic for 20 years. The thing is,,, I do not love this man anymore. I have a chance to move out of town away from him. Why cant I leave him? I live on a very fixed income, He works but has only worked for the last 4 years. He doesn't like to share his money. But I'm soooooooooo scared to leave him. Can you please help me? 

Marcie T

Hi Marcie,
Thanks for writing. To review your situation, let's look at the facts presented.

1. You have been with an alcoholic for 20 years.
2. You are not in love with him.
3. He does not contribute to the relationship financially.

Our question to you is: Why would you NOT leave?

Fear of being alone, fear of supporting yourself alone, fear of moving to a new place and starting over by yourself, these are some of the things holding you back. Are you not alone now? Are you not supporting yourself now? Do you not need to start over alone now, whether you move to a new location or not?

Fear is not a good enough reason to prevent you from taking steps to improve your life. Fear of the unknown is just that... it is fear that is most likely ungrounded. Try this exercise: Imagine the scenario that you are MOST afraid of happening (whether it is being in a strange place or not having enough money, whatever it is). Now mentally put yourself in that situation. What would you do? When we face our worst fears and accept that there is a very real possibility that they will come true, and we decide on a plan to deal with the situation... the fear begins to fade. You have to believe that you are strong enough to take care of yourself. In reality, you have been taking care of yourself for a long time, haven't you? And you've been taking care of someone ELSE for a long time. Wouldn't it in fact be a lot easier to only be responsible for one person, you?

If you have an opportunity to leave and make a fresh start somewhere else, an opportunity to know true peace in your home, stand up for yourself and take back your power... why would you NOT take the chance? Only you can answer that question. Our best advice to you though is this: Do NOT let fear hold you back. I think you are probably a lot stronger than you realize. It's time you remember who you really are.

Best of luck to you!
Doug & Tracy





Is It Normal for Alcoholics to Push Away Their Loved One?


I have been in a 4 year relationship with my boyfriend and the last year things have become worse and also the drinking. I am two months pregnant and my boyfriend just dropped me a month ago for another girl. Is this common with a major alcoholic? Pushing away their loved ones?




Hi Cody,

Thanks for writing. To answer your question "Is this normal for alcoholics to push away their loved one?", yes it is. Actually, for an alcoholic, they love the bottle more than they love anyone or anything. They will give up homes, jobs, loved ones, even children to keep the alcohol in their lives.


We're not sure what your main issue is, since you didn't give too many details. We would imagine that you're confused, scared of raising a child alone, and wondering perhaps if you did something wrong to deserve this treatment? This thinking is common among people involved with alcoholics. Our best advice to you at this time is go to Empowered Recovery and real ALL of the articles. You will gain great insight into why you were attracted to an alcoholic in the first place, which will help you understand and deal with your feelings of rejection now. You will also gain an understanding of what you can and cannot do to help an alcoholic.

Your focus right now needs to be on yourself and your unborn child. Did you perhaps grow up in an alcoholic home? Or some other type of dysfunctional atmosphere?


You need to understand the dynamics of that to know how to break that cycle and raise your child in a healthy, happy home. Even if that home only has one parent, if that parent is loving, functional and stable, your child has a much better chance to grow up healthy and independent themselves. Is that not something you would want for your baby?


Four years is long enough to have wasted in an unhealthy relationship. Please don't waste any more of your precious time. Please write back with more information or more questions, or feel free to join the online discussion group at Empowered Recovery. You will find it a very safe, supportive place to learn and grow.


All our best, Doug and Tracy Kelley



Follow up question from Cody:

Thank you for your answer. Yes I have been through a lot with my well I guess ex now you can call him. Its hard because I love him very much and I have been through so much with him and stood by his side through rehab and criminal stuff which is still going on. I feel like a piece of garbage tossed to the curb. He cares more for this new girl and he met her a month ago. 


I had a counseling session today with his counselor from rehab and I will be seeing him once a week for a while. Night time is the worst for me because I am so use to being with him and he just dropped me overnight. He does not call and ask how I am doing and if he does call we fight and he gets me all worked up. He has emotionally and psychologically abused me for a long time and its hard for me to get on the right track. 


Its sad to say but for all the stuff that I have been through with him I still love him and miss him so much. Sad to say he thinks that he is doing nothing wrong and he blames everyone else for everything. His counselor said that was normal for an alcoholic. Its been a long 4 years but I would have been there for him and stuck all this legal stuff out with him. But I guess this is what I get. 


He might be going to prison at the end of August for a while and I am just wondering since he won't be able to drink if I might be able to someday get an explanation and an apology since he will be sober, what do you guys think? He might be with that girl now but everyone seems to think that once he is locked up he will be ringing my phone lines. This new girl does not know about me being pregnant and I don't think she knows anything about his court stuff. He has probably told her that we broke up a while back and that I was all at fault in the relationship. But what can I do?





Hi Cody,

From your response one thing is evident. You are still focused on HIM and his problems and issues. The only way to true recovery from an alcoholic relationship and true peace of mind is to focus on YOU.


Are you willing to do this? If so, then keep going to the weekly counseling... but only if you are talking about yourself, not the alcoholic. If you truly want to live a happy, peaceful life, then please take our advice and visit www.empoweredrecovery.com. Take the crash course, read everything that is available, and join the online discussion group. If you simply want to remain enslaved to thinking about your alcoholic and waiting for him to love and respect you the way you'd like, then there really isn't much more we can offer you. The choice is yours: Recovery or Codependence. Those are your 2 choices. We hope you choose recovery and that we will be hearing from you soon in the discussion group.


We wish you the best, whatever you decide.

Doug and Tracy Kelley





Promises, Promises


Hi, I have a problem with my relationship. My boyfriend of 2 1/2 years is an alcoholic. He drinks every weekend, and most of the time I don't know where he is and he doesn't even come home. We fight a lot about his drinking, and he's promised me many times he would quit, but never has. We just had a baby 3 months ago, and I always just think that he's going to change and we'll live happily ever after. Am I just being stupid, or should I hang in there?



Hi Jean,

Thank you for writing. First of all, you are not stupid. Do you know how many hundreds of thousands of people are in similar situations as yours? You are not alone.


You've stated you have a baby with him, and that is a strong reason to WANT to have a healthy relationship with him. But wanting something and having a reasonable expectation of getting it are two different things. I WANT to win the lottery... but do I really expect I will buy a winning ticket? No.


Let's list what you are getting out of STAYING in this relationship:


1. He's never home, so not only are you alone anyway, but your baby doesn't have a father.

2. He lies to you constantly.

3. When he is around you fight about his drinking. Is this healthy for your baby to hear and be around?

4. You never know where he is or who he is with when he's drinking. If you are continuing a physical relationship with him, you are putting yourself at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. How would that affect your future and the future of your baby?


You deserve a better life than that. But more importantly, your baby deserves a better life than that. YOU are the only one who has the power to provide a better life for your child. You can take care of the problem now, or suffer longer and STILL take care of the problem later. I strongly urge you to read the articles on Empowered Recovery. They will help you make rational decisions for yourself and your child. You are a lot stronger than you think you are... and there is strength in numbers. Seek support and encouragement from others who have left alcoholic relationships. You can join the online group at www.empoweredrecovery.com and find kindred spirits. Whatever you decide to do... don't delay. Do it today.

All our best, Doug and Tracy Kelley





The Bible, Divorce, and Adultery 


I don't know if you answer questions dealing with religion, If you do, I would like to hear your thoughts regarding what the Bible says about divorce, marrying again while ex spouse is still living and do you think this constitutes living in adultery. 




Hi Barbara,

Religious questions are not really our thing. However, since you ask, we can share a few thoughts with you.

Technically, the new testament says that any sex outside of marriage breaks the marriage bonds in God's eyes. Therefore, the first time one or the other of a married couple has intercourse with someone else, the marriage is over. Once the marriage bond is broken, the couple are considered free. The phrase "living in adultery" then makes no sense. If you are considered separated or divorced in the eyes of the law, and the marriage is over according to religious teachings... how can "adultery" be a continuous thing? If the biblical belief system is important to you, consider this: There are numerous examples in the scriptures of people who had sex outside of marriage and were "forgiven" by God for their sins and accepted again by him. Of course, if you accept the entire biblical belief system, then you may have more issues to deal with.


Among those issues is an undeniable truth concerning religion in general in that it is structured to inflict guilt upon a person. With many or most Christian religions (at least), you are never quite good enough. There is always something wrong with you; you are always striving to reach an unattainable goal (perfection); you never quite measure up to God's standards. This is one of the primary reasons why we changed our perspective on religion through education after nearly 40 years as devout Christians.


Our first Principle of Empowered Relationships is that you must Know and Accept Yourself. This means having realistic expectations as they relate to you and your human condition. It means that to attain any kind of outside healthy relationship, you must accept yourself just as you are, right here and right now. Once having done this, you can then rationally begin to make positive changes in your life. If you are not right with yourself, you cannot and will not be right with any of your relationships. In other words, you must first have a healthy relationship with yourself if you want to have healthy relationships with others. For more information on accepting yourself, please read Doug's article, "Nobody's Perfect... Or Are They?"  


We can only surmise from your question that you may be carrying a heavy burden of guilt, which is eating away and killing your spirit. You are torn apart from the inside out. Please remember this: There is no value in guilt. Period. If you are suffering from run-away guilt, strive to have realistic expectations of yourself while not taking your self too seriously. And then let time heal your wounds. Outside professional counseling may also help you to deal with any of these issues.


We hope this helps,

Doug & Tracy Kelley





Praying for a Miracle


I have been with an alcoholic for 16 years. I have been separated for 7 months but can't see to let go of his manipulation. When I think about it, I realize I am afraid of being alone. He lost his business to alcohol, however I am afraid of the financial responsibility. 


But worst of all, I continue to worry about my three children: two boys, 14 and 12 and a daughter 5. He tries to punish me by not accepting responsibility for his kids. This puts my job in danger, and also hurts my children. If I put up with him a little, he sees them some. (very little). He tells them the reason he doesn't see them is because I kicked him out of the house (not because of alcohol so much, because he became verbally and emotionally abusive). That was the last straw for me. I still hope and pray for a miracle that he will change. Please help!


Thank you,



Hi Judy, Thank you for writing.

We'll address your last sentence first. Hoping and praying for the miracle that he will change is accomplishing nothing, right? Have hoping and wishing for anything else in your life ever produced results? It never has for us. It is simply a form of denial, to protect you emotionally from facing the harsh reality of who and what he really is... a very sick alcoholic who truly cannot care for you OR his children more than he cares about his next drink.


Please do not be afraid to be alone... you need to work very hard at facing and overcoming that fear. Right now, your children need you to be strong and healthy. They are experiencing pain and confusion MUCH greater than yours, and they do not have the skills to cope with it. You are their greatest and only hope for stability and happiness in the home, and you are perfectly capable of providing that for them! Believe in that.


The only way you will learn to "let go" of his manipulation is to educate yourself about the games alcoholics play, how their sickness has affected your life and personality, and the dynamics of how the family also becomes sick WITH the alcoholic. Please visit www.empoweredrecovery.com and read the articles and Ebook. Join the online discussion group to get support and help from others in the same situation. Read anything you can to help you become stronger. Therapy for yourself and the children would be wonderful for all of you! If you cannot afford family therapy right now, YOU need to go first. Without a healthy, happy, stable mother... those kids have nothing, so your mental and emotional health is FIRST priority.


There is absolutely NOTHING you can do to make him be responsible for his children or anything else. The only one you have control over is you, and your children at this time in their lives. Make wise choices. The stronger you become, the less his actions will affect you. With time and practice, you will grow so far away from his games and manipulation, you will wonder how you EVER fell into the trap in the first place. You can do it. All it takes is time and effort. You have both of those to give, don't you? For your sake and the sake of your children? Of course you do. So be about it!


You have our best wishes and support, Doug and Tracy Kelley





Can I Make the Alcoholic Reach Rock-Bottom?


Hi Doug and Tracy,

I left my alcoholic husband three months ago. I canít seem to move on. He says heíll stop drinking if I come back but I know thatís not realistic. (um, he also has a drug problem). How do I stop thinking I can make him feel bad enough to get help by writing him hateful emails? All the women in my Al-Anon groupís husbandís are in recovery and doing well. Why canít that be my story? I can file an ugly, ugly divorce complaint (heís not paying alimony and I was dependent on him and am in dire straits, but he got so abusive I had no choice but to get out). This might make him see ďrock bottomĒ, but would that be the best course I could take? It would be much easier to work on getting over him if I werenít having such a hard time financially.


Thank you,



Hi Christine,

We are SO sorry you are in such dire financial straits, we have been there too. Divorce is never easy financially, and when you add all of the confusion, hurt feelings and denial of dealing with an alcoholic ... it is much more difficult. You need to seek help to better your situation immediately, whether that means seeking government assistance or finding work (or a second job if you're already working). It doesn't have to be forever, just temporarily until you get back on your feet.


You asked "How do I stop thinking I can make him feel bad enough to get help by writing him hateful emails?" There is one simple answer. You must educate yourself about WHY you are thinking and feeling the way you do. At www.empoweredrecovery.com there is a 3 step process to recovery from an alcoholic, abusive relationship. The first step is recognition. You have to SEE where you really are before you can do anything about it. The other 2 steps are described there, along with a ebook that we strongly recommend you read. The book "Codependent No More" will also give you insights into your own emotions and thought processes. You see, there is NOTHING you can do to "make him see rock bottom." Nothing. He will continue drinking and drugging with or without you... and if he ever recovers he will decide to do it with or without you. You are NOT responsible for another adult, and frankly it's wrong for you to try to control him.


You do have a lot of anger that needs to be aired, or should we call it righteous indignation? You didn't ask for this in a relationship, and we can certainly relate to the feelings of injustice you are experiencing. You need a healthy outlet for that anger. Can you afford therapy right now? Join the online discussion group at the above website, many people find it helps to have a safe outlet for all those pent up emotions. We respectfully suggest you will find this more empowering than Al-Anon. For you to say that "all the women in your al-anon group's husbands are in recovery and doing well" is not very helpful for you is it? We personally found Al-Anon a wonderful first step in "recognizing" the alcoholic, but that is where it stopped for us. We found the denial and codependence of the group members only encouraged us to remain in our alcoholic relationships. The denial of the group caused some of the members to claim their partners were in recovery, when in reality they were not.


You have already taken the hardest step... you left! We are so proud of you. By refusing to accept his abuse any longer, you took the first critical step in your OWN recovery. You deserve a big pat on the back for doing that. Now continue the journey of personal growth and healing. Do whatever you can to take care of you.


You will find as you focus more and more on yourself, you will forget to think about him quite so often. As you progress in your recovery, you will realize that your anger toward him is lessening... because you're moving on. You know in your heart that he is not ready to stop drinking, whether you go back or not. The only choice you have right now is whether you are truly tired of living like that... or not. If you haven't suffered enough in your life yet, then go back to him and suffer longer. If you HAVE reached the point where enough is enough and you're ready to start living YOUR life, then take the next step today!


All our best, Doug and Tracy Kelley





Should I Wait for the Alcoholic to Recover Before Pursuing a Relationship? 


I have recently become involved with a recovering alcoholic/addict. He is a wonderful man - funny, smart, sensitive, handsome, talented. At first I thought the relationship would be the same as any other, without the consumption of alcohol at social functions. I've since realized that there are a list of other things that make the relationship challenging. The one that has upset me the most is this:


He was in recovery for several years, and a few months before I met him, he had a relapse. I've since been told that some of the people in the program have given him a difficult time about dating me (since dating within the first year of recovery is frowned upon). He's struggling with it (whether or not to take their advice on dating) and I'm not entirely sure how to help him. A part of me thinks it would probably be best if we stopped seeing each other until his year is up, (even though I'm completely in love with him, and would miss him terribly) but another part of me thinks that he might feel rejected, or incapable of having a relationship in a "sober world" - either way, I don't want to do anything to jeopardize his recovery.

What should I do?




Hi Tammy, thank you for writing to us.


You've asked some serious questions, of yourself really. You are asking: Should you wait before pursuing this relationship further?


You've already seen things that will make the relationship a challenge, surely you wonder how difficult those challenges will be?


You're not sure how to help him, but don't want anything you do or say to influence him to start drinking again, or otherwise interfere with his recovery?


From both of our combined experiences with alcoholics, which total 56+ years, we can tell you what our experience has been. Please consider what we tell you with an open mind and logical thinking... not your emotions. Life changing decisions should NEVER be based on emotion. After all, emotions change do they not?


To answer your first question. A resounding YES, you should wait. If he is serious about his recovery, he will take the advice his peers have given him that he should not be pursuing a relationship until he's had at least one full year of recovery. Do you know why they strongly encourage this? A recovering alcoholic has to grow into the adult they should be. His emotional development stopped at the age he started drinking. During his recovery, he could very easily grow into a man that you do NOT find wonderful, funny, smart sensitive, handsome and talented. He owes it to himself, and to anyone he may get into a future relationship with, to finish growing as a person before he knows what he has to offer someone else.


If you've already seen things that make the relationship challenging, we are here to tell you, you've only seen the tip of the iceberg! IF he decided to drink again, you would see a whole new personality emerge. The alcohol changes them, causes them to do and say things they would not be capable of sober. You need to ask yourself; "Why am I even considering a relationship that I know going in to will be difficult and challenging? Isn't life hard enough without deliberately choosing to spend your life with someone you know will have problems?" These are serious questions and we hope you give them the thoughtful attention they deserve.


There is absolutely NOTHING you can do to "help" him. He started drinking, and stopped drinking, and started drinking again, and stopped again... all before he met you. He will drink or not drink with or without you. For you to think you can help him stop drinking is codependent. If you do not learn this lesson in life, you are destined to have a difficult time of it. Codependents always start a relationship focusing on helping (changing) the other person. Basically, no one has the power, or the right, to try to change another person. Even if you believe with all sincerity in your heart that you are only trying to change him for his own good. This is not your job. The only person you can ever change is yourself, and you must know from experience how hard that can be :) We wasted many years of our lives trying to help our alcoholics, believing that love could overcome this. It can't. The alcoholic is the only one with the power to stop drinking. Therefore, nothing you do or say will cause him to start drinking again. You do not have that power over him. We cannot stress this enough... he will stop drinking, or decide to keep drinking WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. The capital letters are to stress those important thoughts.

You already know that only you can make the decision about whether to pursue this relationship or not. We don't believe we have the right to tell anyone what they should or should not do. All we can do is offer some insights and share experiences and lessons we've learned. If you'd like to learn more about codependence, read the book "Codependent No More". If you want to learn some of the warning signs and behaviors and life experiences that choosing to continue a relationship with an alcoholic will bring you, please visit this website www.empoweredrecovery.com. Read the articles and ebook there. It will help you make an informed decision. We hope this helps.


All our best, Doug and Tracy Kelley


Follow up from Tammy:


Good morning Tracy,

I've actually read the book you mentioned - "Codependent No More"... it has been helpful.

I think I already knew what I should do, but it's difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I CHOSE to get involved with this man, even knowing the challenges I would be facing.


I thank you so very much for your words of great wisdom, and as difficult as it may be to walk away from this, I realize that continuing with so many uncertainties would be even more difficult.



Hi Tammy,

You are most welcome. That wisdom we earned at great personal price. If it benefits others, and keeps them from making some of the same mistakes, then it is put to good use. You are making a wise choice. You have a lot to offer, and you deserve a stable, healthy, peaceful relationship. Don't ever settle for less than that!

Doug and Tracy Kelley





Is it okay for me to drink even though I'm married to an alcoholic?


I am married to a alcoholic who has been sober for 7 years. I enjoy a glass of wine or a drink with my friends every month or so. Is is ok or right for me, the nonalcoholic to have a drink even though I am married to an alcoholic?



Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for writing. You ask if it is ok for you to have an occasional drink even though you're married to an alcoholic.

Why wouldn't it be? Surely he drank before he met you, so the drinking had nothing to do with you. Therefore, his sobriety has nothing to do with you. That's wonderful he's been sober for 7 years, but you have to realize and remember... his sobriety is totally his responsibility. Not yours or anyone else's. If he is a healthy non-drinker, he would tell you that himself.

Nothing you or anyone else does should have any impact on his drinking or non-drinking. For him to have attained 7 years of sobriety, he has accepted this. You are only responsible for your own life.

We hope this helps, 

Doug and Tracy Kelley





Abusive Relationship with a Co-Worker...


How can you get over someone whom you've been in an abusive relationship with whom you also work with? Not only that, but the man that I was in the abusive relationship with is also an alcoholic. I've been searching for a new job but have not found one yet. He is not my boss, but he is a manager and I am in an administrative position. Can you please help me with this dilemma?




Hello and thank you for writing.

You have two main issues here, we will address the most important one first.

1. Why were you in a relationship with an abusive person/alcoholic? What drew you to him? What drew him to you? We consider this the most important because until you can answer these questions honestly to yourself, you are doomed to repeat a pattern of unhappy relationships. There are many reasons, only you will know which ones apply to you. We suggest you do some reading on healthy/unhealthy relationships. Learn more about alcoholics and the warning signs of their behaviors. For that we recommend you visit this website: www.empoweredrecovery.com. There is a wealth of information you can learn from there. Please look long and hard at yourself to figure out why you would settle for an abusive relationship when you deserve so much more!

2. You say you've looked for another job but haven't found one yet. If he is a manager we assume you have some dealings with him in the office. Depending on how unbearable the situation is, and your financial status at this time, you can either make the best of it, or quit. By making the best of it, we mean assertively handling this situation by telling him in a professional setting (perhaps with a supervisor present?) that you require the work relationship to be respectful and professional at all times. Let him know you demand the respect of a co-worker. Period. End of discussion. There should be policies in place at work to provide protection for you, and you can enlist the help of your supervisors in seeing that he meets those requirements. Otherwise, you really have no choice but to leave. No one should stay in an abusive relationship... whether at work or home. Each human being deserves a life of peace and respect. Until you believe that and demand that in your life, no one else will give it to you.

We hope this helps. All our best, 

Doug and Tracy Kelley





Husband Pursuing Other Women


I have been married 7 years. My husband and I have a good marriage the majority of the time. Recently, I found that my husband has tried to contact his first love from high school whom he also proposed to. She was dating someone else at the time. He has tried this a couple of times in the past. He never tells me I just find out. He ran into her at her work this week. Then after seeing her he claims he wanted to contact her since she was his best friend in high school. She is also married. There was also another time 6 months ago that he lied to me about being at work when he was out having drinks alone with a female coworker. I find myself being the wife that now looks at his email and cell phone records because I don't trust him. I don't know how to handle this without always bringing up the past and his lying or not revealing the truth to me. How do I proceed with this?




Hi Brenda,

Thank you for writing. This is a very painful subject. You've really already answered your own questions.

When the trust in a relationship dies, the relationship dies. It just takes longer to figure out that it's dead.

It's pretty obvious from his behavior that he is not happy or completely fulfilled in your relationship. If he were, he would not be looking elsewhere. If you search your deepest thoughts and feelings, is it possible that you also are not complete and fulfilled? A committed relationship between two adults does not nurture distrust.

Even though you must be feeling hurt and angry, understandably so, here is our best advice. Begin the formal ending of your relationship. It is already over, you just haven't admitted it to yourselves. Some might suggest marriage counseling, and feel free to pursue that if you believe it to be a viable option. Experience shows us that once the trust is broken, it never comes back. Not completely whole, the way it once was and the way it needs to be. So dragging things out by going to counseling and continuing to "spy" on him only prolongs your agony. Is this the kind of relationship you want? Is this the kind of relationship you deserve? We hope you don't think so, because everyone deserves to be completely loved and accepted for who they are. You deserve that.

May we suggest that you do not allow the hurt, anger and rejection you may feel to control you. The simple approach that each of you are obviously not happy in the relationship and it is time to acknowledge that and move on, is the approach that will save you MUCH grief and heartache. Do you really NEED to continue to find more proof that he isn't committed to your relationship? How much proof is enough? Take charge of your life! Take your power back! Do what you know in your heart to be the right thing.

We wish you all the best, 

Doug and Tracy Kelley




Codependent Relationship Between Father and Son


My husband and his father are codependent on one another. My father in-law is very controlling, and my husband enables him. My question is if you know where I could find info for the spouse of a codependent person on someone other than the spouse (found a lot of info on that). 


My husband and his father are both recovering addicts and work their programs weekly. What I don't understand is how they can work their program on addiction, but skirt the issue of codependency? 


I have tried to talk to my husband about the issue, because it has caused a lot of problems between us. I do not allow people to manipulate and control me, so I am not one of his father's favorite people, he seems to view me as a threat to his relationship with his son. I have tolerated him and bitten my tongue (out of respect for my husband), but do not like the man due to his overbearing, controlling, condescending, manipulative, inappropriate, and chauvinist behavior. He thinks he has done, seen, and heard everything. So no one is wiser than he. 


We live in the same small town as his parents, and it seems to constantly be an issue of spending a lot of our free time with them. My husband works out of town during the week, and only comes home on the weekend. His family believes that they are entitled to at least half that time. I have tried to discuss this with my husband, but he either gets defensive and angry, accusing me of "having it out for his dad", or he won't engage in discussion at all. 


He has a younger sister with a baby that is also codependent on their father (26 & still lives at home, can't function in a romantic adult relationship), and the sister and father act like a married couple, treating their mother like the evil stepchild. We have been married for 5 years, and I love this man dearly. He is so kind and loving to me, and never abusive. But I feel that I am reaching my wits end. Sometimes I feel like running away from home, and when it's really bad.....I don't care if he comes with or not. I am desperate for any help or info. 


Thank you,



Hello Aimee, thank you for writing. 

This is a difficult situation you're in, but unfortunately not an uncommon one.

While it is wonderful that your husband and father in law are not actively using (at least to your knowledge) a person can stop abusing a substance without doing anything to change the THINKING that made them choose to be substance abusers in the first place. YOU have identified part of the problem, the co-dependency issues they both have, really the entire family must have since that is the way it works... but your husband has NOT identified co-dependency as a problem for him.

Therefore, the problem of his inappropriate relationship with his family (which is what many co-dependents have) is in reality NO different than the problem of his substance abuse. How is that?

1. You didn't cause it.
2. You can't control it.
3. You can't force him to see it or change it.

There is plenty of help out there for co-dependents, books written, therapists available. But honestly, what kind of help COULD be available to the wife of a co-dependent? A support group? There is Al-anon, where you would find others probably living in similar situations. You yourself could seek out a good therapist.

As far as what to do about your husband's co-dependency and the way it is SERIOUSLY impacting your life? There is nothing you can DO about it. See the 3 reasons above. One person can NEVER change another. Those who do recover from serious abuse issues do so because they CHOOSE to do it, usually after they've hit rock bottom and lost everything and everyone. That is the sad reality.

The only REAL choice you have in this whole matter is to decide if you can live like this. If you truly accept the fact that you cannot change him, you will begin to view your situation in a different light. There are some truly wonderful articles on this site www.empoweredrecovery.com that may help you in your decision making. There is also an online support group available at this site. You would be surprised how similar your situation is to someone living with an "active" substance abuser. It is a free site and entirely confidential. Please check it out.

All our best, Doug and Tracy Kelley




How Long Should I Wait Before Resuming a Relationship with an Alcoholic? 


Hello. I have been in a (rocky) relationship w/a man for 3 1/2 years & a little bit of background is as follows. His drinking/drug use has driven me to finally break up w/him about 1 1/2 months ago because of constant lies, broken promises, swearing to quit drinking/using, no steady employment (mostly unemployed), etc., etc. From what he said, he's been drinking/using for 20+ years. 


To sum it up, he left a little over a year ago to work in California & I would fly back & forth to visit. He went completely downhill about 6 months ago. Lost his job (for the 100th time) in California, lost his motel room due to spending all his money on alcohol & who knows what, was living on the street until a friend allowed him to stay w/him for a short period of time. 


He decided he need to go to rehab, but wanted to come back here where I was so I could visit him. He went to rehab for 30 days, stayed in halfway house for another 60, & lived on unemployment. He then moved into a sober living apartment & that's where he lost it again. After only 2 weeks, he relapsed, lost his apt, & ran out of money. I wouldn't allow him to come stay with me & he went back into a 14 day rehab program. 


He has been sober for going on 40 days now, active in AA, just got his apt, & is literally begging me to get back together. Since I don't believe him at all & told him he needed to be sober longer & get his life together first. He assures me that it's not the quantity of time he's been sober, but the quality & that I'll never understand & see the "changed" man that he is if I'm not with him. I personally don't believe someone can change that soon & I doubt his sincerity considering our past. 


I guess my question would be what would be a sufficient amount of time? 6 months? 1 year? I've also met someone else who is stable, no substance abuse, treats me the way I haven't been in so long which has made me confused on my feelings anymore to the point that I don't know that I'm in love w/my ex or not or if I want to give him "one last chance" as he says. He gets so upset, he upsets/stresses me & I feel so bad, but can someone who has drank/used drugs his whole life (he'll be 40 this year; started at 13) be ready to "repair" his relationship & still work on his recovery. My heart tells me one thing, but my head (& friends) tells me to keep going the other way. 

I know the final decision is up to me but thanks in advance for any advice!


Hi Desiree,
Thanks for writing. As you well know, life is all about choices. In your situation, you have several choices:

CHOICE #1: Go back to the alcoholic. We can count on less than one hand the number of alcoholics who have recovered to the point of being capable of a healthy, interdependent relationship. Furthermore, we have learned from hard life experience to never ever believe what an alcoholic says. Period. He may have the best of intentions, but alcoholism and addiction are insidious disorders. So, if you choose to go back to the alcoholic, you can probably bank on the fact that you WILL be leaving him again in the future. Also, if you go back, you can count on all the pain and misery you've already experienced and more. Think about it... the uncertainty; the roller coaster life; living from crisis to crisis; not being able to depend on him to keep a job and earn an income that helps you both; the incessant lying; etc., etc., etc. Is this the life you want? You ask how long you should wait... 6 months, 1 year? In our opinion, the rest of your life is not long enough to wait. How many chances are enough? We have learned the hard way that enough is enough. There may be too much "water under the bridge" to make it work.

Here is a life-lesson that you should live by: When you have a problem, you have a choice: You can either take care of the problem now, or suffer longer and STILL take care of it later. Either way, you WILL take care of it eventually, or die from the pain. Your choice.

CHOICE #2: Build a relationship with a healthy partner. This may seem uncomfortable at first because you are probably not used to a healthy relationship. But you have to ask what your life would be like with a partner who actually took responsibility for himself. We can't say enough about how great it is to be able to depend on another functional, mature adult who can satisfy all your needs, including emotional needs.

CHOICE #3: Am I ready for another relationship? This is a question you need to answer. Have you actually grown within to function in a healthy relationship? If you want your outside world to change, you must change your inside world first. You must reconcile what attracted you to an unhealthy relationship in the first place. You don't want to do a repeat of the past. Work on your own personal growth first to ensure that you attract the type of partner that you really want.

We're sure there are probably more choices, but these are the big ones. We recommend the following:

1. Read the eBook at www.EmpoweredRecovery.com  

2. Join ER's Discussion Forum and ask those who have been through your situation for their advice: http://forum.empoweredrecovery.com  

Once you have done the above, you will be in a much better place to make the right choice and find that your confused feelings will vanish.

We wish you all our best,
Doug & Tracy Kelley








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