I’m falling for a sexy alcoholic – should I stop myself?
I have had two dates with an alcoholic man to whom I am very attracted. He's a successful artist, I'm a successful artist. We're the same age (mid 30's), and we seem to like each other. Both of us are looking for a permanent relationship. It's too early to tell if we're suited to each other that way, but it's on both our minds.
I drink wine, and, occasionally, chilled vodka. Alcohol has always been part of my life: I grew up with wine as an accompaniment to good food (food is one of my passions) and something used to celebrate happy occasions. In fact when I am sad or depressed the last thing I feel like doing is drinking.
The first time I met him I noticed him drinking fizzy water while we were drinking wine, and I knew immediately.
So I've met this man I like, though I still know very little about him. I do not know for how long he has been sober, for instance. I do not know what is appropriate for me to ask, or assume. What worries me most is that my drinking would be a serious problem for him (assuming a relationship develops). I do not think I would be prepared to give up drinking. The saddest part would be the not-sharing aspect of it. Not being able to pop a bottle of champagne together to celebrate the first day of spring, or a success, or any of these things that I have taken for granted as things to celebrate with alcohol. Not drinking my dad's famous Sidecars together...
On one of our dates, when I asked what I could bring (he was cooking dinner for me), he said, "You like wine, bring some." So I did, as well as some fancy fizzy water for him. I had two glasses, and felt a little awkward. As thought there was a wolverine on the table waiting to spring!
I was even anxious about kissing him - as he leaned in to kiss me, I said, "But I'm going to taste like wine..." And he said, "Well, I'm an alcoholic, I'll love it."
It was the scariest and sexiest thing I've heard prior to a kiss!
I think I'm asking whether this is doomed from the get-go, even though he seems comfortable around alcohol, has friends to his house who bring bottles of wine for the dinners they all cook...
Do you have any advice, any questions I should ask him. Warnings for me?
I never succeed when I caution people about falling in love or having relationships – I wonder why?
I don’t have the gift to prophecy against love. Anything can happen in that realm, and has. On the other hand, more love relationships fail than succeed, alas. That’s because many things can knock love out of the box.
To answer your questions, your concerns are realistic and your thinking solid. You certainly have the right to ask questions! Some of the key ones are: has he relapsed, how long ago, and what brought the relapse on? What has happened in his previous relationships around drinking? (I often muse that each new lover should be allowed/forced to interview one past one – except for mine!)
And you really might explore what brought him to the realization he was an alcoholic. It is my view that these attitudes and behaviors are not some accidental part of a person’s being, but a central statement of who they are and what they are capable of. In particular, do you have any desire to have children? Of course, having just turned 60 myself, I do believe that to err is human, to forgive divine.
At the same time, your letter says something more fundamental – you won’t give up drinking and you will miss sharing this essential experience with someone with whom you seek intimacy. That you won’t reject alcohol in your life is actually a profoundly authentic realization. It is one that American public health not only refuses to recognize – but is too stupid to figure would be both contrary to your own urge towards life, and unhealthy for you.
Just remember (as you seem to already know), for someone with talent who can experience pleasure like you, life in all of its manifestations and quandaries is interesting and fun. See if your new lover feels the same, as in some ways he seems to.
Published February 21, 2006.