Yes, you read that title right. This week, my boyfriend, Grady, took the time to write about his experience watching me battle alcohol addiction. His writing was hard for me to read, as it made me relive some of the hard times that we went through together this past year. However, I know that his perspective is an important one to share. In this post, Grady sums up all that he has learned throughout this journey and offers advice on how to best support a loved one battling addiction or substance abuse.
Thank you, Grady, for taking the time to write this post and for being my rock and #1 supporter throughout this journey. I truly could not have done it without you.
I met Steph in October of 2017, it was the beginning of my sophomore year and her freshman year of college. Funny enough, we met at a party that both of us could barely recollect the next day. My first real impression of her was that she was a very charming girl with a great sense of humor! Over the next 6 months we got closer, and eventually started dating by April. Those 6 months were amazing. I had found a girl who I could not get enough of and I was happy to say the least! I must admit that during the early parts of our relationship, a lot of the activities we bonded over involved alcohol. We were constantly partying and drinking for whatever the occasion was. During these first few months, I noticed that Steph would often get more drunk than the average person, but hey I would too. Nothing that weird about that right? We were in college.
About a month into our relationship, the morning after a long night of drinking, Steph claimed she had not remembered anything from the night before and seemed very frustrated about it. She asked me
“Do you think it’s weird that I blackout so much?”
and I responded,
“Of course not, I was basically blacked out too, we’re in college don’t worry about it.”
I did not think anything of it, but that day opened up an idea that I would not understand until about 18 months later. Maybe Steph’s drinking habits weren’t normal?
Over the next 18 months, our relationship developed even more. Things were great and we continued to enjoy our time together. Steph was becoming an increasingly more important person in my life as we became closer everyday. Over my junior year and her sophomore year, we started doing a lot more activities together such as the gym, hiking, and going out to nice dinners. However, we still did drink a lot together. Throughout all the great moments of the year, I can recollect three separate occasions that Steph was visibly upset about not being able to remember the night before. She would ask me if I thought it normal that she was doing this and I gave her the same reassuring answer every time,
“We’re in college don’t worry about it”.
On the night before Steph’s 21st birthday, we staying in a hotel, drank wine to celebrate as we did for most occasions, got some food, and called it a night. Or so I thought? That next morning, I discovered something while grabbing my belongings when leaving the hotel. There was a cap that I found to a mini shot bottle in the bathroom of the hotel room. Confused, I looked in the trash can to find four empty shot bottles. I asked Steph what had happened and all I got was a bit of a shrug. This was the first time I realized Steph’s drinking may be a bigger issue than I had originally thought. Regardless, Steph’s birthday turned into a two-week long drinking bender for the both of us, leading up to the start of the new school year.
The first couple weeks of the quarter were very weird. It was the start of my final year of college and I was uneasy about the fact that I would be graduating in June. And to make it weirder, Steph wasn’t really herself. She seemed unmotivated and not spunky which was quite the opposite of the Steph I knew. She was missing class and consistently calling in sick to work which had never happened in the almost 2 years that I had known her. Maybe she was having feelings about it being my last year? I was wrong. Steph never stopped her bender and I even caught her drinking in the mornings during the school week. This, combined with what I saw in the recent weeks, was enough for me to be worried.
I am not a very confrontational person, but I knew that this needed to be resolved in some sort of way. I couldn’t allow myself to just let this slip by like I had done in the past. Later that next week, I awkwardly brought up the actions that I had seen to Steph. I explained that from my perspective they were not healthy and I wanted to get her thoughts on it. I laid it all out there, touching on the hotel experience and resurfaced the conversation about her drinking in the morning. This conversation was short. Steph became defensive and that was about it.
The next weekend, after a couple days of partying and drinking, Steph came to me in tears. She admitted that drinking in the morning was not an uncommon thing for her. She put it all on the table, explaining that she felt like she could not control herself once she reached a certain level of drunk. She explained that she drank in the mornings in order to not feel the embarrassment from the night before. I thought that now that she admitted this to me, the problem would be dealt with and Steph would change her drinking habits over night. We talked about the best way to go handle this problem. I wanted to be as supportive as possible and help Steph come up with a plan of action for herself. She told me that she was going to consciously limit her alcohol consumption and count her shots. She asked me to help keep her accountable for this, and I happily agreed. What I didn’t know was that Steph had already tried and failed to moderate before coming to college.
Fall quarter consisted of a lot of trial and error. Over the next month, it was apparent that limiting consumption was not effective. The cycle of heavy drinking and shame continued. We needed to try something different and more drastic. She agreed that she was going to try and be sober for a couple weeks while she got all of her school work together, and boy did I see a different person in her. She seemed much more motivated and happy and was just overall a much more positive person. I was so happy for her.
After a few weeks of sobriety, Steph made the conscious decision to start drinking again. I struggled to tell her that I did not think this was a good idea, and just wanted to support her. When she got back to drinking again the same patterns occurred. I began to get frustrated with the situation but kept telling Steph that things were going to be okay and that she was making progress.
I wanted to be the person to tell her that she really needed to stop drinking for good, but all I could find myself doing was being the person that enabled the situation. Each morning after a long night of drinking, I would tell Steph that it would be okay and tell her that she was handling it great. I came to realize that I could not keep doing this and needed to be blunt about the idea of sobriety for at least a significant period of time. This conversation we had was the first time that I felt like alcohol was damaging our relationship.
We went for a hike, things were off and I felt as if the only thing either of us could think of was alcohol. This was fine with me, I did not need this time to be about our relationship as it was more about making Steph a healthier person. I knew I needed to do whatever I could to make this happen. I brought up the idea of trying sobriety again for an extended period of time. We started to argue after I informed her that I did not feel comfortable attending social events that she was drinking at anymore. This conversation ended with an agreement to not speak for a few days. I did not know what to do, I was scared and felt like I was losing my girlfriend to alcohol.
Thankfully the next week Steph came to me and said she wanted to get help and that she was going to stop drinking. This was a huge moment. I was relieved and could not be happier. Steph started going to therapy (even if she was reluctant the first few times) and started to mentally commit to sobriety. After a few weeks, the progress I saw from her and the overall levels of happiness could not be overstated. Night and day, she was a happier and more motivated person, she just needed to make a mental shift. Our relationship also picked back up and we were happier together. Instead of going out to social events, we stayed in and enjoyed our time together. It did not matter what other people were doing, Steph was focusing on being her best self.
After a few weeks, Steph was at the point where she felt comfortable going to social events sober. We attended events and I watched Steph confidently turn down drinks. However, I could see Steph was getting frustrated with not being able to drink with her friends. This frustration must have reached its breaking points because one day, for the first time in about 40 days, Steph made the conscious decision to drink. I trusted her decision, seeing all of the progress she had made. This day didn’t end well, and things spiraled from there. After a few more hard talks, things eventually rebounded and got better.
Since March 18th, 2020, Steph has not had one sip of alcohol. This is a huge accomplishment and I could not be more proud of her. Steph has grown an enormous amount over the past year and I feel lucky to have been able to witness her become her best self. From sharing her story on social media, to starting Funshitblog, she has been incredibly brave and proactive. Not only has Steph shared what she has been going through, but she has become a figure that stands for sobriety. She has become passionate about helping others and is a resource for people in college dealing with their own drinking issues. It is real growth and maturity to transform your experiences into a platform for helping others. However, it does not surprise me that Steph would do this given her loving and kind personality. Also, another thing I have seen is the amount of information Steph has learned about alcoholism. She has read numerous books and listened to podcasts to further understand what she is dealing with. The more you know right? That is so mature and I think this is another reason that Steph continues to better herself. She knows more about herself now than she ever has before.
If I had one word to describe Steph today, it would be optimistic. Everyday, she tells me about all the great things she has going on in her day and what she is looking forward to in the upcoming weeks. She has also become so much more positive in general. I am a believer in the phrase “adversity builds character” and I think the character that Steph has built is equivalent to a superhero. Since she cut alcohol out of her life, our relationship has also grown a lot. Going through this has made us stronger as a whole. I could not be more proud of the person she has become and all the great things that are on the horizon.
If I have any advice for anyone who has a boyfriend/girlfriend/close friend that is having trouble with alcohol, I would say two things.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, you will never fully be able to understand what that person is going through. Just because a person does not react immediately to a conversation you have with them, does not mean that what you said has had no impact. People need time to understand themselves and process things before they can make change. I regret feeling upset in the early stages when I was not immediately seeing Steph change her ways. I thought that once Steph admitted she had an issue, she would be able to resolve it overnight. I learned THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS, CHANGE HAPPENS SLOWLY and OVER TIME.
While you are there to support your person, you also need to know how to keep them accountable and do what is best for them, even if that is hard. For example, while me and Steph had a few brutally difficult talks, I know that these talks were important to her evolution. Not specifically because of WHAT I was saying, but THE ACTION of me going out of my way to make a point about what was going on. Though it might not be right away, that person will realize all you want is the best for them and by saying something you are looking out for their best interests. Steph did everything on her own, but that does not mean I wasn’t able to help point her in the right direction. Going off of this, you also want to put that person in the best place to succeed. For me, I always told Steph that I would be more than willing to stay in with her if she did not feel comfortable going to social events. Also, I offered to not drink with Steph for as long as she needed support. You always want to make that person feel like they have someone they can turn to during a time they are feeling the most alone.
And lastly, if you know someone who you suspect may have a drinking problem, please say something. I was able to convince myself for so long that Steph was okay just because we drank the same amount and I felt okay. This was not the case. Alcohol affects everyone differently. Alcoholism in college does not get talked about enough because of the normalization of binge drinking, which I will admit I took part in as well. Thank you Steph for being yourself, and starting Funshitblog to help others dealing with their own drinking issues and for spreading awareness of alcoholism at this age.