Ask Katie: Can I Save my Alcoholic Ex?

This piece is part of the regular Ask Katie* advice column series at The Fix.

Dear Katie,

I’m worried about my ex-boyfriend, Joe*. We were together for almost 10 years, and the last two his alcoholism got really bad. A withdrawal seizure a year and a half ago prompted him to get help, and it’s been a tiring process of recovery since then, including two visits to the hospital for detox and periods of sobriety and relapse. Unfortunately, he really doesn’t have any friends, though he did when we first met, and doesn’t speak to his family. He doesn’t have a job right now, and I’m worried he’s living on his credit card. Two weeks ago, he found out I had been cheating on him (which was my unhealthy way of coping with our situation) and kicked me out. I’m currently living at my parents, though we have a lease through next summer. I really care about this man, love him, in fact, despite my actions. It kills me that I can’t help him right now. I’m worried he’s going to get really bad again and not have anyone to help him. (When we were together, there were several times that I would find him on the floor, blacked out). Any advice on how to help someone that won’t speak to you (or only in angry drunken tweets)? Admittedly Co-Dependent


I’m so sorry you are going through this, Admittedly Co-Dependent. It sucks. It sucks to be in love with someone who is active in their addiction, it sucks when the person you love is endangering his health—physical, emotional, financial and otherwise. Of course, the most painful part is that he won’t communicate with you at all (and let’s not count drunken, angry tweets. They are not an acceptable form of grown-up, productive conversation).

Your ex-boyfriend is sick. He is battling something that is turning him into a vestige of his former self—the person you love—and it’s incredibly painful to watch. Of course you want to help him. Of course you’re worrying on his behalf because he’s not together enough to worry about himself—much less take action to change his situation. These aren’t bad instincts, ACD. You’re an empathic, loving person and someone you care deeply about is in need. But all of our best, natural instincts can be taken to negative extremes—extremes that start to chip away at our own health and well-being, and I think that’s happening here (continued)


*I am not an expert or a mental health or medical professional; I’m a sober person offering my experiences and advice about sobriety. Every other Tuesday I will one recovery-related question posed by Fix readers, based on my experience. Send your general advice questions to me at with the subject “Ask Katie.” 

By submitting a question to this website, you grant The Fix permission to publish it on its site. All questions will remain anonymous. Due to the large number of questions received, The Fix cannot guarantee a response. But they do check back frequently!


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Katie MacBride is a freelance journalist, essayist, and co-founder/associate editor of Anxy magazine. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, Vice, Playboy, and Buzzfeed, among other publications. Follow her on Twitter: @msmacb

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