Ask the Therapist: My boyfriend has alcohol and mental health issues

My boyfriend and I are together for 2 years . Since we moved together 15 months ago we started to argue and it was over drinking . He gets aggressive and fights with random people, it has happened around 7 times . When he is drunk he looses control, punches doors and the last time he threw a glass at me but he missed, thank God. When he gets sober he cries and says that he gets anxious and knows he shouldn’t drink anymore.  He then says he is sorry and it won’t happen anymore…until it happens again the next weekend or in few weeks.  

I feel that he is mentally ill.  He disrespects me and others. He doesn’t care what others think of him . My parents hate him because I always run to them when he’s drinking. We only fight when he is drunk . He also smokes weed from time to time.  And sometimes he does both, sees no problem with it.

Lisa’s thoughts:

It sounds like you are in a dangerous cycle with your boyfriend and pretty clear that he has issues around substance abuse and mental health.  It’s not uncommon that people who struggle with anxiety, depression, trauma or other unresolved wounds get in a habit of using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their discomfort.  Regardless of what is fueling his drinking, his aggressive behavior is unsafe for you and others around him.  He is in a classic cycle of addiction; over-use, problematic behavior, expression of remorse and shame, back to use again.

I’m concerned about your safety and what happens the next time.  Domestic violence can also ramp up this way and has a similar cycle…incident, apology, repeat.  You dodged a glass but are you so lucky the next time?  I understand that you would like to help him but he is the only person who can take the step out of his own cycles to doing something that leads to change.

It sounds as though he has deep wounds that haven’t been addressed and is suffering.  But it’s his responsibility to find healthy ways to work through this; introspection, understanding, possible therapy to resolve, sobriety and better coping strategies.

Most importantly, it’s YOUR responsibility to know when you’ve done all you can do and walk away when needed.  If you struggle to remove yourself from this cycle, you also might want to look at what issues you carry that have kept you there.

It’s a loving thing to try to help him but do not over-invest in saving him, especially if the cost is you.

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Lisa’s responses are not to be considered “therapy” but rather educational; her thoughts are based on the limited information available. Please seek a local individual, couples or family therapist if it is therapy that you seek.

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Lisa is offering Online Therapy and Counseling services to individuals seeking help with their marriage or relationships. California residents only to adhere to state licensing laws.