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the drunkard's girl

My boyfriend comes from a long line of hard drinking Irishmen (women, not so much). He’s a good-natured drunk even when he’s downing whiskey and for the most part I take him as he is, no problem. Not like his drinking was any surprise. BUT... he drinks excessively on a daily basis which is bad for his health, he can’t get up in the morning which is bad for his employment maintenance (he usually gets fired from any given job after 3-6 months), and he has been stopped for DUI on more than one occasion. You’re probably thinking I’m going to ask about getting him sober but I’m not. The thing is, I know he should stop drinking, but I absolutely HATE him when he is sober. He is an uptight, arrogant, nit-picking, miserable bastard. So I’m happy to let him keep drinking rather than deal with his sober self, except for the side effects stated above. Advice?

—A. Anonymous

The Straight Skinny: Thing is, when this guy’s sober he’s not actually sober—he’s in withdrawal. That’s why he’s a miserable bastard.

And if he were to quit drinking tomorrow with no help whatsoever, he’d probably remain a miserable bastard. There’s nothing meaner and more unpleasant in this world than a dry drunk. (I’ve always assumed that’s why people always say of George Bush, “I don’t agree with him most of the time, but I’d love to have a beer with him.” Of course you’d love to have a beer with him. His company would be intolerable with a considerable dose of alcohol for all parties.) No, you’re not really sober unless you examine your physiological and psychological need for alcohol. I’m not big on higher powers, but in my experience conquering addiction requires the structure and discipline of some sort of program.

You’ve probably never seen your boyfriend truly sober. So your course of action depends on what you want from your future: Do you want the hardscrabble life of an alcoholic’s mate, in which you will have to pay the bills and periodically bail him out at the holding center/emergency room/place of employment? (This is not a moral judgment. If you’re both happy with his drinking, god bless you and keep you, but know what the future holds.) Do you want to gamble his health and your welfare in order to keep the status quo? Or do you want to gamble on some kind of treatment?

Sobriety requires a significant change in lifestyle. Who knows, he might throw you over. Like I said, it’s a gamble either way. Think about it and tell him what you would prefer, then be prepared to vote with your feet, because that’s the only vote you get. He’s the one who has to decide which bet to take.

Dr. Sigmund Fraud says: If I were a real psychiatrist, which I’m not, I would probably say that this man is in dire need of professional help. I once treated a woman who was trapped in an unhappy marriage to a man who had given up drinking 10 years into their relationship. She still enjoyed a glass of wine now and then, and he would rail at her mercilessly, and tell her how unsupportive she was of his abstinence by openly drinking in front of him. Gradually, our sessions crossed a line professionally, as is often the case when you’re an untrained and unlicensed practitioner like myself, and we wound up going out on drinking binges for days on end. Finally, he divorced her. She then amplified her alcoholic intake to such an extent that I had to break it off. So the more I think of it, I’m probably the wrong guy to ask.

the cure

Journalists drink a lot, don’t they? They do in the movies. So what’s the best cure for a wicked, green beer-induced hangover?

The Straight Skinny: I‘m a journalist, or at least that’s what I’m paid for, and I drink a lot, but rarely am I hung over. (Maybe that means I’ve crossed some invisible Rubicon.) But back when I was a mere youth, I occasionally woke up feeling, well, let’s say foggy. The best policy I could come up with was not to give in to a hangover. Shower and dress nattily; fight through it and it will go away faster. Go about your day.

The best cure for a hangover, of course, is to avoid one. Drink a glass of water for every two stiff drinks you consume while you’re drinking. (If all you’re drinking is beer, don’t worry so much: You’ll be fine.) Eat something during the course of the bender. Lay off sweet drinks, they’ll kill you. And in the morning, drink about a half gallon of cherry or cranberry juice cut four-to-one with water. Seriously. It works wonders.

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