How do I diminish the guilt I feel for leaving my alcoholic partner?

by Mary
(Midlothian, IL )

My partner and I have been living together for 19 months now. He stopped drinking about 8 months ago on his own. While I thought this was a great accomplishment, I now see patterns of behavior I do not know how to handle. Our fighting has become so serious that he has now moved out. My question is – why do I feel so guilty? I feel like I abandoned him at this very critical time of his life. He is irresponsible, immature and I see now he cannot function on his own.

While I now have serenity back in my home, the guilt I feel is so overwhelming. I feel as though I’ve abandoned a child left with no defenses.

I’m considering attending a CODA meeting this week as I feel, unconsciously, I became an enabler and I no longer want that role.

I blame myself for this relationship. I initiated it not knowing what price I would pay in the end. I had no idea I was getting involved with an alcoholic as he only drank on weekends after work. I feel foolish that I did not recognize this behavior right from the beginning.

I know this is such a complicated topic but please help me to let go of this guilt.

Thank you so much.


This is a common phenomenon with women because women are nurturers. When we see a person, especially a man that we love, who needs help, we feel an obligation to help in every way possible. It’s not surprising that you feel like you have abandoned him. In a way, you have. However, this is not a bad thing so it’s not something to feel guilty about.

He is a grown man and getting help is his responsibility. He won’t own it unless he seeks it himself. If he is irresponsible and immature, that is not your fault. It could be the result of bad parenting, poor mental health, or something else, but it is not your fault nor your responsibility.

It sounds like the relationship ended because it was unhealthy. An unhealthy relationship is not good for you and it’s also not good for him and his recovery. An unhealthy romantic relationship can be very damaging to an alcoholic’s recovery and maintenance of sobriety. He will be better served by delaying all romantic relationships until further into his recovery process. Just because he hasn’t drank for 8 months doesn’t mean that he is recovered. The unsettling patterns of behavior that you observed are likely a part of the addiction. Alcohol may have been his way to cope. Removing alcohol doesn’t remove all of the underlying reasons for drinking.

He will need a support system if he intends to maintain sobriety but that support system probably should not include you. You may be a great supporter but because you are a previous romantic relationship, your involvement could hinder his progress.

Sometimes you just need someone to say, “It’s ok to move on.” Well, it’s ok to move on. You aren’t doing anything wrong. He is not your responsibility.

Here is more information on dating an alcoholic and living with an alcoholic.

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