By Emmeline Bisiikwa, Uganda
I want to ask you, for a moment, to picture what an alcoholic looks like. Does this person have bloodshot eyes? Do they have disheveled hair? Do they move with a bottle everywhere? Could it be that person next to you who seems to enjoy having a good time every once in a while? I would imagine you think it is that neighbor who can’t stop drinking ever since they lost their job and who has screaming fights every night that keep you up or wake you up.
I remember my first alcoholic boyfriend like it was yesterday. We met at a bar and commenced drinking with him and his friends. That night I got crazy drunk and he looked after me, apparently. I don’t remember most of that night. The next day he called to check on me. We started talking after that and then after days of wooing planned to meet again. The next time we met again was a bar. I should have noticed the signs.
He drunk mostly as a coping mechanism, so every time he had a bad day it was bound to end in a bar. It’s not even like drinking helped him feel better, he was just able to forget and get numb. The first few times he missed our dates or was late because of drinking I tried to be understanding because he had a horrible day or was stressed. Eventually, the excuses were more than actual plans and I got tired of promises that ended at that.
Couple that with fights that only happened when we had been drinking and I realized that it was the spark. I was so resentful and bitter after a while that I found an alcoholics program where you don’t drink for a month. I volunteered to do it with him and we did. It wasn’t easy saying no to booze. I like the occasional drink while out with friends but this time we went out and would not drink. Most of his friends do so they were concerned. They thought I had stopped him or something.
Eventually the month ended, and when we went out after that he ordered me booze and soda for himself. When I asked him what was wrong, he revealed that he realized he had been coping with issues the wrong way and alcohol wasn’t solving them he felt no need to drink excessively anymore.
The bar became our solace where we would link up after work to drink sodas, chat and dance. His friends thought I had refused him to drink or I would leave. He seemed ok drinking soda so I was ok with that. Maybe I had cured him after all.
When we were breaking up, his argument was you started work in me. Are you going to leave before finishing? Remember we have walked this path together. I reasoned it wasn’t my job to cure his alcoholism. Maybe he would recognize the signs the next time, if he ever started to drink again.
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