Dear Rabbi Danny,
I’ve been dating this great guy I met on JDate for about a month now. We’ve had 5 dates and I’m really enjoying getting to know him. On our last date, though, he dropped a bit of a shocker on me. After we finished a nice meal at his flat, we started to really get into chatting about our past and he opened up to me about a few things. He told me that he is an alcoholic and goes to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He’s been sober for a couple of years now but the whole thing is making me feel uneasy and I’m not sure what I should do. The thing is he’s a great guy, we share the same values and want a lot of the same things. I’m not bothered that he can’t have a drink, I’m just a bit worried about him being tempted into having one in the future and how that could change him.
Is it best for me to just break things off now and spare myself any upset in the future? Rabbi Danny – HELP!
I can see in your letter that you are feeling very conflicted about what to do, facing a complicated situation in relation to this guy.
In your letter you say that he is a great guy and that you’ve really been enjoying getting to know him, which sounds like exactly what you would be looking for after a few dates. The one problem is the alcoholism; were it not for this I am sure that you would be very excited to explore the possibilities in this relationship. What you have to decide is whether him going to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a reason to give up on the relationship now, before it gets too serious.
I think it is important to acknowledge that most people do not speak of alcoholism as something which you cure; instead it is something which is controlled by maintaining a sober lifestyle, giving up alcohol completely. You say that this guy has been sober for a couple of years and attends AA, which suggests that he has found a way to successfully control his problem. Although, I do understand that this situation might make you feel uneasy.
Judaism believes very strongly in the idea of teshuva – repentance. Every year on Yom Kippur we have a chance to atone for our sins. One can view the process of AA as a process of teshuva, whereby the person admits their problem and then undertakes actions to avoid making the same mistakes again. Judaism speaks of all people struggling to control their inclinations towards negative behaviour in all areas of life; alcoholism is the inclination which he is controlling and has done so successfully for a couple of years.
It is also important to recognise that it must have taken a lot of courage to share this with you and it is a sign of the closeness which he is beginning to feel with you. He is unlikely to have felt the need to open up to you if he did not feel that your relationship was moving in a positive direction. And things were progressing nicely; as you yourself said you have the same values and want a lot of the same things.
The fact is that relationships can be hard and there can be a variety of challenges along the way. Sometimes that challenge is a difference of opinion over values or different aspirations over life and the relationship. In your case, the challenge has emerged early on, with the revelation of his alcoholism. You have to decide if this is a challenge which you are willing to confront and whether this is a challenge which you feel your relationship will be able to overcome.
All the best,