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bongo's avatar

How can I deal with my alcoholic housemate?

Asked by bongo (4292 points ) June 17th, 2012

My housemate is an alcoholic. He told me after we first moved in in October, he was fine for the first few months and he didn’t touch a drop of alcohol. I have had trouble with him not paying the bills in the past, taking my food but recently he has been taking my alcohol and going on long drinking binges, this last one has been going on for over a week. He got arrested 10 days ago for smashing up a police van and has court next week for it.
I am in a house contract and can not move out without having find someone to replace my contract. I have had to front the money for the bills again this month and the house is a mess, I have tried to clean it up but he keeps spilling beer etc everywhere and drawing on the walls(!) I am trying to get on with my masters thesis (as he should be). I cant move out as I would worry about him and can not afford to pay double rent until I find someone to replace my contract however, I cant afford to mess up my masters and continue to pay for his share of the bills either (although this is the cheaper option).
I have moved all of my alcohol out of the house and now keep it at my boyfriends house but he still prioritises buying alcohol or pot over anything else. He is a great guy when sober and good fun. He can drink in moderation and when he does he is a good mate on a night out however recently he has just been trying to start fights and a few days ago woke up in the middle of the pavement in the town centre not knowing how he got there.
I am getting down worrying about him.

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29 Answers

bookish1's avatar

I’m sorry that you are dealing with this. I’ve got friends and relatives who are alcoholics and two of my grandparents died from alcoholism.

However, in my opinion it’s not your business or concern to worry about him, or wonder what will become of him if you bail on this shitty situation for your own good. Even if he were your friend or your brother, it’s still not your responsibility what happens to him. He’s making the decision to fuck up his life, and as long as you feel like he is your responsibility, you are allowing him to fuck up your life as well!

If he has the self-awareness to warn you back in October that he is an alcoholic, he already has the choice to clean himself up if he wants to. Some people really need to hit rock bottom before they seek help. And you can’t do anything for him or induce him to give a shit. Alcoholics delude themselves first and then try all sorts of crap to delude others (including saying they’re getting their act together, or being “good friends” when they are sober so you feel solicitous and hopeful towards them, etc.)

On a practical level, my only suggestion is to save up your money and look for another roommate, or a single apartment with cheaper rent somewhere. I’ve had a lot of friends have success with advertising for roommates on Craigslist, although I have not done that myself.

Best of luck to you.

Trillian's avatar

Small claims court.
“He is a great guy when sober and good fun. He can drink in moderation and when he does he is a good mate on a night out however recently he has just been trying to start fights and a few days ago woke up in the middle of the pavement in the town centre not knowing how he got there.”
Do you see the contradictions here?
Is his name on anything? Did he sign the lease? Have you actually addressed any of this with him?
I’d start with him and tell him honestly how you feel about the negative consequences his actions are causing you and your life. Then I’d tell him I was going to speak to the landlord, and I would follow through and do that. They’re people after all, and may have suggestinos for you. If he actually signed papers, you may be able to sue in small claims court for breach of contract.
Good luck.

CWOTUS's avatar

Do you have AlAnon in your area? Of course you’ve heard of Alcoholics Anonymous; that’s for the alcoholic himself to help himself. But AlAnon is for “families of alcoholics”. In your case, I’d say that because of your forced close association you are “essentially family”. You’ve had good advice above, as well.

I would talk to your landlord to find out what recourse you have if your housemate bails on you, or has a medical condition that requires his forced removal or hospitalization (or jailing), any one of which seems imminent.

Good luck.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

If I can surmise by your spelling, you’re not in the US, so I say kick the sodding bastard out. That is, if you’re able to. You mentioned some kind of contract. Well, read the fine print. There’s got to be something in there about not doing anything to endanger the well-being of the occupants. His behavior is doing that. Not paying his share of the bills, leaving the place a holy mess, and spilling beer all over the floor and furniture is ruining your living environment, and it is a hazard. You should have some recourse for action against him.

I’m a recovered alcoholic with 13 years of sobriety. You cannot change this man. Your worry will not help the situation. The only thing that will speak to him is action, and it’s got to be the action of hard knocks.

Your worry is your problem. Stop it. Just simply stop worrying about him, and get rid of him.

Either that, or find a way in your contract to get out yourself.

It’s unfortunate to have to put it in such stark terms, but it’s that simple. You cannot change him with all your worry and your paying his share of the bills and letting him leech off you. You are enabling him by giving him a place to stay. Stop it.

bongo's avatar

Ok thank you everyone for your support here, I will speak to him again and get him to pay up with the bills. I will go and speak to my landlord next week (I wont have time for a few days as I am so so so busy with my university work).
@CWOTUS there is no AlAnon in my area, no. The nearest one is about 20 miles away and does not hold regular meetings either.
He has told me he is going to see his alcohol support worker on monday. If he doesn’t do that I will have to move out before the end of the month. If he stays sober I would prefer to stay. I am settled in this house and only going to be living here til October anyway.
I also can not afford to go to court. I have to live on less than £250/month after rent and bills.

marinelife's avatar

KIck him out and find a new roommate. He will not change especially if you are enabling him. As a drunk, he will just lie and say whatever you want to hear.

gailcalled's avatar

You should not have to change your venue because of his drunken behavior. Can you also contact his alcohol support worker on Monday and explain the serious issues you have with living with him?

If you pay only your share of the bills and explain to the landlord what the issues are, will he kick this guy out?

Can you change the locks? Probably not.

We give you permission to take care of yourself first; has he got family who can worry about him? It is not your job.

PS. Is this the same guy who was smoking dope and also not paying his share of the bills, per question of Nov. 2011? http://www.fluther.com/134292/how-can-i-make-my-housemate-pay-his-share-of-the/

bongo's avatar

His parents live far away and his dad usually lives in India or sometimes homeless in the UK moving around wherever people will have him his brother sometimes speaks to him (although also lives far away) but he has 2 small children and I will not hand him over to his brother to deal with for those children’s sake.

I cant change the locks. I will speak to the landlord however the bills are separate to the rent and the landlord is not very proactive about things. I can’t kick him out as we have our own separate contracts. He has not technically breached anything under our contract he always pays his rent and if he doesnt have the cash he works off his rent by labouring for my landlord building things. Even not paying the bills is not a breach of contract as long as if we get cut off we make sure we get re-connected before we move out! He will have to be sober for court if not then the police will get involved more. I cant speak to his alcohol support worker. All I know is that he has one, I have no idea where he goes to speak to him or who he is. My housemate also won’t tell me this information (well he sort of does but he is always too vague to really make any difference).

gailcalled's avatar

Pay your fair share of the bills; alert your roommate and your landlord, in writing and with copies, to the damage that he is doing to the landlord’s apartment and then go work on your studies and your thesis.

He is not worth derailing your life for now.

bongo's avatar

and @gailcalled yes that is the same guy! he has been paying up since then when I really had words with him but recently hes fallen back into not paying. The only difference, last time he wasn’t drinking.
I will write a letter, yes thats a good idea.

Trillian's avatar

“I will not hand him over to his brother to deal with for those children’s sake.”
Then you have taken rsponsibility for the behaviour of another person.

bookish1's avatar

@Trillian: +1

@bongo: Everyone who is stating or intimating that it sounds like you are enabling this guy….is correct.

marinelife's avatar

You should also consider going to an Al-Anon meeting. I think it would help you.

wundayatta's avatar

@marinelife SHe seems to be too far away from the AlAnon meeting.

You might also educate yourself about the behavior of alcoholics. Can anyone recommend a good book for this? If you can’t get to meetings, you can learn something by research, and you may also be able to find AlAnon meetings online. At least there you can share your problems with people who have experience with them, and are there to talk about them.

ninjacolin's avatar

For an alternative to AA try: http://www.smartrecovery.org/

A lot of people are offended by AA and their religious leanings. SMART Recovery is secular which potentially may appeal to your roommate more.

mrrich724's avatar

From dealing with alcoholic family. DO NOT BE AN ENABLER and GTFO. I mean that in the nicest, sincerest, most hopeful way possible.

You need not worry/care about someone who refuses to worry/care about themselves. You are at a turning point in your life. You need to make sure nothing distracts you from your master’s and you’re quite probably endebting yourself with education expenses as it is, no need to take on more debt so he/she can spend money on drugs and alcohol!!!

Post a vacancy immediately for someone to either take your spot or your roomie’s spot in the apartment ASAP, and distance yourself from that person.

By continuing to help this person, you are allowing them to continue their bad behavior and get the message “hey you can keep doing this, and I’ll keep worrying about you and paying your bills, so have a great time!”

jerv's avatar

It depends on whether he wants to change, and whether he is willing to work at it. But when they drink their rent money away, odds are that they really don’t care enough about getting better to be able to be helped.

Buttonstc's avatar

There are two excellent books I’m going to recommend you read ASAP. You are obviously an intelligent person but lack life experience in dealing with alcoholics. Unfortunately, Alcoholism/addiction does not respond to intelligence. The only person who can help an addict is the person themselves. As long as you remain in the situation as a “helper” you are only helping to prolong his addiction. That may sound harsh but it is the absolute truth. Just ask any recovering alcoholic/addict and they will tell you the exact same thing just as everyone in this thread is trying to get across to you.

But everything you write indicates the degree to which you are enmeshed with this guy in a very unhealthy way. Your motives are pure. But your methodology is the problem. It’s bass-ackward.

His children are not your responsibility. I hate to put it that bluntly but that is the truth.

You didn’t CAUSE his problem and you can’t CHANGE it and you cant CURE it. I know whereof I speak. I grew up with two alcoholic parents and my younger brother ended up following in their footsteps. I thought I could rescue him. I had to find out the hard way that I was wrong.

He is a happy sober person today but he had to get fed up with his situation on his own and find help for himself. No matter how badly I wanted to help him, he had to want it FOR HIMSELF.

The same is true for this guy or any other addict. Derailing your own life for him or his kids will not change him. It will just screw up your life.

His brother and other family members obviously have refused to allow themselves to be used by him any longer. What you perceive as being mean is simply them having reached the end of their rope with him.

This is what addicts/alcoholics do. They use people. It’s the nature of the disease. The only people who are immune to this are those who refuse to give in to their charms and won’t allow themselves to be used.

Of course you think he’s a nice guy. Alcoholics can be some the most winsome and charming people on the planet. This is how people end up enabling them.

You desperately need to add to yourself the ability to fully and truly understand one word. Please don’t take it as an insult or judgement. Just learn about it and you’ll realize this. Then you will begin to find your way to how to deal with this situation.

The word is CO-DEPENDENT. You may think you know what it means but after reading a few books about it you will really know it.

For starters, there are two excellent books, both available from Amazon. The sooner you read them the sooner you’ll know what you need to do. Please don’t say to yourself that you don’t have the time. You need to make the time to help yourself.

“Understanding Codependency” by Sharon Weggscheider-Cruse

“Codependent N0 More” by Melody Beattie

And for the record, I don’t think that 20 miles (or 20 mins. by car) is too far away for an Al Anon meeting. I think it could be tremendously helpful to get some feedback from others also walking in your shoes. As someone earlier mentioned, even tho you aren’t blood- related to him, situationally speaking, you are acting as if he is your family since you feel responsible for him and his children as well.

Good luck dealing with this and after it’s resolved, regard it as a valuable everlasting life lesson.

The life lesson I learned for myself from growing up with it can be summed up very simply. Regarding being involved with alcoholics/addicts, there is one iron-clad rule: DON’T.

mrrich724's avatar

@Buttonstc hit the nail on the head with CODEPENDENT. Codependency is something that can allow additction go from ruining one life to ruining a family of lives.

You can only go so far in trying to help someone. The rest is up to them.

bongo's avatar

I dont have a car after it got broken into twice, last night we also had our house broken into and so right now I am pretty scared to move out on my own. I will do it soon once I have someone I can move in with. I am not willing to get a place on my own now after having my car broken into twice this year and now my house. I do not live in a very nice area at all but I can not afford to move to a better area. My housemate was great for the break in and chased the guy out with a hammer. Right now I would prefer some protection from break ins than protection from an alcoholic whom I know is not violent to people (unless he has to be!). I know you will probably say I am doing the wrong thing but I don’t have a choice right now. I either have someone here who is proactive about protecting the house and me or be scared when I hear any little noise but be able to have drink in the house and not have to deal with his drinking. Bit of a catch 22.

Buttonstc's avatar

That’s precisely why I did not make any specific recommendation on whether you should move out or not.

Whatever specific actions you choose to do or not to do in this entire situation are not as important as WHY you are making those choices.

As long as you’re settled in there for awhile, why not make use of the time to catch up on some reading. (there are two recommended starters for your reading listed above.

That way at least you may have a clearer idea of why you’re making whatever choices you are.

Just doing something because a bunch of people on an Internet site tell you so is rarely adequate for the situation at hand.

But the underlying principles behind what people are saying regarding alcoholics/addicts are valid and unchanging. And they represent the collective wisdom of life experience in dealing with this disease.

There is no doubt that you will learn valuable lessons from dealing with this guy. The only question remaining is how high a price you will pay for that (and I’m not just referring to dollars and cents here.)

Hopefully you’ll also help yourself by educating yourself as much as you can about the dynamics of dealing with addiction. There are plenty of other helpful books in addition to the two I recommended and I’m sure your local library has some. It ain’t rocket science.

Once you fully realize what you’re dealiing with here, whatever you need to do or not do will be clear to you. It’s your choice.

mrrich724's avatar

@bongo you say you can’t move out, but are you really taking into consideration your normal bills PLUS his bills that you are paying? I’d imagine if you consistently have to cover both halfs of the bills and/or rent, you could probably use that to rent a room in a nicer area, no?

bongo's avatar

He always pays his rent and if he cant afford it he works it off for my landlord which means he doesnt see the money for him to spend it. I may be moving out anyway after the break in depending on how quickly my landlord steps up security on the house… Its all a bit up in the air now after so many criminal attacks on the property. This break in has really shocked him into staying alert and he is starting his project now which requires him to walk around dangerous areas at night looking for bats so he will need to be sober if he wants to be safe and after the break in he really realises this.
I have now started the ball rolling and emailed my estate agents who have lots of properties I may be able to move into without having to pay a finders fee as it is the university run one and I have also told him I want to move out. Fingers crossed I will be out soon but it is going to take some time.

bookish1's avatar

@bongo: This break in has really shocked him into staying alert and he is starting his project now which requires him to walk around dangerous areas at night looking for bats so he will need to be sober if he wants to be safe and after the break in he really realises this.

You’re still speculating about what mental judgments an alcoholic is making, and alot of what you say could be wishful thinking (on his part as well as yours), so I urge caution. If he made decisions like a non-alcoholic person, he wouldn’t have ended up flat on his back in the middle of the town center with no idea how he got there, now would he?

That is great to hear that you have been speaking to estate agents and they might be able to find you university run property. Keeping my fingers crossed for that!

bongo's avatar

I know but I have started the moving out process now. I expect he will move out too when I do as one person living there would be a target to more criminal activity. Fingers crossed I will find a new place soon although my landlord and estate agents are willing me to stay right now so it is going to be a fight with them to move out. Not sure if I have to legally fulfil my contract and pay the remainder of my rent for the rest of the year right now or not. If I do I will have to stay…

mrrich724's avatar

Looking for bats as in flying creatures, or wooden sticks? LOL

bongo's avatar

flying creatures! I study swimming creatures, he studies flying creatures.

Buttonstc's avatar

I maybe the only one to whom this has occurred but I’ll mention it anyhow.

I realize that it’s not a great area of town but THIS break in could very well have been one of his opportunistic drug buddies or some friends of theirs who wouldn’t be recognized.

Addicts are always in need of something to sell. He may still have enough of a sense of conscience to not steal from you but I guarantee that they don’t.

There is some truth to the old adage “if you lie down with dogs, don’t be surprised when you end up with fleas.

Of course, I have no way to prove that it had something to do with his drug buddies but is certainly wouldn’t be that unlikely or unheard of.

I’m not sure what country you’re in but here in the States we have something called small claims court. This is so that anyone can bring a case before a judge without hiring expensive lawyers.

You would definitely have a strong case against your landlord for not allowing you out of your contract. Nobody is required to live in unsafe conditions.

If you were to prevail in a case against them, they would not be able to pursue you for any monies due for the contract and MIGHT even have to pay for your moving expenses.

Depending upon the legal system where you live, this may be possible if they refuse to let you go free and clear.

Of course they don’t want you to leave. It’s money out of their pockets and that’s their only priority. If they were human beings, they would be more concerned for your safety and not give you such a hard time about it. You do have rights.

bongo's avatar

@Buttonstc he doesnt really have ‘drug buddies’ he is a student and goes round the student scene. When it is sometimes £2/double vodka in night clubs when you have a student card it is easy to get drunk every night without spending much so long as you stick around with students, the day he woke up in town was after a student ‘night out’ on a Thursday promoting cheap drinks for students only. In the UK there is a very big student drinking culture and many drug and alcohol problems easily go unnoticed within groups (of men especially) as they are out drinking most nights competing in the amount they can drink and how long they can party for. The area is renouned for breakins and heroin addiction is one of the highest in the UK here. My housemate is not a herion addict. He may be an alcoholic and smoke weed (we both do which we buy off a mate of ours also a student) but he does not socialise with those types of people.
I have not heard of small claims in the UK. I am not willing to sue him for anything. The small amounts of money involved between us is not worth the time to go to court (less than £10 now he has paid me back yesterday after the breakin) so we are pretty squared up on cash now.
The landlord is saying that it is safe in the property, it was not his fault they could get in, it was because we didnt close the shutters that night. (The house does come with security shutters but they make the house so miserable I hate using them especially in the summer) Looks like I am going to have to keep the shutters closed whenever I leave the house!

edit: I know the drinking as part of a student scene is no excuse, I am saying there is no way that my housemate would have been drinking and socialising with house robbing criminals as it is easier (and sometimes more accepted) for university students to be alcoholics and so he will hang around more with uni students.

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