I actually took "unsafe transportation" to mean any variety passing out in an Uber/too drunk to tell cabby where you're going/stumbling home on foot/wastedly riding public transportation sort of scenario.
Or getting in cars with psychos.
Alcohol is such a shitty drug. My father was an alcoholic and gave it up for the last twenty years of his life. My mother drank every day, often in the mornings,she'd never get drunk though, until recently and only stopped because she is now in a home at ninety six. She was a nasty mean woman most of her life and I believe the grog was a big part of that.
I hate alcohol.
My only advice for WASTED/LW is give an ultimatum to her girlfriend. If she wants to be in a relationship with the Letter Writer, she has to stop drinking, and go to support groups like AA to help her, plus rehab. If Letter Writer's girlfriend doesn't stop drinking, I suggest going to a funeral home together to pick out her casket and how she wants her funeral that comes sooner than later..

The LW girlfriend has a disease, it is chronic, it is tough to fight, and it will shorten the girlfriend's life unless she address right now. The girlfriend has the disease of addiction. Drinking in moderation doesn't work, given they still can't control their intake of alcohol. Their behavior changes because alcohol is a powerful depressant.

The best way to deal with their disease is abstinence, which is still difficult, given an addict has to learn new skill sets to deal with it. There have been studies and treatments of using Naltrexone, a narcotic antagonist, that blocks receptors and allegedly blocks craving for ethyl alcohol.. AA is a good social network, but it still has close to a 90% recidivism rate, but the girlfriend should stop drinking alcohol immediately, get some treatment and a plan to deal with this serious chronic issue. Moderate Drinking is not working for her.
I found Katy Leach’s input to be nonsense. Identify boundaries to protect yourself while your partner is engaged is seriously unhealthy, dangerous, and/or anti-social behaviors? Dan proscribes the only meaningful boundary: ending the relationship.

I dated a woman with an alcohol problem, although I did not know that at the time, and her periods of drinking were corrosive to our relationship. Anger, arguments, and risky behaviors; I found it really untenable to date someone abusing alcohol, let alone contemplate marriage.

LW, and Ms. Leach, should consider how she can create a boundary should her girlfriend kill someone while behind the wheel. Imagine tying your financial future to someone who is risking that legal liability.

@2/Dougsf: Before Dan clarified, I thought risky transportation was accepting rides from men who saw a drunk woman as an easy mark, but drunk driving makes more sense than other possibilities.
Yeah I agree with @lavagirl. Coming from an alcoholic family myself (even without blackout drinking), it was the worst. A lot of boundaries end up getting crossed over time, terrible things happen. The brain gets damaged by that much drinking and it effects everyone close to the alcoholic. The main finding in the Grant Study (a 75 year longitudinal study of Harvard college sophomores) was that alcoholism is a disease of great destructive power. Please, take care of yourself.
Wait wait wait...

Is the GF at the point where she just drinks to black-out drunk 6 times a year?

Regardless of her history with alcohol, if we're at the point where 6 days a year the girlfriend gets black-out drink and LW doesn't want to have sex with her on those evenings.... That could be a very reasonable price of admission. Six nights a year where you're selfish and your SO has to mind their own business until morning is a healthy amount of separation, regardless of reason.

I know several people (including me) who occasionally (a few times a year) get black-out drunk. Nobody drives drunk, some people say some things they wouldn't say when they were sober, and we accept that this person is having a top much to drink evening and they'll get us next time.

If the GF is now capable of limiting her black-out drunk instances so that she's not risking actual harm to herself or others (no DUI, no situations where she's not with friends and liable to become a victim), LW may want to consider how much of this is a real actual problem and how much is turning a different approach to alcohol into a problem.

Certainly, if LW just doesn't like anyone who gets blackout drunk at all, LW can leave. But merely drinking to excess 6 times a year in its own - which may be the present situation - sounds like a situation many people would find unremarkable.

Ferret @ 4 - Unfortunately, no ultimatum will work as long as they're long distance and the LW can't monitor her GF's behaviour. And since LW uses the fact that they're both "working in demanding creative fields" to explain the distance, it's highly unlikely that they'll both change their field of work for this to be possible.
I'm kinda agreeing with @7 here... from the letter, it sounds like the gf is getting better. Slowly perhaps, but still, from what I ready, it sounds like the letter writer says is that things were much worse in the past and things have improved, she just wants more improvement. Yes?

So really isn't the question more like how much improvement does she want and what's the time frame?

"...she loses control and blacks out a minimum of once a month."

There being 12 months in a year, that's at least 12 times per year, and likely more, since LW notes that this is a minimum number and GF travels a lot, i.e., her drinking is not always supervised (and thus counted) by LW. And this drinking is not "merely drinking to excess," as you say, but blacking out, which means retaining no memories once sobriety hits.

Even as someone who quit drinking because I consumed enough to cause measurable damage to my liver, I've blacked out, like, maybe twice in my life. Granted, I'm a 230lb dude, so it's probable that it takes a greater quantity of alcohol to black me out than the described GF, but goddamn, that sounds like a lot of blacking out, even to this old alcoholic.

That said, I'm not as hard DTMFA as errbody else here--just maybe, that professional with training and experience in these things may have something of a point--but again, damn. That's a lot of blacking out.
I wonder a little what the LW’s definition of “blackout” is...does it always mean her GF can’t remember anything at all from the previous evening (including sex)? Or is she lumping in those nights when her memory is less than perfect, but she still recalls the gist? In my considerable experience, there are many subtle levels to loss of memory while drinking. I would put very few of the episodes I’ve had in the category of an actual blackout. Just seems important to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing.
@7: Binge drinking to excess and forgetfulness the next morning (@11) is one thing, being in a blackout is quite another. You could be at a party, not driving, and a blackout could still be very dangerous. You can be 'awake' in a blackout, driving even, but the brain isn't "saving anything to disk."
And I too, speak from experience.
But I was never driving during one. God bless.
She feels like I'm too hard on her for not understanding that she deserves to "relax" a little sometimes and that I should applaud the major improvement (and I otherwise do) rather than retreat when she decides (as she puts it) to take a night off.

Regardless of how often your girlfriend drinks or blacks out, this is the crux of the issue: you think her drinking is the problem (even with the changes she's made), while she thinks your refusal to engage with her when she's intoxicated with is the problem. Unless the two of you are in the same place regarding what the problem is, it seems mighty unlikely that it will get better.

I had relationships with alcoholics when I was younger. The relationships weren't all bad by any means -- alcoholics can be lovely people! -- but eventually I realized that when you have a partner that abuses alcohol, there are big chunks of time where they are not fully present or accountable for their actions. You're with someone who's only themselves some of the time. Healthy relationships take time and energy, and alcoholics tend to not have much of those things to spare since so much of it gets funneled toward their addiction.
The line, “often as a reward for something or as a means of momentary escape from stress,” rings a bell when it comes to other addictive behaviors, and not only substance-related.
“Moderation management,” as suggested by the guest therapist, is not that strange to some 12 steps. While it’s true that AA requires total abstinence, over eaters or sex addicts need to find their own moderation paths as both food and sex are essential parts of every human life.
In my 20s I used to get blackout drunk a lot, sometimes every weekend. I kind of knew I had a problem (retrospectively I can see I had a massive problem) and attempts to moderate my drinking were rarely successful however I kept on working on it and after about 10 years and a lot of personal development, I have it under control. I hardly ever drink now and don't want to. Everyone is different though and this person's drinking may continue to improve or it may not and could even get worse. I think it's pretty rare that someone with a drinking problem will quit drinking because someone else wants them to. They really need to be self-motivated. It doesn't sound like the girlfriend is motivated to give it up completely right now. The writer really needs to work out what her limits are and stick to them to protect herself. Alcohol can be extremely destructive, not just to the drinker but to those around them. With the benefit of hindsight I'm grateful for the few people that set boundaries with me (including the ultimate one which was ending a relationship).
My ex was an alcoholic. He eventually got sober--two years after our divorce, when he was ready. I'm glad for him. I should have left earlier, however. Don't think this girl will ever get better for you. She'll improve on her own schedule, if at all; and know that she may even delay that schedule out of a petulant urge to push back against your pushing. I say get out, kindly and firmly.
I feel sorry for WASTED. There are now three entities in the relationship: she, her gf, and booze. Even if the blackouts have gone down by half, she still has to tiptoe about - like a person in an abusive relationship - walking on eggshells, wondering whether there'll be an ominous CRACK that signals something bad is about to happen.

She has to mentally monitor her gf, wondering whether this'll be the night when her gf's rationalizations leading to having too much booze for relaxation, stress-reducing, or as a reward, will be the dominant party in the room, pushing WASTED into last place.

I am at a loss with suggestions. I guess I'm lucky I was never in a relationship with anyone who abused booze (or drugs), though heavy use was enough to make me worry and back away. Right now, even WASTED's withdrawal from sex or meaningful conversations with her gf while the booze is in control doesn't seem to be working ... and would most likely be ineffective in penetrating her gf's booze-addled brain, as heavy drinking does kill brain cells.
My best friend is an alcoholic. He doesn't have an alcohol problem (yet), but when he tastes that first drop, I can see the gleam in his eye. He and I can drink the same liqour, for him, it tastes delicious, for me, it tastes like spoiled pine-scented gasoline. He can tell the difference between scotch and whiskey. He can tell fine expensive whiskey from the $6 bottle. I can't. I can't drink more than 2 or 3 beers in a night without getting sleepy - he gets that adrenaline buzz. it's exhausting, it causes problems in our relationship. It's only going to get worse.

I firmly believe that alcoholism is something you're born with. Your GF will *always* have that desire to drink, and it'll always be stronger than her ability to act normally. That's luck of the draw. If you aren't built to handle that - and most of us aren't - it's for the best that you separate. Don't hitch your wagon to an anchor, you know?
@15/ShimmyDooWop: “I had relationships with alcoholics when I was younger. The relationships weren't all bad by any means . . . but eventually I realized that when you have a partner that abuses alcohol, there are big chunks of time where they are not fully present or accountable for their actions.”

I wonder how old you were then, and what you were looking for in a partner at the time. When you’re in you 20s and looking for a partner with whom you can have fun and have sex, your relationship needs are pretty minimal. So what if your partner isn’t present all the time, you can hang with friends, and you don’t have shared financial commitments or children to worry about. Whereas when you’re looking for a partner with whom you can build a stable life, including a joint financial future and possibly a family, you’re evaluating a partner on an all together different set of criteria, and you need someone who isn’t checking out a few days a month.

LW sounds like she wants a partner who is present day-to-day, and wants to build a stable life with that person.

For me, one phone call from a nearly incapacitated girlfriend, who was too drunk to tell me her location, whether she was safe, or even if she had any friends or coworkers keeping her safe was enough to convince me that someone who was capable of drinking to a state of incoherence and blacking out wasn’t in a position be the kind of partner I wanted. I think LW is coming to that same realization.
I, too, had a number of relationships with alcoholics/drug addicts and it took years of counseling for me to finally figure out that my scary home life growing up made their behavior seem like "home" to me. I left every one of them eventually; the last one 30 years ago. Some have straightened out and are doing well and I'm glad for them, but not sorry I got out. The problem I see is that whatever the underlying issue driving the drinking is, it's not solved by the drinker/addict simply abstaining; they're just sober with that/those issue(s). I haven't engaged with anyone romantically since then and am really OK with my choice. Not ruling it out, but I'm old now and as an older woman invisible, so I am unlikely to have to consider whether or not to engage with someone new.

The way I see it, I'm a woman of the 60's/70's and I took full advantage of the times and had a lot of fun and some heartache. What I didn't do is stick it out with a troubled person, and I'm glad. My advice echoes Dan's: RUN! You will never get your need met, LW, and the fact that you're counting the blackouts and doing all this monitoring says to me that you are classically codependent. Spend your energy on engaging with your own issues and learning how to solve or manage them. Again, you'll never get your needs met in this relationship. Save your energy for your own healing.
@15: AA only requires the desire to stop drinking, not that you've stopped drinking.
@22 and that's the way it should be.

(caviat: AA is really bad at helping people stop drinking.)
Go to Alanon. Figure out what you want and how to take care of yourself first. Hopefully you can gain some perspective about the disease of alcoholism and figure out if this relationship can work out in the long run.
Yes @24, good suggestion. @23, my dad gave it up thru AA, then he was a sponsor for others. Guess it depends on how much the person wants to stop.
It appears the GF has successfully moderated her drinking to the point where the outright dangerous behaviors (“unsafe transportation”) are gone. Therefore, the GF figures she can let loose now and again without worry.

The LW does not agree, and feels hurt by some of the GF’s blackouts affecting their relationship. (The GF forgets drunken hot sex and alcohol-fueled conversations.)

Since only the GF can control the GF’s drinking, the LW has to decide whether (a) to attempt to renegotiate the boundaries in their relationship, or (b) declare it done, dump the GF, and move on. Dan says the latter. I hope we eventually learn what choice each person made.

Note that (a) may lead to (b), especially if GF believes she’s already moderated her drinking enough, and is willing to let the LW walk rather than cut back any further.
"She doesn't have a dependency problem." ......BUT.... "Occasionally, ... she'll abandon her strategies and over-drink, often as a reward for something or as a means of momentary escape from stress. " Sorry. She DOES have a dependency problem.
Former active meth user here, who has done his own share of abusing partners.

Best advice: run away. Far, far away. Leave her and don't look back. Tell her that her drinking is the reason you're leaving if you like (she may come to appreciate that later), but also understand that that will not stop her from casting you as the villain in her own, private little melodrama. Leave her anyway.

If, for some reason, you must stay with her, the only other solution here is boundaries. Brightly drawn, sharply defined, and rigorously enforced.

LW must set the boundaries that he is willing to live with, and then provide GF the option of whether to live within those boundaries or not. Express to her that it is her choices that will determine the outcome.

Whenever GF's drinking lands herself in some situation, LW must not intervene to rescue her. No covering for her. No bailing her out. Complete honesty with third parties like friends, employers, even police officers.

But also no ambiguity either. No going out to the bar with her for "just a drink or two." No ordering a bottle of wine at the restaurant for your anniversary dinner. No keeping a six pack around the house for when you come home at night. You know she can't handle it, so you can't put her in the path of temptation.

If she makes moves towards good decisions (therapy, support groups including AA, rehab, etc.), encourage her, but don't set your hopes terribly high. Above all, recognize that there is little or nothing you can do to help her stop (and certainly not make her stop) other than giving herself the space to do it herself. Which might take decades, if it happens at all.

Best to leave now.
LW I was on Quora a few weeks ago and and the talk turned to the relationships. One person said the problem isn't that people have 'too high' standards, it's that they don't stick to the standards they do have.

If you want someone to be nice to you don't date someone who is mean. If you want someone employed don't date someone who's happy being jobless.

Not wanting your partner to drink until she blacks out is a perfectly reasonable standard.

If you don't want to leave tell her the relationship won't progress until the blackouts stop. Tell her she has to admit she has a drinking problem and get it under control. No more of this risk reduction crap that doesn't seem to be helping. She's gets sober or she loses you.

You have to stick to this.
I dated multiple people when I was younger who had substance abuse issues. I think there can be a difference between having a substance abuse issue and putting yourself in situations which create additional risk and stress for partners.

For example, one of those partners only consumed the problem substance when a) at home b) around other people she could trust c) not around me, because she knew that it was painful for me. I ultimately still had too much concern to remain in the situation, but she made visible efforts to minimize the risk / impact on me *without me ever requesting that of her*. She didn't ever attempt to travel while intoxicated, even on the level of a bus or Uber. She didn't put herself in situations where she could end up risking my sexual health, having interactions with me that she wouldn't remember later (whether positive or negative), etc. She didn't let herself get that intoxicated around people she didn't know because she was able to recognize that some people you don't know can be dangerous. She also was able to overcome her addiction without causing severe trauma to anyone around her.

I dated another incredibly sweet man who was an alcoholic. Similar situation in the sense that he didn't hang out at bars because he recognized that he wasn't capable of moderate use, planned those nights around not driving and being at home, and didn't text me (or anyone) while drunk.

I still left him because I wasn't capable of handling my concern in a healthy way -- and although the breakup was very painful for both of us, it ultimately inspired him to seek help. Not in an effort to win me back, but because he recognized that he was unlikely to be able to have the kind of emotional involvement & connection he'd ideally want in a relationship when so much of his time was devoted to an activity that made him unable to be present for himself or others.

I think that if a partner with addiction problems is unable / unwilling to avoid situations that introduce additional risks, they're in denial about the extent of their addiction & thus unlikely to be able to ensure both their safety & the safety of their partner. And honestly, breaking up with them could be the thing that is ultimately most likely to help them if it forces them to recognize the extent to which their addiction is hurting the people they love.

I had several people sincerely thank me for ending relationships with them and comment that it contributed to their motivation to address their substance issues... which in turn helped them improve their health, finances, friendships, and many other parts of their life. Obviously they didn't feel that way in the moment in which I ended the relationship, or even shortly thereafter... this is the scale of months, years, etc... but I remember specifically one person commenting that he saw more real love and compassion in my inability to watch him self-harm than he did in the people he dated immediately afterward who were unconcerned because they cared only about whether their own needs were being met in that moment & not about his future.

So, cold and terrible and horrifying though it can feel in that moment, I think that leaving a partner whose behavior is deeply hurting you can sometimes be the most loving thing you can do for them in the long run.
Another ex-"social alcoholic" here.

Knowing Dan, I'm surprised he didn't suggest steering the girlfriend towards weed instead of booze. If a person is inclined to abuse substances and to "reward" herself by getting trashed, weed is at least a better choice than alcohol. I've never blacked out or done anything I've regretted as a result of smoking too much cannabis. Or find some other reward -- chocolate cake? Retail therapy?

WASTED is onto at least one thing by refusing to marry her alcoholic girlfriend. If she does that, Girlfriend will have zero incentive to change her ways.

I wish both of them luck.
For reasons too long to get into here, I married an alcoholic fully knowing he had a problem. Luckily, he did too, so there was no denial going on. My vow to him was that I knew exactly who he was and I accepted that and would never ask him to quit drinking. (I've been fortunate enough to understand from an early age you can't change other people, only yourself.)

For the most part we were very happy,. Though his drinking was a Huge pain in the ass at times (he drank A LOT), we never argued about it. Ever. And I'm grateful for that. He did eventually hit his rock bottom and decide to get sober- with AA. When you're ready and serious about getting sober, it's a wonderful support network. He stayed sober for the last 10 years of his life.

So, I guess what I'm saying is - don't marry someone you want to change because it's not fair to either one of you and it will make both of you absolutely miserable. If you can't marry them with full acceptance of who they are, then what is the point? Being married to a practicing alcoholic was not easy, but at least I wasn't trapped in the role of police and judge. I decided his drinking was his issue alone and it made it easier to deal with because it was not my responsibility.
Dan is right. Consequences are the only thing that have any chance of getting this woman to solve her problem. She doesn't want to stop, because it's hard and uncomfortable and deeply unpleasant to quit an addiction. The only way she might is if not quitting is even more uncomfortable.
I’m kinda with 7. Getting drunk six times a year doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. And vastly improved sounds good.

LW, it sounds like you’re not ready to trust the progress she’s made, which is legit. You/she may just need more time for this shift in behavior to harden. But I think you both need to agree on what ‘resolved’ means. She gets drunk only a few times a year? Doesn’t get SO drunk that it’s scary for you? What does success look like?
@23. AA helped me to stay sober and clean for the last seven years. But the post isn't about the pros and cons of different substance abuse treatments. LW should accept that she can't control her gfs behavior, ultimatums and such don't work. She needs to set healthy boundaries for herself, defining clearly what she's willing to put up with and what she isn't. Therapy can help with that, even self-help like Al-Anon . And if she feels she can't live with the erratic behavior, the chaos, the broken promises and the emotional manipulation of an addict, like Dan said: run!
@34 blacking out six times a year isn't getting drunk six times a year.
This is not the girlfriend you are looking for. The quicker you break up with her, the quicker you can move on and find someone who is the girlfriend you are looking for.

Alcohol damages the mind and body. You’re talking about a long-term relationship where she will deteriorate mentally and physically much faster than you will. Unless caring for someone who self-destructed is what you want for yourself, take another road.

Also: you don’t have to marry someone to love them. You can break up, wish her well and keep in touch, all while living your own life unhitched to hers.
Also: “prescriptive” ≠ “proscriptive.”
Also: “proscriptive” ≠ “prescriptive.”
I'm in DTMA territory also, but not just because she has an addiction, even a painful, dangerous one that will likely kill her and could, god forbid, lead to her killing someone else. It's because she doesn't stop being a jerk when she's sober.

It's true addicts will often make promise after promise to others only to break them all; sometimes those are cynical lies, but just as often they are making those same promises to themselves only to break them. If she were doing this, there would be a chance it is the latter kind, which would not excuse the behavior but might imply that *if* she ever does manage to get her drinking under control, she might be a decent person to be in a relationship with.

But she's not doing this. There can be no debate whether her remorse is honest or a sham, because she is not expressing remorse. She expects to be praised for hurting her partner just because it is less than she might have hurt her before. She is telling her partner, while sober, that she is doing something wrong for trying to protect herself from being hurt by politely withdrawing when she gets drunk.

I don't at all mean to imply that someone's bad behavior while under the influence is necessarily worth sticking out just because they're not entirely in control of it. But I do mean to imply that *if* you are going to use that reasoning to justify remaining in a relationship with an addict, then you also need to recognize that while addiction may have medical treatment options, just being generally shitty does not. LW's girlfriend is shitty, and the prognosis is not good.
Oh dear. People who CAN 'moderate' their drinking don't need to. The track record of 'moderation' plans will be brought up by others, so I'll leave that one alone.

'Harm reduction' is a great idea at the societal level: fewer liquor stores in poor neighborhoods, better health and housing access for drunks and addicts, strong drunk-driving enforcement etc. etc.

At the individual level (e.g. the letter-writers partner) the only harm reduction is NOT DRINKING. It should be obvious to anyone that the woman cannot drink without bad results. Trying to pretend that she's some other kind of creature is a cruel waste of time and effort.

I cannot think of a single alcoholic who hasn't tried, over and over and over, to 'moderate' or 'control' or otherwise drink like a non-alcoholic. The 100% failure of such schemes is perhaps the best way to define an alcoholic. If she could control/moderate she would have done so. She can't, so stop wasting effort on those fantasies.
BDF @31
I wonder whether there are any studies or guidelines regarding how one can switch from a dependence on alcohol to pot instead. Would the highs be similar? Are there any ... er ... "success" stories?

However, even though there is no such thing as overdosing/blacking out on chocolate cake or retail therapy (and Death by Chocolate is just a metaphor), these particular substitutions do have their own risks: intake of too many calories or increasing debt.
LW, you need to leave this relationship. Your girlfriend is still making excuses for drinking, she is NOT admitting that she has a serious, deadly problem. If you stay around, she will NEVER stop drinking, and soon, she will be in prison for drunk driving, perhaps caused injuries and DEATHS to others, AND HERSELF. She is already hurting you, look at your relationship, how many days in the last week/month/year were good days, how many were bad? When was the last time YOU were happy and fulfilled? You CAN NOT change other people when they won't do the hard work of denying their destructive impulses and actions. YOU CAN'T HELP HER GET SOBER! LEAVE, before someone is DEAD, before she destroys YOU.

And join Al-Anon right away!
Garbage advice from Katy Leach. “Instead of abstaining from being a piece of shit and admitting that being a piece of shit is an awful way to be towards someone else and in the world in general, just moderate how much of a piece of shit you are. Because that’s all you can expect from yourself. You are a piece of shit after all.”

Sounds like more retarded, millennial, feel good drivel.

If she doesn’t stop and get help, DTMFA. Even if she does get help, chances are your relationship pattern will be a hindrance to either of you getting better anyways as it’s hard to break dysfunctional habits with the person you made them with.
Helenka @43: Any success stories... aside from me?
Well, you could ask Google. There's this:…
And this:…

I know a few other ex-drinkers who stick with weed, and claim to be much happier for it.

You're right, every other indulgence has its down sides too, unless she were to take up exercise or something. But when you compare the down sides of getting blackout drunk to gaining a few pounds or a rising credit card balance, it seems a no-brainer.
Oy. These all or nothing comments are driving me crazy. Sometimes guys moderation is possible.

This could have been me 3 years ago writing in about my then-boyfriend now-husband. He came from a culture of heavy drinking, and since he wasnt a sloppy drunk like some of his friends he didnt see it as a problem. It was a constant source of conflict and pain for us. Threatening to leave him (and him knowing that I dont make empty threats like that), combined with one particularly epic fight caused him to start on the path he needed. It took time; he had to completely change his relationship with alcohol and the way he approached drinking. And it wasnt easy, and required a lot of self awareness and a lack of ego on his part (and patience on mine). He just hadnt had moderation taught or modeled for him. But he is so much more fun to drink with, and be with now. And hes so much happier too.

I have seen people like the LWs girlfriend who party way too hard in a dangerous way but dont drink during the day. They hold a good job, maybe dont even drink every night, and are in all other cases a totally wonderful reasonable person. They arent necessarily physically addicted to alcohol. They just dont know how to stop when they start. My husband was one of them. I have also seen people who are the definition of alcoholics who drink sunrise to sunset and would become life threateningly ill if they didnt have alcohol. Those are the people AA or other abstinence/rehab programs are necessary for.

But for someone who parties too hard, like my husband did and it sounds like the LWs girlfriend does, abstinence doesnt have to be the answer. Moderation is possible, with the right circumstances. So I dont necessarily agree with the advise many are giving "she needs abstinence" here. Maybe she does, but not necessarily so.

What she does need though is 100% understanding that her behavior is toxic and is threatening the life she says she wants. So yes, a big, sober heart to heart is necessary. LW, protect yourself, make it clear that her improvement is noticed and admired but her slips are threatening the love and life you guys are building. Its you or the blackout boozing, her choice.

And I do agree with Dan that if you guys are long-distance its probably worse than you think. I didnt know my husband was as bad as he was until we moved in together.
@43: in AA, at least in the meetings my late husband attended, it was referred to as The Marijuana Maintenance Program. Some of the purists were disdainful, but it did seem to work for a few. Two of my friends could not manage it because their connection between alcohol and pot was much too ingrained- couldn't have one without wanting the other.

And yeah- my husband tried the whole moderation thing quite a few times without any lasting success whatsoever. Hell, his first time getting sober in AA ended in another decade of debauchery. He quit when he'd finally had enough, not even breaking his back convinced him, and nothing you say will convince her sobriety is a good idea until she is good and ready. And let me tell you- those first two years he was sober were not magical, they were Awful, awful, awful. Like being married to a petulant hateful teenager. Re-birth is painful.

In my widowed group, those whose partners died of alcohol-related issues have some very serious complicated grief to deal with. It is the 'gift' that keeps on giving...
@47/IslandGirl72: Based on your description of your now-husband’s drinking, it really is not clear that his drinking problem is similar to that of LW’s girlfriend. You say your husband wasn’t a “sloppy drunk,” however you’re defining that term, but LW’s girlfriend get blacked out drunk more than monthly, and that is after cutting back. That is not “partying hard” or drink a lot regularly, that is becoming incapacitated 15 to 20 times per year, on top of whatever other drinking she is doing.

And I have to also disagree that AA is only for people drinking all day long, and not for high functioning alcoholics or people who party and cannot cut themselves off. Most of the people I know who attend AA were not intoxicated every day all day.
31/43/46. I'd consider myself a success story. At one point my social/heavy drinking took a bad turn and I was doing stupid and destructive stuff on a regular basis. I also got to the point where I could have a couple of drinks and be OK but the third drink inevitably led to a getting hammered, usually followed by bleak depression. I gave it up cold turkey and started getting regularly stoned. Neither time period was particularly noble, but the pot head phase was a lot better. The destructive stuff was gone and if I got too baked the worst thing that happened was eating too many cookies and passing out while listening to Billie Holiday. Mostly it was just relaxing and fun without much downside besides a decrease in ambition.

I never mastered moderation in either booze or pot, and I ended up giving them both up- booze because I had to and pot because my career had stalled a bit and drying out made it easier to write. And pot was a lot easier for me to give up, especially back in the late 80s when it was harder to get. All I had to do was move to a new city where I didn't know any pot dealers. A few weeks later and I didn't even think much about it, outside of some fond memories.

Given a choice between the two, I'd choose pot any day.
IslandGirl @47: "I have also seen people who are the definition of alcoholics who drink sunrise to sunset and would become life threateningly ill if they didnt have alcohol."

You are using a different "definition of alcoholic" than the rest of us. The rest of us are defining an alcoholic as someone whose drinking is causing a problem for them and for those around them; who are unable to drink moderately even when they try. If you can drink moderately, great. But that's the point: an alcoholic, or "problem drinker" if you will, can't. Moderation hasn't worked. Quitting is the only way to make sure you never drink yourself into a stupor or a blackout. Because trust me, I never INTENDED to drink so much I blacked out, got into a cab that wasn't a cab, had sex with a friend's partner, puked or pissed myself. But oddly enough, all these things happened anyway. Having "a few drinks" only made me want more drinks, and like your husband, I justified myself by pointing at the other, worse alcoholics around me. It was only facing up to the fact that I COULDN'T drink moderately that I managed to break the cycle.

Others' mileage may vary. I do envy those who can drink in moderation. I know I'll never be one of them. And from this LW's description, I highly doubt her girlfriend is either.
@23 AA is really bad in keeping people from drinking.. like 90% of people trying AA for the first time have drop off the wagon and stop going to AA by the end of one year..

However, it is still the best program out there. The first thing most addicts in 28 day programs do, when they leave a facility is guess what? go back to their addictions.. Peer Support groups, are essential in trying to keep those with the disease of addiction to keep to a plan..

There are some questions about the 12 step program, and we need to have better results with the billions put into addiction treatment..…
@32 "Being married to a practicing alcoholic was not easy, but at least I wasn't trapped in the role of police and judge. I decided his drinking was his issue alone and it made it easier to deal with because it was not my responsibility."

Yes, it is your responsibility. If your spouse gets in a car accident while drunk, you are financially responsible, let alone going to work to pay off the estimated $15-20k for a DUI conviction. If your spouse has health problems from his or her drinking, it is your responsibility, given you are paying higher premiums for health insurance, or out of pocket expenses not covered by health insurance. Ditto with higher auto insurance premiums..

This is not about changing your fiancee. This is about signing the doting line that if you realize that your spouse has an addiction disease, they need to treat it ASAP. If you refuse to intervene, and go on to married this person. You are responsible as much for their actions if they don't treat their disease.

It is your responsibility. It isn't a pain in the ass, it is a disease that effects you emotionally, and can cause serious harm to others, (via car accidents, drunken incidents, black out behavior) if the person doesn't address their disease ASAP..
@19 "My best friend is an alcoholic. He doesn't have an alcohol problem"

He has an alcoholic problem. If you are his best friend, then it is imperative that you address it, even the risk of your friendship.

My best friend from University, who I thought was just like to party hard, was an alcoholic, it didn't delve to me, that he was out of control until he was serious about marriage. He was still a charming, incredibly funny person. I damaged my friendship with him, because I was insistent that he had to go to AA, or address his addictions. (I learned later, through his wife that he became addicted to heroin, which he hid until it became his life) He went to NA, which is also a good place to score a some heroin. He overdosed and died, because he took his regular dose, while he was clean a couple months as a reward..

If you really care about your friend. You address their addictions right now, because once they self destruct and die from their addictions or wreck what they care for in their world because they can't control it.. It is too late.. It is a problem if you can identify the addiction..
@5. SublimeAfterglow. I agree absolutely with your characterization of the expert's contribution. The supposed non-expert, Dan, said something clear, well thought-out--and compassionate. 'Dump the person who does not want to give up drinking for you'. That's probably the right advice.

I'm thinking the LW's partner would see their relationship differently: 'I'm with someone who's good for me but not always much fun. How do I get her to accept me as I am? At the same time, how can I be a little bit more stable without losing the aliveness or wildness of spirit that's so big a part of who I feel I am?'
@14. ShimmyDooWop. Your first paragraph nails it.

The gf sees drinking as a 'good' and drinking to excess as a 'bad'. Can the LW see things the same way? This is the central issue. If the answer's 'no', then give up on any thoughts of marriage and kids.
There are some misconceptions being posted here which I feel the need to correct.

First of all, moderation for alcoholics is a fool's errand. Every time some scientific study comes up which concludes that alcoholics can moderate their drinking, when they follow up with those "moderate drinkers" years later, they find that they are either abstinent or drinking too heavily. Sobell 1973 is the most famous example, but there are others. I would ask the founder of Moderation Management how her moderate drinking is coming along, but can not because she killed herself after getting a felony drunk driving conviction.

The other misconception being posted is that AA does not works. It works if you work it, about 75% of the time. Observational studies have confirmed this over and over again (e.g. PMC2220012 shows a 67% success rate for regular AA attenders 16 years later). The surgeon general has stated that "Well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of twelve-step mutual aid groups focused on alcohol and twelve-step facilitation interventions." I'm not saying the AA program is for everyone, and I'm not saying there are alternatives (SMART recovery, Life Ring, etc.), but for people willing to work AA, it really works most of the time.

"The other misconception being posted is that AA does not works. It works if you work it, about 75% of the time. Observational studies have confirmed this over and over again"

That is not true.. AA has probably better success rates than 28 day rehab programs, but we are talking 88 to 90 percent recidivism rates than 95 percent recidivism of programs like Hazelden..…

"Alcoholics Anonymous is famously difficult to study. By necessity, it keeps no records of who attends meetings; members come and go and are, of course, anonymous. No conclusive data exist on how well it works. In 2006, the Cochrane Collaboration, a health-care research group, reviewed studies going back to the 1960s and found that “no experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA or [12-step] approaches for reducing alcohol dependence or problems.”…

“Alcoholics Anonymous was proclaimed the correct treatment for alcoholism over seventy-five years ago despite the absence of any scientific evidence of the approach’s efficacy,” he writes in his introduction, “and we have been on the wrong path ever since.”

That said, AA is still one of the best program out there to help alcoholic deal with their disease of addiction.. It is not about the 12 step program, which has its flaws, it is about peer group persuasion and peer support groups that give a person hope. No matter they still have a high failure rate. The 75% success rate is a shibboleth.
I agree with your advice to run! I had a roommate with a drinking problem. It seemed to be a 'someone who likes to party-hard' issue at first. After living with him for 3 years and being a friend after that...I only saw the 'problem' get worse. Until, he ended up in the hospital and still he tried the moderation approach. This was the saddest thing I have seen. We no longer speak very often and I feel awful. But I couldn't watch him destroy himself. This doesn't sound like a problem that will get better and there is very little a partner or close friend can do unless the person themselves really really wants too.
@58 The articles you quote are biased and inaccurate. First, you quote Gabrielle Glaser, who misquotes Lance Dodes, who misquotes Cochrane 2006.

"He concludes from this important paper [i.e. Cochrane 2006] that AA and 12-step treatment were ineffective. However, the study actually concluded that AA and 12-step treatment were shown to be as effective as anything else to which they were compared."…

The article goes on to explain that Cochrane 2006 was written before more recent randomized trials which show AA does work, such as Walitzer 2009.

Maia Szalavitz also quotes Dodes when concluding that 12-step programs do not work. Again, Dodes in inaccurate; here's another refutation of those incorrect numbers:…

"her source itself [i.e. Lance Dodes] refers only to data gathered by others, mostly for purposes other than judging AA’s effectiveness. This forms the basis for three separate, questionable, calculations that arrive at the 5-8% figure"

PMC2220012, or if you prefer, Moos and Moos 2006 is a peer reviewed scientific observational study which was run over a 16-year period. It shows that 67% of the people who took Alcoholics Anonymous seriously were sober 16 years later (for the record, their numbers for even including the people who never went to AA are a lot higher than 10%; over all, 46% were sober 16 years later). Other studies I have seen come up with similar numbers; the reason I bring up Moos and Moos 2006 is because it's not paywalled and anyone is welcome to read it:…

Do not trust all media accounts; look at the actual science. All of the recent 12-step studies I have seen show that the program really works.

Again, the surgeon general has stated that "Well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of twelve-step mutual aid groups focused on alcohol and twelve-step facilitation interventions." I trust the surgeon general more than I do a random journalist.
19, why do you say your friend is an alcoholic if you also say he doesn't have a drinking problem? He likes the taste of alcohol, and can tell the difference between good whiskey and bad hooch? I don't see why you think that makes him an alcoholic.
@60: That's awfully convenient, to only count those who take AA seriously.
I like the jump to conclusion that the underlying issue is alcoholism, when there is no solid reason to believe GF is an alcoholic. (LW even says specifically GW has an alcohol-abuse problem, not a dependency issue.) If GF had gone from risky skydiving to less-risky skydiving whilst LW still thinks humans were not ever intended to fly, they would have the same issue.
@43: It's funny how it upsets the delicate sensibilities of veteran AA bloviators to take issue with one of their silly memes that pot is just "re-aarainging the deck chairs on the titanic." Yet they do not bestow that same condescension on tobacco uses who quit drinking. Cannabis, nicotine, and alcohol are all their own unique experiences. Some enjoy all three, just two, or only one.

Only when WANTS to give up the addiction can there be progress - whatever the substance is.

In these discussions it's always good to remember that the plural of anecdote is not data. And the 'Big Book' is chock full of anecdotes.
I read most of the comments and yet didn’t see this mentioned, it is so incredibly frustrating that people believe blackout drinking = super far gone major problem. Wrong, full stop.

The very first time I drank two beers, it happened. Some people’s brains are simply wired that way. We can discuss “why?” til the cows come home, yes that can be a sign of deeper issues perhaps, but it simply IS. So folks talking about how they used to get tanked and “it didn’t happen to me, therefore” are short sighted. Are you a sun sneezer? Do you like the taste of cilantro? It’s on that level. I could drink a six pack one day and not have it happen or have two IPA’s over fries with a friend and whoops, starting to fade to black. My opinion is true love is hard to come by, so long as a partner is willing to have the conversation and work on change, give things a chance. Set a timeline, identify your hard no’s. But I’m pretty sick of how disposable most people find others. If you’re not being abused, if they’re holding a job and open to self improvement, give it a damn minute.
I was married to someone like this - it never ever ever got better. Threats, crying, negotiating, yellomg, throwing things, begging and begging and more begging did nothing. Unless WASTED wants to change, it will never change. He is still the same after 17 years of being divorced, and unfortunately his children (with me) sees his issues and even they can't persuade him to change.
Cannabis, nicotine, and alcohol are all their own unique experiences. Some enjoy all three, just two, or only one.

Someone at AA is not there because he enjoys the unique experience of alcohol. A participant in any addiction-recovery program has recognized his use of the substance cannot be harmless enjoyment; in his case, any use of the substance harms himself and others. Put more simply, AA has no recreational drinkers who could drink in moderation for enjoyment.

Again, the issue in this letter is the large difference in opinion between the LW and her GF on the harm done by GF’s current use of alcohol. GF simply does not see her own behavior as a problem; LW does see GF’s behavior as a problem. If they cannot find agreement, it’s difficult to see a path forward with them in this relationship.
@67: I meant "unique experiences" in general, not in regard to addition. My point was in regard to other addictions (mainly tobacco or cannabis) when someone is abstaining from alcohol - that other addictions do not necessarily doom the success for someone whose goal is just to quit alcohol.
@3 LavaGirl: I'm so sorry, Lava! That must have been a hard upbringing for you. I can understand your dislike for alcohol----and along with being a depressant it's a legal drug.
@25 LavaGirl: I'm glad things got better as your father went to AA and sponsored others. That's sad about your mother, though.

During my one disastrous marriage, my then spouse and I were two different alcohol consumers. I would usually get giggly, silly, and be the life of the party. He got moody, brooding and violent. I won't drive if I've had a few drinks. My ex has a DUI history. We clearly were not a good mix.

WASTED: I'm with Dan. RUN from this relationship! Your GF isn't going to get better on your timeline, only hers if at all (12 blackouts a year?!?). And if your careers keep you at a distance, it's a good time to end it. So end it already.
@69: Hee hee----oh, no, not again......!
@60 No, my links are not bias. In the scheme of things, what you are stating that the 90% of who don't drop out of AA after a couple meetings, 67% of the 10% keep it up.. that is getting to the same rates of 90-95% recidivism rates as those who do rehab and other forms of addiction treatment.. I can spin survey numbers and studies, with a high subset number like 67%, (which is not the 75% you quoted earlier) of " who took AA seriously"…

The Sinclair Method and naltrexone as an analgesic has been shown to be much more successful in treating alcoholism than AA.. The methodology in studying AA, is very difficult, and I think it is time to seriously look at how to set up better treatment programs with lower recidivism rates..
DVanilla @65: But you're missing the point that if what would be moderate drinking for others causes you to black out, you shouldn't drink. If you dislike cilantro, you don't eat cilantro, right? If you have a nut allergy, you should avoid nuts. If you can't drink to even a level of mild intoxication without memory loss, you shouldn't drink. It's dangerous FOR YOU to not be in control of your actions. Ms WASTED doesn't even seem to reason that it's dangerous for her to go out somewhere and drink ("unsafe transportation"), and therefore confine her drinking to home where at least she won't cause any damage if she blacks out -- except of course to her relationship, which we problem drinkers never seem to see. If true love is so hard to come by, then maybe WASTED's girlfriend should be a bit more serious about keeping WASTED. What does she love more, booze or her girlfriend? It really does come down to that.

Griz @69: And congrats!
Raindrop @64: Yes. I am reminded of every representation I've ever seen of an AA meeting, which is full of people chain-smoking and downing coffee by the gallon. People who like chemicals like chemicals, and I completely disagree there's no value in steering people away from a chemical which has caused them to engage in self- (and others-) destructive behaviour and a chemical that would induce them to watch a lot of Netflix and eat a lot of chips.
*and towards a chemical that would induce them... (I need more coffee myself!)
Note: Not everyone enjoys the effects of weed. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution. But could be worth a try.
@71 Yes, actually, you are showing an obvious bias in the articles you choose to quote.

For example, this claim that 93% of people who drop out of AA does not come from any scientific study: It comes from an old graph that someone with a strong bias against AA read incorrectly, and other people with a bias against AA parroted their numbers.

A proper interpretation of that graph shows about a 75% drop out rate: [PDF file link]

Dodes concedes that this graph shows a 75%, not 95% dropout rate; Moos and Moos 2006 shows a similar 75% dropout rate.

We have a high dropout rate for any kind of treatment we give alcoholics. The fact of the matter is that most alcoholics do not want to stop drinking, even if continued drinking means they will die, even if everyone close to them tells them they must stop drinking.

While some figures for Naltrexone (i.e. The Sinclair Method) look promising, it doesn't help when suggesting abstinence with problem drinkers, and its effect is modest:…
@65/dvanilla: "I read most of the comments and yet didn’t see this mentioned, it is so incredibly frustrating that people believe blackout drinking = super far gone major problem. Wrong, full stop."

The idea that drinking to the point of blacking out isn't problematic is laughable nonsense, all the more so since that happens in the context of LW's girlfriend (i) history of expressing extreme feelings while drunk and (ii) forgetting her actions while drunk. Losing control of one's emotions and an inability to appreciate what you are doing while drunk are real problems.

@72/BiDanFan gets to the crux of the issue facing alcoholics: "What does she love more, booze or her girlfriend? It really does come down to that." LW's girlfriend regularly has wild personality swings, is not in control of her action, and blacks outs after drinking. Continuing to drink prioritizes those behaviors over her relationships. And if that doesn't highlight the problem then nothing will.
I can't remember the name of it but there was a british reality show where they filmed people who self identified as having maybe a drinking problem as they were out at bars or whatever, and then showed them the footage afterwards and they were all appropriately horrified, not knowing it was that bad (British social/medical take on addiction also qualitatively different and interesting). It's likely the GF thinks she's fine. Some people black out after two drinks and so black out nearly every time they drink, most take many more, either way most people will adjust their behavior to never black out or only black out at home because it's literally life-threatening to do it in public. That she is not implies a lack of control. Plenty of people in their twenties drink very heavily and problematically (binge, puts you at much higher risk for addiction), most do pull out of it, it's usually pretty easy to tell who won't. I don't remember if she mentioned age, but if they're in their thirties this is a very different story than if they're in their early twenties, say. The gf is almost certainly underplaying it if she's demanding praise for being mildly considerate. She should be working very hard to keep harm off the LW, and it doesn't seem she is which is pretty telling. In a way that's helpful and clear - she wont stop drinking for anyone, which means the lw can pretty clearly see how this is going to work out. If she's drunk driving she's a selfish monster and the LW needs to be clear about that in her own head. I know it gets normalized but that can never be acceptable behavior in a partner. For that reason alone I'd leave. If you do stay, mandatory therapy for you two together (some shrinks will do Skype or phone), or separately if she won't go or not logistically possible, and al-anon seconded, may have to try several groups before you find good fit. Instructive as to boundaries. Many people in the group still living w their alcoholics, you won't be alone. Ideally she needs to take seriously that this hurts you and act accordingly. Your boundaries are reasonable and appropriate and you are entitled to them. You aren't asking for a hell of a lot, just that she keep the drunk off you. If she can't do this simple thing honestly that's a bad sign. No future until you feel truly unreservedly good in every interaction. If not possible, and very probably it isn't, listen to yourself and go. Sooner rather than later. For both your sakes there's no value in stretching this out and most importantly you can't save her. By staying when you are hurting yourself by doing so you are doing the opposite of saving.
In meantime, at minimum, if she calls drunk, say "are you physically safe? (If yes)-I told you I'm not talking to you when you're drinking" and then hang up. If she is physically unsafe, call the cops to her location. Do this 100% of the time.
Also take into account the GF may engage in ldr specifically because she's so out of control because she won't/can't control it to the point where no one local will date her, or she wants a "good relationship" and can only get one if she can hide herself and her drinking from her partner. Do not even think of marrying until you've lived together for a couple of years and you feel 100% solid and don't do that until she's flawless at keeping the long distance drunk off you (she's perfectly capable of doing that) and you've been in therapy together for a pretty long time to the point where you feel, and your shrink feels, it's a good idea to move in together and it actually makes you legit 100% happy with no doubts or fears. Listen to those doubts, address them with her and your shrink/group, do not ignore them or tamp them down.
No @78: The girlfriend is 32. Too old to pass this off as typical youthful partying.
@61 he has the disease - (IMO) it's in his blood, it's his biology. You can see in his eyes when his regular personality has gone to sleep and the drunk version is 'out'. He hasn't gotten to the point where alcohol is having a significant negative effect on his life, but it's only a matter of time.

@63 blacking out is stone-cold the number one indicator of alcoholism.
@77 Um, if you read further I mention it's just how some people metabolize alcohol, some times. Sure, other times it's some people drinking WAY too much. But when she says her girlfriend is blackout drunk, she literally may have drank three beverages over the course of two hours. Nothing most would consider extreme. If you want to treat that as an allergy and that means you shouldn't ever get to drink because sometimes it has a bad reaction, well, I suppose that's fair for you. Most people manage to stay with a safe person and get home fine and not do anything regrettable in that state. That's the line to me, if you're driving or getting into fights, hooking up with undesirables.. that's a problem.

The vast majority of comments regarding LW's gf blacking out are coming from the perspective that she's had six shots, four glasses of wine and just ordered a pitcher.. which maybe that's the case, but maybe not. People should know it just is the way some people's bodies work and not that they're drinking to excess to be blacked out. As someone else says shortly after "black out is a sure sign of alcoholism", oh the VERY first time you have a couple beers? just genetic old alcoholism? sorry bout your fam, you never get to drink?
It's a sign your body has had too much, too quickly and that level is different for different people. And many people are seriously bad alcoholics and absolutely NEVER black out. Science doesn't totally understand it, but blackout ≠ alcoholic.

I know plenty of functional drinkers who can drink me under a table, show up at work on time every day, get paid bank and use cabs for to and from home. Might not be making their livers very happy, but we're all going to die anyway. LW has every right to want what she wants, but I hope she can put her foot down and let the GF decide which is more important. This one has a chance if both parties can find a happy medium.
@83: When you hear hooves clapping behind you, is your first thought "zebras?"

Yeah, some people are allergic to ethanol, some have ridiculously low tolerance, some are super functional regardless of frequent binges and/or blackouts, and some actually ENJOY toothy blowjobs and their balls getting slapped. God bless uncle Jimmy.

Humanity is an assortment of Gaussian curves. For the lack of clairvoyance, telepathy or any deeper insight into day-to-day-workings of the LW's relationships, everyone here logically assumes the statistically BY FAR most common constellation. Which is: regular black-outs = frequent binges = serious alcohol problem.

(even if you hit the correct ball, you still shot it into the wrong goal. Assuming the LW's GF HAS some untypical condition re: alcohol tolerance, "blacking out and behaving like an ass on a regular basis" is still "blacking out and behaving like an ass on a regular basis". If you go bananas from one single beer, you don't drink that beer. Low tolerance is an explanation, but no excuse.)
@ 86 - What's wrong with toothy blowjobs and getting one's balls slapped? The difference between pleasure and pain is just a matter of intensity.
Way to prove my point.

(What's wrong with teeth/slaps/a brick in the face? Objectively, nothing. Subjectively, everything. Statistically - an acquired taste (as in: acquired by a very small minority)

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