Leave The Evidence: Often addicts aren’t aware of their actions when intoxicated. They may have blackouts. It’s important to leave the evidence intact, so they see how their drug use is affecting their lives. Consequently, you shouldn’t clean up vomit, wash soiled linens, or move a passed-out addict into bed. This might sound cruel, but remember that the addict caused the problem. Because the addict is under the influence of an addiction, accusations, nagging, and blame are not only futile, but unkind. All these inactions should be carried out in a matter-of-fact manner.
Let The Addict Take the Consequences
Stopping enabling isn’t easy. Nor is it for the faint of heart. Aside from likely pushback and possible retaliation, you may also fear the consequences of doing nothing. For instance, you may fear your husband will lose his job. Yet, losing a job is the greatest incentive to seeking sobriety. You may be afraid the addict may have an auto accident, or worse, die or commit suicide. Knowing a son is in jail is sometimes cold comfort to the mother who worries he may die on the streets. On the other hand, one recovered suicidal alcoholic said he wouldn’t be alive if his wife had rescued him one more time.
Accept that You Are Powerless To Fix the Problem
You may have to weigh the consequences of experiencing short-term pain vs. long-term misery, which postpones the addict’s reckoning with his or her own behavior. It requires great faith and courage not to enable without knowing the outcome. Although enabling can prolong the addiction, not all addicts recover, even despite counseling and going to many rehabs. This is why the 12 Steps are a spiritual program. They begin with the recognition that you’re powerless over the addict. The desire for sobriety must come from him or her.
Take Control Of Your Own Life
To avoid unnecessarily suffering the consequences of an addict’s drug use, it’s vital you begin to reclaim your sense of autonomy and take steps wherever possible not to allow the addict’s drug use to put you in jeopardy. Allowing the addict to drive you or your child while under the influence is life-threatening. On the other hand, taking on the role of designated driver gives the addict free license to use or drink. The spouse might refuse that enabling role by taking a separate car. If the addict is charged with DUI, it might be a wake-up call.
Have A Plan B
Always have a Plan B to cope with addicts’ unreliability; otherwise, you end up feeling like a victim. Sometimes, Plan B might be going to a 12-Step meeting or just staying home and finishing a novel. The important thing is that it’s a conscious choice, so that you don’t feel manipulated or victimized.
Follow Through With Your Own Plans
It’s a good idea to follow through with plans, whether it’s keeping counseling appointments or social engagements that the addict refuses to attend at the last minute. This precludes the addict’s attempt to manipulate the family.
Having some recovery under his belt, one husband resolved to remain on vacation with the children when his alcoholic wife suddenly decided she wanted to return home. He later remarked, “It was the first time in years that my mind was free of obsessing about her.”
In another situation, an alcoholic husband picked a fight an hour before guests were arriving for dinner. He threatened to leave unless they were uninvited. When his wife refused, he stormed out and hid in the bushes, while his wife enjoyed herself. Feeling ashamed, he never repeated that ploy.
Don’t Take Care Of Others’ Needs
Enabling has implications for all codependents, because they generally sacrifice themselves to accommodate others’ needs, solve others’ problems, and assume more than their share of responsibility at work and in relationships.
Common examples are a woman looking for a job for her boyfriend, a man paying his girlfriend’s rent, or a parent meeting his child’s responsibilities that the child can do or should be doing. Learning to be assertive and set boundaries are often the first steps in stopping enabling. See my book How to Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits.
Darlene Lancer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in relationships, codependency, and addiction. She has a broad range of experience, working with individuals and couples for more than twenty-five years. Her focus is on helping individuals overcome obstacles to leading fuller lives, and helping couples enhance their communication, intimacy, and passion. She is a speaker, freelance writer, and maintains private practice in Santa Monica, CA. For more information, seewhatiscodependency.com, where you can also get the FREE ebook, “14 Tips for Letting Go.”
Content Originally Published By: Darlene Lancer