In terms of addiction, enabling has a negative connotation. It refers to a dysfunctional way of helping someone else in such a way that hurts the enabler and the person they think they are helping. In the article, “8 Signs You are a Co-addict“, we discussed many types of enabling. Whichever type you engage in, there are consequences to each.
So, how can you end the enabling and move towards a healthier relationship…a healthier you? We review here. Then, we invite your questions at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate questions or comments with a personal and prompt response.
Are you ready to hear the truth?
Some women will post on my blog about how they want to stop enabling their husband’s addiction. Their posts seem so desperate and so imminent. I know what they are going through because I have been there; I was married to an addict, too. So, I spend time and energy crafting a heartfelt and realistic response. I try to address their needs and personalize the advice for them and then … weeks will go by and … nothing. Months and … nothing. Some of these women never reply.
I thought about this for a while and tried to put myself in their shoes. When they are reading online for answers and posting their frustrations and their stories they are usually in a crisis situation, either the addict is binging on drugs, disappeared, or done some other inexcusable act. Just because they are posting on my blog does not mean that they are ready to hear what I have to tell them.
When I explain what is most likely to happen or what will help them in the long run, they do not answer back because that is not the answer they were looking for. Most women are not ready to hear that they need to change. Perhaps telling their stories just helps them purge all of their anxiety or they still believe I can tell them how they can fix their partner.
When I was married to an addict, the only advice I hoped to hear from my therapist and from other support people was that I could do “X,Y, and Z” and that would help me fix my husband and his addiction. I wanted to know that living with an addict was possible, and that he could change. When people suggested I had issues or that I should leave my husband I was mortified. I thought I could not live without him so I continued on the same path hoping something would happen that would change him.
Twelve years passed and nothing happened.
I still wanted to fix him, until one day an event forced me to fix myself. It was like I was tuning out all of the advice I needed to hear until one day I heard it because I was ready to listen.
My husband was not forcing me to enable him; I was taking it upon myself to help him because I felt bad for him and I loved him. I realized when I did things that I knew made his addiction and life easier, even if it was acting crazy so he could feel justified to abuse drugs more, that I was not only enabling him but hurting myself. If he ever had a chance to stop using drugs, I had to realize it was not going to be because of me.
Most enablers already know that being married, having children, and responsibilities are not enough reason for an addict to get sober. But, they still think one day they will say something and the addict might all of a sudden realize they are.
It’s about boundaries
Most addicts have no boundaries. An enabler eventually loses their own boundaries and their lives become convoluted and controlled by addiction. Enablers lose their identity and do not understand why they keep on doing what they are doing. So, how can you pull yourself back up to stand on your own two feet?
Start empowering yourself!
How to stop enabling a drug addict?
To stop enabling a few things need to happen:
You need to make a commitment to change.
You must commit to stop your part in enabling 100%, not just some of the time.
You must stop negative patterns and behaviors and replace them with positive ones.
You need to get support from someone with experience and someone you trust to help you.
You need to stop enabling him and start empowering you.
Enablers feel the illusion of control when they help their partner. Once you let it go, you can stop trying to fix and control your partner, take that energy, and fix yourself. You can start asking yourself the questions:
Why am I allowing this person and his addiction control my life?
Why do I not feel good enough about myself to want to be treated better?
Why am I so afraid to leave?
Why do I have fears of abandonment, of being alone, of standing on my own two feet?
If you focus on you, there is less of a chance you will have the time to focus on him. If you change your life and start doing things that bring back your self-confidence then it is less likely you will want to repair him.
Addiction is a selfish condition because it usually involves the complete attention of more people than just the addict. It can draw in the wife, the children, the parents, and the friends if you allow it. Nevertheless, enabling is a choice even though it does not feel like one. The best way to stop enabling is to learn your enabling behaviors and make a conscious choice to STOP.
Need some help?
We invite you to leave your questions in the comments section below. We do our best to respond to each person individually and promptly!