Tuesday July 29th 2014

How to stop enabling

Enablers are in the middle of the addiction cycle

Addiction and enabling can go hand in hand.  When you’re in a relationship with an addict, it can seem like an impossibility to separate yourself from the problems. Examples of enabling behavior are many.  You may convince yourself that it would be irresponsible to take care of only yourself – that if you’re not right there in the middle to attempt to salvage what’s left of your loved one’s job, reputation, and self-respect, that everything will just crumble around both of you and be destroyed.

It can be difficult to let go and allow the addict to face the consequences of their actions. You don’t want your life to become more stressful. You don’t want your spouse to lose his or her job and leave you broke. You don’t want to admit to family and friends how bad things have gotten. So you do everything in your power to keep the outside world from finding out.

Letting go of control

But when it comes to the other people in our lives, especially the addict, we must learn to let go and stop enabling behavior. We can’t make their choices for them. We can’t control what they do, and the more we try, the more out of control our own lives become.

Learning to stop enabling is a process, but you can learn to distance yourself from the troubles of addiction. It is about letting the addict handle their own problems. This does not mean that you stop caring. You can show compassion for the addict without their problems becoming yours, you can listen with a loving ear without taking on their responsibilities, and you can offer guidance without belittling.

How you can stop enabling: 5 TIPS

Here are five tips on how to stop enabling:

1. Let your loved one face his or her own consequences.

This does not show a lack of love. On the contrary, it may be the most loving thing you can do. By constantly ‘protecting’ your loved one, you may be preventing them from ever realizing their need for help.

2. Every day, do at least one thing just for you.

This must be something for pure enjoyment. This doesn’t include things like cleaning the house, or going grocery shopping — even if you believe those things are enjoyable. Here are some suggestions: taking a long warm bath, doing fifteen minutes of meditation, going for a walk, treating yourself to a manicure or pedicure, or visiting a friend who makes you laugh.

3. Avoid feeling sorry for yourself or taking on the victim role.

When you find yourself throwing a pity party, put an end to it as quickly as possible. In order to stop enabling behavior it helps to embrace your own inner strength. This doesn’t mean you hold back from crying when you feel the need. It’s important to release those emotions. Get it out so that you can move on. But if your sadness doesn’t go away, please seek professional help. Depression is a serious medical condition, and you shouldn’t try to deal with it alone.

4. Break free from isolation.

Rebuild old friendships and take time to form new ones. Getting involved in healthy activities outside of the addictive environment is crucial to your well-being. An aerobics class, a reading group, church activities — the list goes on and on. Look for opportunities to spend time with people who are positive and leave you feeling good about yourself.

5. Ask for help.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to others when you need assistance, guidance, or a shoulder to cry on. You don’t have to face this battle alone. If you don’t know who to turn to, I suggest visiting an Al-Anon group. This is one of the best forms of support for those of us who are dealing with a loved one’s addiction.

Changing from an enabler to a confident example

As you move in this new direction, you will find yourself growing more and more confident. You are putting your focus back where it belongs — on you. You may find that you are not so emotionally attached to the addict anymore. You allow your loved one to make his or her own choices and face their own consequences. It can help to remember that with each mistake the addict makes, they are one step closer to realizing their need for help.

In the meantime, you are starting to make healthy choices for yourself. You are setting a good example for your family. You are focusing on your positive future. You are getting strong — and you deserve to heal from the negative effects of addiction.

Questions about enabling

Do you have questions about enabling? Or maybe you’d like to share your experiences. Please leave your comments below. We do our best to respond to all comments with a personal reply.

Photo credit: Meredith_Farmer

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16 Responses to “How to stop enabling
charlene
6:06 pm April 17th, 2012

how do u remove a ddict from r home ?he has a child living with u and he using child as a weapon to keep control

Lisa Espich
8:29 pm April 22nd, 2012

There is no easy answer to your question Charlene. Whenever children are used as weapons, the ones who get hurt the most are the children. Every situation is different, so my best advise to you is to reach out for help through groups such as Al-Anon. You will learn how to handle specific situations in order to keep you and your child as safe and healthy as possible. My thoughts and prayers are with you!

Rachel
12:18 pm July 20th, 2012

Due to a tragedy in the family, my alcoholic husband has been out of a job for over a year and a half. Unfortuantely, he cannot find a job.
I kicked him out of our house 2 weeks ago cause i said enough is enough. He needed the wake up call, and I guess I did too.
Since then, he has started psycotherapy. He was in AA for 6 months but still had falls so he went for another treatment. He hasn’t had a drink in 2 weeks. He was given a pill to stop the cravings as well.

How do I know when is enough time to say he is on the right path?
Can I say that he needs to have a job or some type of daily routine as one of my conditions for him to come back home? I was told that empty time for an alcoholic can be a disaster.

Thanks in advance.

1:08 am July 21st, 2012

Hi Rachel. What a wonderful proactive (albeit difficult) step for you to ask you husband to leave the house. It is a very healthy example of what experts call “tough love” and one that is easier said than done. Bravo to you for helping yourself and your husband re-learn boundaries.

“Can I say that he needs to have a job or some type of daily routine as one of my conditions for him to come back home? ”

ABSOLUTELY. Halfway houses require the same, as well as attendance in psychotherapy counseling, 12 step programs, or other programs which advocate for sobriety such as Rational Recovery or SMART Recovery. So I personally think that such a condition is absolutely realistic.

“How do I know when is enough time to say he is on the right path?”

I personally think that a good gauge of serious recovery is about 6 months of sobriety. But the first year or two of being sober can be VERY rocky, as the underlying emotional and psychological problems surface.

Have you sought help from a psychotherapist or from Al-Anon? Either or both may help you.

Jaclyn Reynolds
4:06 am December 27th, 2012

#1 is so true, I needed to hear it today.

Rachel
9:55 am January 1st, 2013

Hi,
It has been a long time since I wrote my last post, and decided to publish an update.
So my husband came back home a few months after he was thrown out. It was a joint decision.
We have had our ups and downs and I have finally learned how to stop enabling and controlling him. It took me a long time to come to terms with everything and to realize that I cannot control his drinking, getting a job, etc. I have to say that “Letting go and letting G-d” finally put everyone on the right track. He is still going to psychotherapy and is really trying. He has had falls since then, but I know that he is finally on the right track. So many people told me to leave him alone and I just couldn’t let go. But now that i have, things are finally starting to look up. I was always pushing him to work, thinking that will make him stop drinking but boy was I wrong. I now know that mentally he is ready to get his life back into gear and that job will show up, even if it takes another few months. We all needed some type of healing and I have been going to therapy for myself as well. It’s amazing how I forgot about myself through his sickness. I am hopeful now and can finallly see the light at the end of the tunnel.

12:05 pm January 2nd, 2013

Hi Rachel. What a wonderful testament to the power of “owning your own stuff”. Relationships are complex and evolving. I wish you the very best, and hope that learning more about yourself can continue you towards the goal of a beautiful and peaceful life together.

Lori
6:57 pm June 2nd, 2013

For the past 20-years my brother has been in and out of rehab and I have always been there to pick up the pieces. I priase him for going into rehab, and always try to focus on the positives.

However, I had reached the end of my rope the last time and got a restrainng order against him because he refused to leave my house. He told me go ahead and call the police, they won’t throw me out and they didn’t.

He went through 9- month rehab program (Phoenix House-Santa Ana), we had therapy sessions together, sometimes his daughter attended. During therapy the therapist asked what are you going to do when you leave here and he said I don’t know, I don’t have a job and have no where to go. I caved and said you can come to my house if you don’t drink and get a full time job until you get on your feet.

He got a job right away working 20-30 hours a week and slowly, but sure started drinking. He has fallen twice that I know of for sure using. He won’t look for another job because he says this is a start up company and he maybe able to grow with the company. He is 55 years old. I feel he doesn’t have the luxury to to live in my house, not pay rent and work part time URGHH!

We had a fallen out yesterday, it stemmed from his drinking, I told him I wanted him out of my house and he again said do what you have to do call the police if you want. I feel I am right back in the same situation I was in a year ago. He did leave and didn’t come home all night, so I am pretty sure he is up to no good.

My daughter is home from college, she won’t invite anyone over because she is embarrassed that my brother is there and uncomfortable to have her friends over to swim or just hang out because my brother is home a lot of the time and it’s creepy for her.

I am again at my wits end. I feel I am trapped in in my own house.

8:52 am June 3rd, 2013

Hello Lori. I’d suggest that you get in touch with a local social worker who can help you sort out the situation, legally and in terms of logistics. Your brother will probably benefit from living in a halfway house where he will need to grow up a little bit and start taking responsibility. You are a responsible, caring adult but do not need to continue supporting a family member who is not doing his part. Or, consider writing a drug free contract with him, establishing terms and consequences for use.

But the daughter at home w/ friends situation does sound a little creepy.

Does this help?

nannette
3:29 pm June 7th, 2013

i was in a relationship for 5years with a crack addict and i was her enabler. i had all the symptoms of an enabler. when she decided to be clean she left me. i dont understand why. she cannot even talk to me on the phone. she completely erased m from her life. what happned to our relationship. why cant she talk to me or see me anymore i was her partner for 5years. i dont knowb what to do.

Ursula
9:49 pm July 22nd, 2013

Hi I need Help, I don’t know how anymore to deal with my Addict. I am with him now since 8 years. He never have been off that staff more than 9 month. He was 6 months in a rehab center but went straight back on it when he came out. Sometimes he disappeard for Days sometimes a week or two comes back totally wreckd, smelly, unshaved, unshowerd, with the same clothe he had before he left. He soled goods like his guitar, TV, DVD, phones, mobile phones, Laptop, a car from a freand, his own car last year, furnitures, and so on. There is a whole List of that.

I love him to bits, I care for him a lot, and I am worried to dead when I know he has this urges. I know either he will not come home from work till morning hors, I know he will sell his phone again, I know he will mess up with his work again. All this repeats and repeats and repeats the same thing over and over again.

When he is sober, he is a very loving caring person who cares for other people and his kids.

But at the end, I am just enabling him, to live his habit and live in denial. I allways back him up at his familys I lie for him. I live in denial. If I tell his family or freands or work, what is realy the matter with him, than he gets so angry that he scares me. He gets realy aggressive. His family knows that he has drug problems, if they ask him are you back on drugs? He is in denial. He don’t want to go to a support group, he is not willd to speak to his family about it.

He allways has excuses, about work went not well, that’s why he fall back, or cause we arguing, that’s what make him fall back, he allways has excuses not to deal with his real problem. He thinks he don’t need it, he is not like them junkies.

He gave me his credit cards to take care of. But when he goes through this stages, he is terrorising me to get his money and his cards back, that he spend everything till nothing. And the circle starts again. Get Sober, stay away from it for a while, get his life back in order, get work doin well at work, getting confident back, getting attidues and issues, and suddenly all repeats again and again over and over.

When do I stop, with that Devils circle? When do I show him and realy act my boarderlines? What can I do, to realy make him realize, that big problem is he himself his addiction and he need to do something about it. How far more will I enable him to live his addiction and using me, for his evil motives?

I need help

Thank you

elvera
8:51 am December 4th, 2013

Reading your article has REALLY opened my eyes today!!! but please tell me – to stop being an enabler: do I leave my husband to drive the car under the influence of alcohol and let him face the consequences?? (I hide the car keys) this is a difficult decision because it means other people are being put at risk and I am determined to stop trying to control what he does!

Christina
7:13 pm June 1st, 2014

Im missing my addict husband right now and i know he’s never going to change if i don’t stand up for myself but we have a two year old daughter and i have raised my older children by myself this was supposed to be my happy family it’s killing me to think I’ll have to do this again at 40 and alone. How selfish can a person be to do this to their wife and daughter. I made him leave a week ago today and im doing my best to stay strong. I want him to see what he has and get better but i feel like he will just find someone like him and forget me and our daughter. Either way i have to be strong for her but it’s killing me.

Ursula
9:12 pm June 4th, 2014

I have respect when you made that step and left your addict. And of course you miss your husband, but he will be back as sooner as you think. He need to prove it that he is willed to stop, proof it, ghe need seek help, take actions not only words, that we again give in to it. Be strong

Hiding Key and goods from the addict, can make things worse. They only get more aggressive and you need to protect yourself. pray to god and ask to keep him safe and give you strength to what is the right thing.

Sharon
9:42 am July 6th, 2014

Should I allow my alcoholic son to keep beer in my refrigerator even if I don’t approve of his drinking.
How do I help him stop drinking. Am I enabling him?
We’re do we go for help with this problem
Thanks and God Bless You
Sharon

lor0204
10:52 pm July 12th, 2014

I live with what I believe is an alcoholic husband. He does not agree. He’s been thru detox & multiple rehabs when we were younger. He was 10 years sober and that was that. He’s picked up speed over the years. It has turned me off, caused many of fights. 23 years of marriage & things are worse than ever. Friday I freaked out, went looking for him & when I coukdnt , called & freaked out. Lost it completely.. You see I didn’t believe him.. Nor do I trust him so out that came. Absolutely got ugly. Now he’s went away for 2 days & I’m sitting here reading about addiction, codependency.. I’ve gone to alanon which is great but I can’t seem to out me first. I just loop back around to my love for him. I believe I’m suffocating him by the way he speaks but yet we do nothing together.. I feel he always wants to be elsewhere. He’s been unfaithful but screams I’m not cheating. Phone & texts say differently. Can I pull out if this??? I’m lost and confused. Thanks

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About Lisa Espich

Lisa Espich is the author of the multi award-winning book, Soaring Above Co-Addiction: Helping your loved one get clean, while creating the life of your dreams. For additional articles, resources, and a free preview chapter of Soaring Above Co-Addiction visit her website. Her book is available at bookstores everywhere and at Twin Feather Publishing.