Enabling: A Look In The Mirror


How easy it is to look into a mirror, walk away and forget what you’ve just seen.

I’m sure you’d object to this remark by suggesting your remember well what you’ve seen.

Think for a moment.

What have you really observed.

Is the reflection what is true or what you want to be true about you?

Your alcoholic may indeed be a ‘mirror’ you gaze into often and my question is what do you actually see?

Or rather how to you appraise who you are from what you observe in your alcoholic.

It was brought to my attention by a reader that she was hiding in her husband’s addiction.

She suggested if he actually were to get well; quit drinking and stay sober, then she would have to deal with her own issues.

I’m sure, at some level she’s faced her own issues in the relationship with her alcoholic, but her view was that it became easy to hide behind blame toward him.

After all, he’s the out of control alcoholic.

Here are three things for your to consider in this challenging exercise.


This may seem a little trite, but you need to be YOU, not some image or reflection of your alcoholic.

It’s still very common for women to define themselves by their relationships.

Maybe it’s time to think about what makes up who you are at this moment in time.

I’m not suggesting you look for labels but rather qualities.

Let me ask it in the form of several questions:

  • What values do you hold
  • What are your priorities
  • What are your virtues
  • What do you believe
  • What are you passionate about
  • What are your interests

These may take some time to reflect on and answer.

The important thing here is to realize how clouded these attributes have become as you look into the mirror or your alcoholic.

Be your best

The day to day struggle consumes your thoughts.

Your alcoholic seems to be on a separate path into oblivion.

It’s your choice to allow yourself to be dragged down with your alcoholic’s illness or to rise above it.

You can determine to take charge of your choices.

This will allow you to reconnect with who you are and strive with all there is within you.

The result?

You’ll be at your very best.

Things will change, because they’ll change in you.

Be honest

This may be hard to accept but in the relationship with your alcoholic you’ve been pushed into a position to enable or be honest with yourself.

It’s not like you intentionally weren’t being honest. It’s just part of the territory when you live with an alcholic.

When you’re honest:

  • there are boundaries.
  • you’re true to yourself
  • you don’t have to deny what you feel
  • you speak truth
  • see things as the are, not how you want them to be
  • you don’t make excuses

Like I said, it’s not like one day you woke up and decided to hide from the truth.

It’s a very typical response to living with an alcoholic.

What’s hopeful in taking the time to look inward it the possibility of what will happen when you are true to yourself.

You’ve heard it said, “honesty is the best policy”. Well, it’s especially true in this situation.

This article presents quite a bit to look at as you peer into the mirror of your alcoholic.

I hope you begin to redefine yourself as the person you really are, regardless of what your alcoholic decides to do.

In what ways have you defined yourself by your alcoholic? Share with us in the comment section below.


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Here’s What 16 Other People Thought...

  1. David

    This article really hits home. It has been very hard for me to admit that I do kind of wrap my worry and concern for my husband around me like a wet blanket to keep me from getting on with my own life. I have my own issues with insecurity and lack of confidence that predate this relationship, even if it has been a long one. I feel that a lot of it has to do with fear of taking responsibility. I’ve been a responsibility avoider for much of my life, basically doing the bare minimum. Some of that I think is because I think I’m not really up to the task or if I am, that more responsibility will come my way. I’ve made worrying about David my main responsibility and that has just been a big waste of time and energy. Right now I’m trying to put extra focus on work and school to build my confidence and give me a ‘safe zone’ to work on being more responsible (I work on my own a lot in both my jobs), not thinking about the drinking, and developing my strengths. I am also spending less time sitting with my husband while he drinks. That part is the hardest because I know he hates being my himself and because I have always been a big TV watcher. But I have to do it because nothing is going to change in this situtation until I change myself. I will take some time this week to go through the suggested exercises to see if I can give the process a little boost.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      It’s much easier to hide behind someone’s addiction. I hope you give yourself some credit here. You’ve started DOING something about your situation. It’s not as easy but I’m SURE you’ll find it much more rewarding. Good luck in school and your other endeavors.

  2. Willow

    First off, thank you so much for this post. I plan to journal the questions you asked.

    I am still working on this mirroring piece. It’s funny, first time I heard about this was last year in school and I was like “there is no way I could look at my husband and reflect back anything of myself, he’s a total jerk and a drunk at time”. I’ve learned the more I look in the mirror the more I see.

    He’s stuck and wont move forward. I was there at one time and blamed his drunkness on why I was stuck. He has low self esteem, I realized I have self esteem issues and am working on those daily. I am out trying new things and learning and making new friends.I’ve earned some certifications in the past year and am holding my head up proud.

    Taking things personal. He came home drunk last night, spoke to me in my garden as I was reading. I never got word in edge wise as I was just listening to him speak. Somehow he took what I didn’t say or wasn’t saying personal and flew off the handle and went in. It was at that moment that I remembered how I use to take his coming home drunk personal and how fast I would react that he must be drinking because I was such a horrible person/bad wife/bad mother or whatever stupid thought came in my head. Glad I am done with that!

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      I often use this idea. When you point your finger at someone else be careful there are three fingers pointing back at you. The things that frustrate us the most about others is often something we have a hard time overcoming in ourselves. I think that’s why it’s easier to blame than take responsibilities. Thanks for your comment.

    • kat

      meee toooooo

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Thanks, Kat.

  3. Michelle

    This article applies across the board too ALL relationships, not only ones w/ an addict. As a woman I know we do this ALL the time. We wrap our selves up in our lovers AND our children taking care of EVERYBODY ELSE, and losing ourselves. Then our children leave for college or our lovers leave for good and it’s like we’ve lost everything because we made them everything. I’ve seen it happen in myself. One of my best friends warns me against it all the time;

    “Michelle”, she’ll say, “why are you really obsessing over this person? Is it because you love them, or because you don’t want to focus on all the Sh*! in your life that you know you should be taking care of?”

    It’s hard medicine to swallow, but necessary. I’ve still got a pile of paper work on my kitchen table and woke up too late today but I’ve remembered to move forward with myself. Here are some of the things that have helped me remember myself:

    Daily Exercise- it wakes me up, keeps my fit, challenges me and gives me an outlet to vent all my frustration for the day. Because of it I know that for at least 30 minutes that day I won’t be lost in my head thinking too much. I won’t be thinking at all. I’ll be panting and sweating and struggling through the routine and won’t have time for all the lost in my thoughts business. It’s a great stabilizer.

    School- continuing my education really brought me back into myself. It also opened an entire social network that had nothing to do with anyone in my past. It brings me out of the “mom” rutt I sometimes get stuck in which can be a HUGE burden for my son- making him responsible for my happiness just isn’t fair. It also helps for career advancement which is great.

    Acting/writing- Before I was a mother, before my first crush (not to mention falling in love) I was in love with performing and creating. It’s been in me since I first knew my own name. When I remember to be involved in these things I remember who I am and it’s worth all the world. It happens every time I audition, involve myself in a production and write- I get VERY happy. And happiness is THE indicator that you’re doing something right.

    These are mine but everybody has their own. It’s so easy to get lost in someone else- especially when that person is struggling with something that is difficult. I say this to everybody- The day I fell out of love with my son’s father was the day I got my life back. It wasn’t his fault. It was my own. I threw myself away in his issues, or even what I imagined them to be and had no self anymore. Of course I was miserable. And I wasn’t really in love. I was hiding behind the excuse I called love. Crazy. And so liberating to be out of that situation.

    When you care for someone and they are in a bad place OF COURSE you feel concern, worry, maybe even sadness. But i remember what I learned in my life guarding course so many years ago- you don’t jump into the water without first making sure you’re in a safe situation. Two people drowning is worse then one person drowning. That’s not to say let them drown- but if you don’t have secure footing yourself then you’re putting two people in danger and not helping at all. Sometimes the best thing you can do is call an expert and turn things over to them. Let them save the life of the person drowning while you secure your own.

    Just a thought.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Michelle, You’ve totally embraced the concept of the article. I really like how you’re getting in touch with what make you YOU. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. kat

    What values do you hold,
    I hold the values that Christ want us to walk ,
    What are your priorities,these are a ? of when and where
    What are your virtues.
    I have a lot of virtues but in the beginning of rods drinking i held his into account and let him steal mine
    What do you believe. I believe we can make it no matter what for better or worse,
    i write down only the good days and then reflect on them
    What are you passionate about,Christ Jesus almighty and sharing this
    What are your interests,
    art interior design, homes decorating, travel , anything with color and i can do landscaping is a big one for me

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      When you build on your virtues and interests you grow. Your personal faith is a great resource. Thanks.

  5. robin

    What values do you hold> reality above all else >faith in a higher power.
    What are your priorities> Him then me
    What are your virtues> faith ,love ,integrity
    What do you believe> that alone I can do nothing in this not one single thing . It will take God to see us through .
    What are you passionate about> Getting the best out of what life we as a couple have left. by the grace of god.
    What are your interests> retirement …porch swing …good food …our cats {2} and a smoothe day …one day at a time.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Asked and answered. Two things you share that are so important, personal faith and taking things one day at a time. Thanks.

    • jojo

      Him then me is your priority? There is where we go wrong with alcoholics–

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        It’s not one or the other first. It’s realizing you have needs and so does he. The alcohol drives his desires an dominates his thoughts. Your needs are much different. You can care about yourself and him by taking care of yourself, not enabling and insist he get help for his disease of alcoholism.

  6. jojo

    there are boundaries. (did I set a boundary? I tried to but Ken never honored it, he just stepped right over it…. Or maybe I should have drawn more boundaries…I tried to deny and sacrifice in order for him finally to achieve happiness, but he never did, and it costed me greatly…which made me angry …because I came to be starved and ravenous…. So I allowed him free reign without a boundary in hopes to make him happy, to please him, to just make him appreciative, but it didn’t work and i died in the process–like the Giving Tree, i ended up a stump for him to sit on.

    you’re true to yourself (was I true to who I am? I think so. I am a Christian.)
    you don’t have to deny what you feel (I did bury my feelings and make them nonexistent, unimportant, and ok not to be met, i got this from childhood training to deny my needs. Did I share how I felt with Ken…sometimes…I tried, he doesn’t comprehend…)
    you speak truth (did I tell Ken the truth, or do I play into his fantasy?…did I try to not upset the apple cart, did I try not to rain on his parade, did I try not to give him a reality dose to spare him depression?)
    see things as the are, not how you want them to be (I seen reality or did I? He is such a fake and hides his truth self behind a projection of what he wants me to think he is…Who is really is is kinda beyond me today…I currently think he is a hypocrit and a fake. It is painful to know that I am not getting what I need…. When I realize the full extent of deprivation, I go off on him.
    you don’t make excuses (do I excuse his behavior?…he is tired, he is stressed, he has worked hard, he does all the bills….blah blah blah poor thing…I don’t know, do I excuse him? probably yes,I didn’t require when I should have because I felt sorry for him…I wanted him to feel happy…so I tried to make him happy, and tried to refrain from causing unhappiness.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Do you enable him, JoJo? Christianity does not suggest you must be a doormat for your alcoholic. As a Child of God you’re better than that!

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