How Not To Enable… What Works and What Doesn’t

couch potato

“Why should he quit drinking? He has a roof over his head, a bed to sleep in, and a maid who brings food to his room.” That’s what I told the woman who called.

I knew she’d be mad. She swore at me and slammed the phone down.

She needed help.

Her husband’s an alcoholic and doesn’t have a job. He spends his time either drunk or passed out.

Plus, she always puts food on his nightstand so he never gets hungry.

The next day she came to my office and apologized and wanted to hear what else I had to say.

“Let him suffer the consequences. Quit playing games,” I said. “Call the police. They’ll take him to the mission where he’ll have a bed and three meals. You may want to change the locks on the door though.”

We didn’t talk about his behaviors anymore.

The focus turned to her.

It was easier for her to enable then to understand compassion.

Are You an Alcoholic Enabler?

Compassion is being there for someone when they struggle.

To enable is to do for someone what they should be doing for themselves.

They need to bear the consequences of their own behaviors. Don’t rescue them!

Do you show too much compassion?

Do you know how not to enable?

Setting Boundaries with an Alcoholic

  • Know what you will tolerate and what you won’t.
  • Tell him what the consequences are if he continues to drink.
  • You’re only responsible for yourself.
  • You can show tremendous love and support, but there’s one thing you can’t do…make choices for someone else.

It’s your addict’s responsibility to change or suffer the consequences.

Pain is a great motivator to change. They’ll suffer pain and that’s okay.

Don’t rescue them.

When pain exceeds pleasure (from drinking) there’s a chance they’ll make better choices.

Don’t Let Feelings of Guilt overwhelm You

If you set boundaries and feel uncomfortable, you’re doing the right thing.

It’s healthy.

Don’t fall for your addict’s guilt trips. You’re not obligated to put up with their behavior. You’re obligated to make choices for yourself.

I’m still in contact with the lady who called me and she no longer feels like a prisoner in her own home. We even laugh about when she slammed the phone down.

She did exactly what I told her to do.

Her husband was taken to a mission. After a few long and lonely nights with the homeless, he made the decision to join a recovery program.

After he completed the program he decided to live in a half-way house until he builds a more sober foundation.

He recognizes that his wife’s “tough love” saved his life.

And she knows how not to enable and is glad she stopped.

As her husband said, “Why would I quit drinking? I had a roof over my head, a comfortable bed to lay in and there was always food on the nightstand. Once I lost that, I knew it was time to change.”

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