Although drug or alcohol addiction is a personal demon, spouses of addicts do, at times, act as enablers. Many spouses do not even realize they are doing so. They may say, “I have no control over what he does,” or “she knows I don’t like it.” But this is most assuredly a case of actions speaking louder than words. Although a spouse may verbally express displeasure with their addicted spouses behavior, their actions tell another story.
Here are eight ways you enable your spouse and four steps you can take to STOP!
- Being in denial about your spouse’s addictive behaviors is one of the strongest indications that you are enabling him or her. If you cannot confront the truth, then how can you expect your addicted spouse to be able to?
- Making excuses for your spouse’s behavior to friends, places of employment, and family. By making excuses for your spouse, you are absolving them of responsibility for their actions.
- Providing drugs or alcohol to your spouse. You may think you are in control of the addiction because you determine how much he or she gets. But, in reality, all you are doing is fueling the addiction.
- Not setting boundaries allows your spouse to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol with no repercussions. They are operating in a vacuum where there is no line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Hence there is no motivation for adjusting their behavior.
- Not following through on consequences. If you threaten your spouse with a consequence to addictive behavior but then don’t follow through on it, you are enabling them by showing that there really aren’t any repercussions to their behavior.
- Not expressing your own needs and honoring them. When you deny yourself your needs, you are allowing your spouse’s addiction and its related behaviors to take precedence over you. This implies that you condone his or her behavior and the addiction.
- Giving in to your spouse’s promises without demanding change. Again, there is no motivation for changing behavior if they know you are just going to give in anyway.
- Taking over your spouse’s responsibilities. If you do it for your spouse, it gets done, and they haven’t had to make any changes to ensure that their life is manageable.
Four Steps to Take to Stop Enabling Your Spouse’s Addiction
- Confront reality. To stop enabling your spouse’s addictions you must first confront them yourself. You must stop being in denial about the reality of the addiction. It is only when you have admitted that there is a problem that you can begin to seek help.
- Stop making excuses. Do not cover for your spouse. Do not do his or her work for him. Do not make excuses to friends and family for his or her behavior. To force your spouse to confront his or her addiction, you must take away the crutch, which is your defense of his or her actions.
- Stop providing access. This is a simple step to breaking free of your role as an enabler. If you are buying drugs or alcohol for your spouse, you must stop. You are not in control of the addiction, no matter how little drugs or alcohol you provide.
- Set boundaries and consequences. Tell your spouse what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Establish consequences for unacceptable behavior and follow through on your demands.
Watching a spouse battle addiction can be heartbreaking, but it is very important that you do not continue to enable him or her. Realize that despite all of your efforts, if your spouse is not willing to change his or her behaviors, then anything you do will almost certainly backfire. Your spouse may have to hit rock bottom for necessary behavioral changes to occur. In the meantime, learn what you can about your spouse’s specific addiction. Find and join a support group for spouses or loved ones of addicts. This community can help you get through these tough times and will provide you with great guidance. A community like this is especially useful when your spouse is ready to get sober or you believe you need to plan an intervention. You may be losing your spouse due to addiction, but you do not have to be alone.