Once you have found yourself in a relationship with an addict it can seem like there is no way to define your relationship without referring to the addiction like it is a third party. You can see no way of walking away from the relationship without your addict partner starting on a downward spiral towards self-destruction. Without you by his side to keep him going he would be in danger of losing his job and his friends and pretty soon whatever is left of his self-respect. Everything that you have built together will crumble and fall by the wayside as part of the inevitable trail of destruction that will follow.
So how do you let go of such a destructive relationship when you are caught on the middle of a web, desperately clinging onto all of the strings as tightly as you can to stop it all falling apart? It’s hard, often too hard. You don’t need the stress of a relationship break up on top of everything else you have to deal with, and you definitely don’t want the outside world – including friends and family, knowing just what is going on behind closed doors. So what do you do? You end up burying yourself deeper into the situation and perpetuating the façade to keep everyone out.
You Are an Enabler
What you are doing by allowing things to continue on the way that you are, is called enabling. You are perpetuating a situation by not challenging it. You are allowing the behaviour of the addict to continue because you are afraid of upsetting things any more than they are. You have to accept that they are free to make their own decisions and that no matter how you try you can’t control their behaviour, what you are doing instead is losing control of your own life by trying to control theirs.
Learning how to change your own behaviour so that you stop being an enabler takes time and is not something that can be achieved overnight, but whilst you are going through the process you can certainly distance yourself from the consequences of the addiction. This is all about giving up the role of problem solver and letting the addict come face to face with their own problems and finding a way to handle them on their own. You are not being harsh, you are not stopping your love or your ability to care, you can still show them compassion you just stop their problems becoming your own. It is about being there to listen and understand but not to shoulder responsibility, and to offer guidance and support without degrading or belittling them.
Tips on How to Stop Enabling
Facing the Consequences: By allowing your partner to face the consequences of their actions you are not withholding love. In reality, forcing them into this position could be the most loving thing that you could do for them, without you stepping back and letting go of the situation they may never have realised just how much they were in need of help.
Do Something for Yourself: You have spent so long trying to be all things to all people that it is time that you did something that makes you happy. Once a day, every day do something that relaxes you, makes you happy or reminds you of what is good about life. Take note though: This does not include cleaning or shopping! Visit a friend, take a long luxurious bath or go and have a facial.
You Are Not a Victim: Whatever you are doing or how hard things get you must remember that you are not a victim and you should not feel sorry for yourself. When you do find yourself sliding down that slippery slope put an end to the slide as quickly as possible, in order for you to stop enabling you need to stay strong and draw on your inner strengths. By all means cry if you need to, sometimes emotions need to be let out that way, but then dry your eyes and move on again. If you feel that you are having more bad days than good and you are sinking into a depression, seek professional help.
Stop Being Isolated: Chances are that while you have been holding things together you have isolated yourself from your friends and family. Take the time to start rebuilding those links with the outside world. Get out, take walks, join an exercise class whatever it takes to get you out of the negative environment of the addiction. Make friends with positive upbeat people and start feeling better about yourself.
Seek Help: Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It could be just having a friend to listen to you and the offer of a shoulder to cry on, or professional help such as counselling or therapy. There are a number of different support groups out there that offer help and support to the partners and families of addicts.
Face the Future
As you start getting stronger your confidence will build and you may find yourself becoming emotionally distant to your addict partner. You have regained control of your life and given them back control of theirs. Let them continue to make their own choices and deal with the consequences as they arise. Each time the addict takes a turn upon that downward spiral they are getting another step closer to realising that they are in need of help.
By stepping back from the addict you are making a life choice, a healthy and constructive choice that will not only remove you from a negative situation but will set a good example for other members of your family. You are now ready for the future rather than burying your head in the sand in an attempt to get through one day at a time. The future is now yours so take it and run with it.
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