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Addictive Thinking and Enabling Have Much In Common

answered 04:11 PM EST, Thu February 16, 2012
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anonymous anonymous
I don't know what to do with my husband at this point. I don't want to give up on him. He has been an alcoholic for a little more than two years. He has been to rehab. He has been to multiple meetings. For a while he knew he couldn't drink. Now, he constantly lies about the drinking and he thinks that he controls it. He thinks that drinking a little before work or whatever is okay. He thinks that is, "controlled." He thinks that he is not effecting anyone. Well, he is really affecting me, my students, and all my family because I am not my normal chipper self. I tell him all the time, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. Do you have any suggestions? My family tells me that he needs a long term live in place, but he doesn't seem into it. I told him if he loved me he would go, but that doesn't seem to matter. He thinks that if he has a real job, he would be better. I've been the one with the job for the last 6 years. He used to work for the forest service before that. He only did it to pay for school so that he could teach too though. When he got his credential though, no teaching jobs were there, so, he's been subbing. I think he might go back to the service. I feel really stuck.

Dr. James Strawbridge Says...

Feelings Associated with Enabling

By enabling a spouse, we help him continue to drink alcohol and assist him in increasing the severity of his addiction. Repeated enabling becomes the 'normal' way of dealing with the alcoholic. As the disease of alcoholic dependence progresses, the problems and conflicts that result increase, and so do the feelings of discomfort.

When we begin enabling, we often believe we are being helpful. When we find that our efforts are ineffective and the problems continue and become more pronounced, we feel frustrated, resentful, and angry. As the disease and the enabling progresses, the initial discomfort becomes intensified with feelings that can include anger, rage, hostility, sadness, and distrust. Sometimes we become totally numb rather than experience the pain, or we become overly active to avoid feelings. The focus becomes more and more centered on supporting and protecting the alcoholic and centered less on our own needs. We often feel hopeless, defeated, and depressed. This cycle of problems feeding problems continues until we seek help.

Addressing Enabling

To regain a sense of ourselves and break the cycle in which we become trapped, enablers must learn to focus on their personal rights and needs. They must allow the addicted individual to feel the consequences of their own behavior. As enablers, they should stop protecting the addict and let them begin to feel the consequences of their addiction, and maybe become very angry. At first, this can be frightening, but as we learn that we are not responsible for the addicts problems, we feel strength and pride in ourselves. We may also feel sad to see the addict having to live with the consequences of their addiction.

The self-deceptive features of addictive thinking and codependency have much in common. In both, there are often denial, rationalization,and projection. In both, contradictory ideas can co-exist, and there is fierce resistance to change others. In both, there is a delusion of control, and in both there is invariably low self-esteem. Therefore, all the features of addictive thinking are present in both and the only distinguishing feature may be the chemical use.

The Three Cs

A helpful beginning for help would be Al-Anon. It endorses the rule of the three Cs: You did not cause it, you cannot control it and you cannot cure it. But many people do feel responsible for another's addiction, do try to control it, and do believe they can cure it.

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Page last updated Mar 02, 2012

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