How to Support an Addicted Partner Without Enabling

February 25, 2014

There are as many as 12.5 million spouses suffering from addiction.

Addiction Treatment Therapy OptionsDrug and alcohol addiction can destroy any relationship, let alone a romantic partnership. Substance abuse can quickly breakdown trust and communication to the point of no return. And in many marriages where one spouse is battling addiction, the other spouse becomes, at some point, the enabler; professional alcohol addiction and drug treatment is a critical component of salvaging a relationship ravaged by addiction.

Supporting Vs. Enabling

If your spouse is battling addiction, you may have already tried to enforce treatment. However, this process is not easy, and he or she may be resistant and experience several relapses in the journey toward clean and sober living.

It’s essential that you try and draw the line between supportive behavior and enabling behavior. While establishing boundaries is a hard thing to do, sometimes it’s the only thing to do. Making excuses for harmful, abusive or dangerous behavior can send the message that you’re complacent with your partner’s drug dependency. Only by putting a stop to this can you fully help that person reach rock bottom and try to build themselves back up again.

Speaking to Your Partner

It can be scary, intimidating and overwhelming to think about breaking down the walls and discussing with your partner how his or her drug use is hurting you, or attempting to begin a conversation about seeking help.

Psych Central says, “Unfortunately, if you’re interested in change — even baby steps — some discomfort is inevitable. Of course, one could argue you’re already uncomfortable, so why not be uncomfortable and at least speak the truth?” Courtesy of its article “How to Talk to Your Alcoholic Partner,” here are tips for speaking to your partner or spouse about his or her addiction.

Don’t engage when he or she is still drunk.

Don’t bring too harsh of judgement into the conversation.

Do speak calmly and honestly. Begin the conversation with something like, “Wait, just hear me out.” “Please just listen. This is hard to say and I need to get it out.” Continue with, “You really scared me last night” or, “It really hurts me when you act like that. You’re not a nice person when you drink.” Or, “I can’t live like this. I miss the person I married. What can we do?”

Don’t list previous incidents, but simply state something like, “This isn’t the first time.”

Don’t rush an action plan, just focus on being heard.

Do seek out support groups like Al-Anon, which provide help and guidance to family members with addicted loved ones. Therapists who counsel families of addicts work with the goal of improving the family dynamic and the lives of each individual member. Through support, family members learn how to speak up for themselves, how to avoid enabling and how to live better despite the addiction.

[1] Psychology Today

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