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How I discovered I was an enabler.

Old 10-07-2010, 11:27 AM
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How I discovered I was an enabler.

First off I want to thank everyone here for... well being here. After searching the internet and finding dead forum after dead forum I'm glad to finally find a place that is active. I've been reading through threads and am astounded by how many people are in the same boat I am. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone.

My wife is an alcoholic. When we first got together I knew that she drank. So did I. We would go out to the bar and have a few pitchers of beer. I'd sing Karaoke and she'd laugh while I butchered song after song. At the time I'd not had any real experience with alcoholism.

Looking back the signs were all there. At the time I just chalked up her drinking to her upbringing. She always drank every night but it didn't seem to affect her job or her ability to deal with life. I later came to know that she's what's known as a functioning alcoholic.

We eventually got married and have been together for a little over 5 years. We have two children together from my previous marriage. My wife has adopted them and the biological mother is no longer in the picture. Everything was going great until about 2 years ago.

Our plan had always been to do the "traditional family" thing. I would be the breadwinner and she would be the stay-at-home Mom. So she is at home and I go to work every day. Again everything seemed fine. She would always stay up later than me. She would always have a few beers at night. But somewhere along the line she stopped being sober in the morning.

Things really started unraveling when we were dealing with my X-wife and working through the adoption. My wife became increasingly hateful of my X. The drinking got worse. I thought at the time that she would be better once it was all over with. Eventually the happy day came when my wife became the legal adoptive mother of my children. But that didn't end the drinking problem.

My wife continued to be obsessed with my X and how she "ruined our lives" even though she was no longer in the picture. The drinking continued. She would get drunk and then want to start ranting and raving about my X. Eventually I became tired of this routine and started heading to bed early when I saw that my wife was reaching the "point of no return" for the evening.

Again, this didn't have much effect on our day to day lives. She would still get up in the morning. She would be sober, drive me to work and the kids to school (we only have one vehicle.) She would do the grocery shopping and all the other Mom duties. Things really came to a head when I decided to quit smoking.

I quit smoking and it seems everything went down hill from there. She started staying up until the wee hours of the morning drinking. It was a gradual process and one she covered up very well. One day I woke up to find that she hadn't come to bed. Instead I found her passed out on the bathroom floor.

I made all the usual mistakes. I confronted her about her drinking and she immediately started blaming me for it. I wasn't spending enough time with her. I worked too much. I didn't care that she was alone etc. etc. The mistake I made was believing her. For the next year I tried to change everything about myself to be what she said she wanted me to be.

Eventually I came to realize that the drinking wasn't my fault. It was hers. This is where I made my second big mistake. I then started resenting her for being an alcoholic. I then made all the usual mistakes that went along with that. I started pouring out the alcohol she'd buy. I would press her and get into arguments with her about drinking when she wasn't sober. Eventually I couldn't keep up the emotional stress level and just started pretending there wasn't a problem. Obviously this didn't solve anything either.

We recently took a trip to Germany where the abundance of beer and being on vacation got the better of her. I ended up chasing her around Munich while she screamed and yelled at me that I was the cause of all her problems.

After we returned home, I knew that something had to change. I started looking into alcoholism seriously and came to discover that I'm an enabler. I pay for her to drink. I cover up for her when she's drinking or gets drunk and embarrasses herself. I have been part of the problem but not in the way I'd originally thought.

This brings me to where I am today and my question: What do I do next? How do I stop enabling her given our situation? I could cut off her finances completely but how do I go about doing that in a constructive way? Should I even consider doing that?

If you're still here, thanks for reading my epic post. Also, thanks in advance for any replies.

-C
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:35 AM
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Welcome to SR, codeflayer! You will find a great deal of support here. Pull up a chair and stick around a while. More people will be along shortly, but there is some really helpful information in the "sticky" posts located at the top of this forum. Many of us have been where you are, so we understand what you are dealing with.

Again, welcome to SR! We are here to support you!
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:47 AM
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Hello codeflayer Welcome to SR!

You pretty much have two choices. Do what you need to do for the kids and yourself that removes the insanity of alcoholism from your lives, or wait for her to address her problem and start a program of recovery.

You can't force her, and you can't do it for her. Alcoholism is progressive, this will only get worse and worse.

Please, do take some time to read down in the Adult Children of forum to see just how damaging it is to children living in a home with an active alcoholic.
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:51 AM
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codeflayer
This brings me to where I am today and my question: What do I do next?
Have you considered Al-Anon? I strongly recommend it. How to find a meeting in the US/Canada/Puerto Rico
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:55 AM
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I started looking into alcoholism seriously and came to discover that I'm an enabler. I pay for her to drink. Stop doing that. I cover up for her when she's drinking or gets drunk and embarrasses herself. Stop doing that. I have been part of the problem but not in the way I'd originally thought.

This brings me to where I am today and my question: What do I do next? How do I stop enabling her given our situation? Let her clean up her own messes. It isn't your job.

Another good thing would be to look for Al-anon meetings in your area and start attending them. Face-to-face support will be a tremendous help.
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:57 AM
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Hi, and welcome,

I strongly suggest you check out some Al-Anon meetings. They won't tell you how to get her sober, but they will help you get your head on straight and make the best decisions you can for yourself and your kids.

Not sure how old your kids are, but if they are preteen or older, Alateen can be helpful for them, too.

The key thing to remember, in dealing with your wife, is that you didn't CAUSE the alcoholism, you can't CONTROL it, and you can't CURE it. She has to want sobriety for herself.
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Old 10-07-2010, 12:09 PM
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Protect your children; they come first and foremost. So sorry you are going through this. I've been there. I had to kick mine out when I was 4 months pregnant. when you know better you do better. Now you know. Please keep coming back here. I found a lot of support in all kind of ways. I really don't know what to say other than YOU have to seek help. If I were you I would get a counsler to speak to as soon as possible. Also, the car situation is a bit scary. I hope she isn't driving around drunk. I will pray for all of you. Good luck.
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:21 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. I will look into Al-Anon meetings. With my schedule that might be a tough one. I will also keep my kids' safety in mind (of course!) Right now I'm contemplating how best to stop enabling her.

Not drinking with her and not going out and buying alcohol for her won't be a problem. The issue is how to handle her budget. She's in charge of buying groceries and the household items. I pay the bills. I can see her being very upset if I just went all the way and opened another checking account cutting her ability to buy alcohol out completely. I can see that causing more problems and accelerating the issue. She would essentially be without any income and would no longer have any responsibility when it comes to our finances. It's a tough call.
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:24 PM
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She's going to be upset anyway when you stop enabling her. She likes everything being all cushy and easy for her, which gives her absolutely no reason to do anything differently. When you stop making things so easy for her, she'll sit up and take notice. If you think you can do this without making her upset, you are in for a huge shock.
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:25 PM
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Please protect those children. I hope they aren't left in her care, ever.

Get help for you, make some decisions about what you're willing to live with in your life, and willing to expose your children to.

Read the Adult Children of Alcoholics forum, it will break your heart. Luckily you can prevent your kids from more pain.

What's next? Get to a meeting... protect your children.
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by codeflayer View Post
Thanks for all the replies. I will look into Al-Anon meetings. With my schedule that might be a tough one. I will also keep my kids' safety in mind (of course!) Right now I'm contemplating how best to stop enabling her.

Not drinking with her and not going out and buying alcohol for her won't be a problem. The issue is how to handle her budget. She's in charge of buying groceries and the household items. I pay the bills. I can see her being very upset if I just went all the way and opened another checking account cutting her ability to buy alcohol out completely. I can see that causing more problems and accelerating the issue. She would essentially be without any income and would no longer have any responsibility when it comes to our finances. It's a tough call.
Is that a bad thing?

Honestly, as an addict and alcoholic in recovery, it never really mattered if I had the money for my high.. I still got it, one way or another.

If it's absolutely necessary for her to purchase the items for the house, buy gift cards, open accounts at stores instead of having to go in and throw cash around. Make a list and do the shopping together, with the kids. But really.. she'll find a way to drink if she wants to drink.. she's an adult with that right. The only thing you can really be in charge of here is YOU, and those little kiddos.
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:40 PM
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It sounds like I'm trying to avoid the inevitable. It feels weird to just up and cut her off without any notice. But, I see what you're saying. She'll be pissed either way.

Maybe I'm naive in thinking that I can whack her with a small stick rather than a big stick to get her attention. The thing I want to avoid ending our marriage. I love her and know that there's a real person in there still. I worry that going "all the way" will just drive her to do something we will both regret later.

Since I control the majority of the finances maybe a good first step is to just tell her that I won't be enabling her anymore and that she will no longer be able to buy alcohol. It's not hard for me to know when money is withdrawn or when she uses the debit card. If she continues then I can entertain my own account?

Again, maybe I'm being naive but I feel it's right to give her a chance to prove herself especially since there isn't much risk in doing so.
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:49 PM
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Welcome.

I just wante to recommend 'Co-dependent No More' by Melody Beattie. This book helped me so much and in a practical way with working out how to stop enabling. Glad you found this forum. It helped me change my life!
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:56 PM
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Again, maybe I'm being naive but I feel it's right to give her a chance to prove herself especially since there isn't much risk in doing so.

We all have our own "enough is enough" thresholds.

One way I started breaking out of the denial that kept me coasting along in a baaaaaad situation for a long time was to start examining my expectations. I had some pretty unreasonable expectations of the alcoholic! Like, wanting them to stop drinking!

I wasn't in REALITY and accepting how compelling the need to drink is when a person is addicted. How they will use any means necessary, including all the familiar tools we all use in loving relationships - they just use them to maintain their drinking. The addiction has warped their mind - it has nothing to do with love. They are really, really, really sick!

AlAnon helped me see that. So did the book Under the Influence by Milgram and Ketchum.

The dynamic for me had become so warped that I was, like you, so focused on their reactions, and on causing them stress or pain, that I had completely minimized the stress and damage I was doing to myself. Completely minimized!

I'm sure that is also what my mom did when we were kids. To this day she pretends that my father's alcoholism only affected her and their marriage. 3 of my bros are A's! I have tried many times to talk to her about the REALITY of our childhood. She prefers denial, just like alcoholics do. They were a match made in heaven!

Glad you're here -

Peace-
B
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:09 PM
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I'm sorry you are in such a difficult position. I wast here, as most of us were, for a long time. ETA: Bernadette and I cross posted or I may have just good posted her I was also way overly focused on his reactions - so much so I honestly didn't even know what mine were.

Originally Posted by codeflayer View Post
The issue is how to handle her budget. .........It's a tough call.
Yes it is. I tried every which way from Sunday, for years, to figure out how to manage this issue. There is no good solution. There were dozens and dozens of budgets and plans, 'allowances' and agreements.

Originally Posted by smacked View Post
Honestly, as an addict and alcoholic in recovery, it never really mattered if I had the money for my high.. I still got it, one way or another.
And that is the truth of the matter. A grocery store and gas station card works to buy beer just as easily as it does to buy food and gas. So I bought all the groceries. My partner was home with the kids all day while I was at work, I would come home and do supper, homework, baths, and the night time routine (alone usually), and when everyone was asleep - I'd go back out to the grocery store. How insane is that? I bought all the gas. I took care of the bills.

I would respectfully suggest that you take some quiet time to really reflect on the core issue. Your wife is an alcoholic. Give some thought to what that means in your life, how you want to move forward etc. Then determine your next steps. I put all my energy into figuring out the next clever 'work around' when dealing with individual symptoms of living with an alcoholic but I never took the time to figured out what to do about 'living with an alcoholic.' They talk about alcoholics hitting their bottom - well codies have one too. I hit mine and I look back and wish I'd have caught on with one of the bounces instead of needing the rock bottom thud.
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:15 PM
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Hi codeflayer,

It looks like my wife will be your wife in a year or more if things don't improve. She's at the "high functioning" alcoholic stage right now.

I'm too much of a newbie to offer any useful advice but others (and there are many) will give you tons of advice.

I'll be following your thread closely.
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:27 PM
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Again, maybe I'm being naive but I feel it's right to give her a chance to prove herself especially since there isn't much risk in doing so.
Codeflayer, I don't think you are naive. Whatever "place" you need to get to, you will get to in due time. The "best" answer to the problem may take a long time to get to. Some people will make suggestions but please do not feel that just because you do not agree with those suggestions, that you are naive. Follow your heart.

Please understand that the process you have begun by posting here and considering Al-Anon (and hopefully going to Al-Anon) is a process of becoming Aware of certain truths, learning to Accept some things, and taking appropriate and effective Action toward health and wellness.
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:28 PM
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hi codeflayer-

perhaps time to stop enabling her?

did you know that it takes one hour per unit of alcohol to be able to drive without being under the influence? if your wife is drinking into the wee hours of the morning, there is quite a good chance that she is still over the legal limit whilst driving you to work, or your children to school.

one hour per unit. for example, if she drinks a bottle of wine per night, that is about 8 units of alcohol (someone come forward with the actual number please) and that would take about 8 hours to wear off.

what i'm trying to communicate to you is i'm wondering if she is sober enough to pass a breathalizer in the morning when she drives you and your precious children around.

i am sure it would not be popular with her, but it would be best that you take steps to cease her flow of alcohol on your paycheck.

grown up, mature people seek help regarding issues that are troubling them, i.e. your ex-wife. drinking to blot out pain is an excuse and an escape and not healthy.

please, don't take her blame-shifting on-board...she drinks because she is a drinker...simple. they will use every excuse in the universe to explain why they drink.

the reality is that life is difficult for all of us but we do not drink until we are passed out in the bathroom.

naive
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:38 PM
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I've been concerned about whether she's been sober enough in the morning for a while now. Lately she hasn't been. I avoid the issue by not waking her up and taking the kids to school myself. Then I walk myself to the bus stop and head to work. On the rare occasion she gets up and is still too hammered to drive I have put my foot down and not allowed her to drive anyone anywhere. It might be best to just make that routine permanent until she gets help...
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:44 PM
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Have you sat down with her while she is sober and had a seriouos discussion about your worries and fears? Maybe you should do that and this time tell her what you are prepared to do to make some changes. Of course, you'll have to figure that out first, but instead of just going on the same way after a discussion, maybe having some clear cut boundaries in place and telling her how things are going to change might let her know that things will not continue the way they have been going, and convey to her the seriousness of the situation. Just a suggestion.
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