There are many ways to enable an alcoholic

Old 11-06-2004, 09:16 PM
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There are many ways to enable an alcoholic

As the saying goes, you are not the cause of someone else's drinking problem, you cannot cure it and you can't control it.
But there are ways that you may be contributing to the problem.

Before placing the blame for all the problems in your family or your relationship on his (or her) drinking, it might be wise to examine how the other person's drinking may have affected you, and how you have reacted to it.

For example, does the following statement sound familiar?

I don't have a problem with my drinking! The only problem is your attitude. If you would quit complaining about it, there wouldn't be a problem!

Well, obviously that statement is not completely accurate; after all denial of the problem is one of the more frustrating parts of the problem.

On the other hand the statement may not be completely false either.
How do you react to the alcoholic's drinking? Could your reaction be a part of the overall problem? Have you fallen into "role playing" in the family? Is there anything that you can do to improve the situation?

The following describes an incident that could be an example of alcoholic behavoir, and some examples of reactions to the incident. Do any of these sound familiar?

The alcoholic comes home late and he is drunk, too drunk in fact to get the key into the front door lock. After several futile attempts, he decides that it is a lost cause. Since he does not want anyone in the house to know that he is too drunk to unlock his own door, he makes a brilliant decision that solves his problem. He goes to sleep in the front yard!

How would you react?

The Rescuer
The "rescuer" doesn't let the incident become a "problem." Since she has been waiting up for him anyway, she goes out in the yard, gets the alcoholic up, cleans him up, and puts him into bed. That way the neighbors never see him passed out in the flower bed!
She never mentions the incident to him or anybody else. If anyone else mentions it, she denies there is a problem. She lies for him, covers up for his mistakes, and protects him from the world.

As the problems increase and his drinking gets worse, she takes on responsibilites that were once his. She may get a job or work extra hours to pay the bills. And if he gets in trouble with the law, she will move heaven and earth to come up with his bail.

The Provoker
The "provoker" reacts by punishing the drunk for his actions. She either waits for him to wake up the next morning and gives it to him with both barrels, or she goes out and turns the water sprinklers on!
She scolds, ridicules, and belittles. She nags. She screams insults at him loud enough for everyone to hear. She gets on the telephone and tells all her friends he's a loser. She is angry and she makes sure that the alcoholic and everybody else knows it. Or she gives him the cold shoulder and doesn't speak to him. She threatens to leave.

She doesn't let it go, either. The anger and resentment continue to build as these incidents become more frequent. She never lets him forget his transgressions. She holds it against him and uses it as a weapon in future arguments -- even months or years later.

The Martyr
The "martyr" is ashamed of the alcoholic's behavoir and she lets him know it by her actions or words. She cries and tells him, "You've embarrassed us again in front of the whole neighborhood!"
She sulks, pouts, and isolates. She gets on the telephone with her friends and tearfully describes the misery that he has caused her this time! Or she is so ashamed of it she avoids her friends and any mention of the incident.

Slowly she becomes more withdrawn and depressed. She may not say much about it to the alcoholic, but she lets him know with her actions that she is ashamed of him. Quietly she tries to make him feel quilty for his behavoir.

Which is the Enabler?

The above examples may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but then again they may be very typical of what goes on in an alcoholic home. The "roles" the nonalcoholic spouse plays in the family may not be as well defined, as they are outlined here. Depending upon the circumstances, the spouse may fall into one of these roles, or may switch back and forth between them all.
So which of the spouses described above is an enabler? Which one is actually helping the alcoholic progress in his disease? Which one, although they are trying to make things better, are actually contributing to the problem?

All of them.

...part 2 coming soon...
Old 11-06-2004, 09:42 PM
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I've been all 3. Don't leave me hanging, Doug. Hurry up with part two!
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Old 11-06-2004, 09:55 PM
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I was also all 3, looking back I can see the "role" I chose depended on the severity of his actions and which one might cause him the greatest amount of guilt, in my opinion. ---waiting for part 2
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Old 11-07-2004, 06:39 AM
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Enabling-Part 2 (just follow the link)

Last edited by DesertEyes; 08-02-2012 at 04:59 PM. Reason: fixed broken link
Old 11-07-2004, 08:07 AM
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I was #1 for years and I think that is why he married me. I thought I was helping him. He saw it different that his family treated him. In his family they would leave him out in the yard till morning and if he slept in a snow pile they would leave him. When he got up they would just say hi. It was normal to fall asleep in the yard. I heard his mother telling a story about his dad laying in the driveway passed out. After several years being married I did a little of the #3, but went right to #2 and he stopped drinking, but not because of me, but he really wanted to change. He stopped drinking for almost seven years and when he started back I was #2. I will never be #1 again. I think #3 would give him the courage to become aggressive and I have a friend that was #3 and her husband would get very aggressive. I told her once that the tears seemed to drive him crazy. #2 is making my husband crazy. He wants me to be #1. When I act normal and I am not any of these numbers he gets mad. He pouts. What did Ij ust say???
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Old 11-07-2004, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by brightlight
When I act normal and I am not any of these numbers he gets mad. He pouts. What did Ij ust say???
And why does he get mad? Because he has no one to blame but himself and that's a hard pill to swallow!! Proof positive that Doug's post is "right on"
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Old 11-07-2004, 09:59 AM
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I ran across this enabling thing about two years ago. I remember thinking that I wish I would have had this information available to me many years before I found it.
I fall under the martyr type.
I hope that everyone reads this post. I hope that the newbies that are still struggling so very hard will really read it and see themselves and find the ability to learn from it.
Great post! It's definately an eye-opener.
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Old 11-07-2004, 03:40 PM
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Wow I can see how I have been #1 and #2 especially #2 is it wrong to set boundrais that you will follow thru on?

Thanks for this very usefull info. a newbi
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Old 11-09-2004, 09:00 AM
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I am confused. Why should we act like nothing has or is happening. It's very difficult watching our loved one slowly killing themself and waiting for that time we just might loose everything we have worked for all of our lives. It's hard not to lash out at them because you don't understand why... I have been all of the above especially #2. I have tried acting like nothing was wrong. I have tried the old saying if you can't beat them join them. When I act like nothing is wrong my AH acts like he hasn't done anything wrong. Like passing out in his vehicle in the driveway or in the bar parking lot or coming home drunk and yelling for something to eat. I don't join in with him anymore. Why should we ignore the fact that they are making so many lives miserable??
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Old 11-10-2004, 03:54 PM
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Diasppointed, I also struggled with this one. I wanted my AH to know how miserable he was making our lives and so I told him which then just fed the addiction and round and round we go. Now when I see the storm clouds gathering and a binge coming on (I can always tell when he starts to get critical and nasty), I seek shelter. During the storm, I take care of me and make sure that the storm doesn't pelt down on me. I can hear the rumble of the thunder in the distance now. I choose not to get caught in the downpour. And just like after a storm, I may check for damages but I don't bring up the subject of his drinking. After all he knows he has been a complete creep. In the past if I brought up the subject, it was then turned around by him to be my fault. Amazingly now (but not the first time) when I am able to detach, he takes responsibility for his own actions. I am taking responsiblity for my own actions too. I need to get a good nights sleep in order to function as a good employee, friend and mother. So I do. Sometimes its with the aid of a Tylenol PM but I make sure that his actions don't interfere with what I need.

I really never dreamt when I read about co-dependency that this approach would work. But it does. It really does. He may not be any better - but I am a whole lot better. When I would yell and threaten, it just upset me and justified him. Who needs that? I am living strong (not always, but progress is being made).
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Old 11-11-2004, 08:07 PM
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Red face The ones i'm a combination of

Hello Everyone, I'd say the ones i'm closest to are the rescuer and the martyr because i'd give my heart out for my ex tearing her away from the world forgetting about everyone else. Just so that we could have some time to ourselves and i can comfort her when she is drunk. Also the martyr because because whenever i find out she's drunk i tend to rather croon "why honey?" and she admits her reasons why for drinking. I just can't help but feel anxiety from whenever i hear the fact that she's drunk, i think we all feel that way whenever our family or friends are hungover. But as a great chronicler once said in a book on the Knights Templars "Gods deeds done by the Franks." It's a phrase that not only I but the author as well (so therefore i agree with the authors statement) that it relates to alot of lifes daily struggles.

So whenever you're feeling stressed and like you're going through hard times just say that it is "Gods deeds done by the Franks" . I think my dad is more of the provoker, call me a backstabber if you want but alot of the time when he talks to her it really doesn't feel like he's giving her sagely advice,unelss she's sober, and so he's really just hanging on a whim of hope to be honest. I just wish he had a better way of coping with these problems than the way he is going about it right now. I hope to hear from you soon,good luck in all you do. I look forward to seeing the second half of that paper. There's a sports game on, i've waited all night for it. Detroit pistons vs. the Denver nuggets i hope we win. I think i'll listen to it for a bit .

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Old 11-19-2004, 04:56 PM
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I grew up in an alcoholic environment so I am aware of all the traps you can fall into. Ive tried my best to not enable but I cant help it and I hate that about myself. I act as if I am the strongest and nothing affects me but truthfully I am the provoker, the rescuer and the martyr. Being all these things makes it difficult to recognize I am an enabler. The words I find most weak are enable and codependant these seem to be worse to me than alcoholic.
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Old 11-21-2004, 03:06 PM
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But what do you do when the A doesn't get embarrassed by his actions? How do you handle an A who doesn't care what the neighbors or family members think? I have tried to do the do nothing and say nothing thing, but in his mind he feels he just got off scott free and can go do it again, there's no consequences for his actions. Therefore in his mind its okay to act this way.
Anyone else have this problem?
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Old 11-22-2004, 08:08 AM
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I know what you mean about "scott free". In his eyes he has done nothing wrong so we don't have a reason to be upset anyways and thats that. By getting angry is only hurting ourselves and our children. I am #2 and I have to work on acting as if I don't care. It eats me alive inside if I keep quiet. My father being an alcoholic (14 yrs recovering) told me that if an alcoholic doesn't get help there are 3 ways to go: Jail, Institution, and death. As bad as it seems it is so true. It sounds awful but what can we do for them? You have to love yourself first and when we put ourselves 2nd to an alcoholic then we begin to enable them to do what they feel is right. Did that come out right?
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Old 11-22-2004, 10:56 AM
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Yes fire it did come out right, and thank you. But its hard to not get angry when he gets a DWI a month before Christmas and has to use the holiday money to pay for a lawyer.
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Old 11-22-2004, 11:56 AM
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Doug's thread..

Hey, I am All three at times and non at others?? Sometimes I find it difficult to sort out who is at fault or who is having an outburst. We both do it in our own ways. Me and my other half? He mostly drinks now and does not let me which is fine by me cause I really don't need it. But he acts like a jerk when he starts to and I don't know why? or I should say we (kids) and I don't know how to react to it?
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Old 11-25-2004, 07:42 AM
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I have just broken up with an alcoholic. It's so difficult dealing with him, especially when he's wanting to drink or has been drinking. He was sober for over six months and did real good. Now he's drinking again. His personality changes so much and he becomes critical and sarcastic (it's teasing according to him). I have not learned to detach yet. It just seems easier to leave the relationship because it's not what I want for the rest of my life. Any suggestions on how to deal with this?
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Old 11-25-2004, 08:09 AM
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Lizzy says...
It just seems easier to leave the relationship because it's not what I want for the rest of my life. Any suggestions on how to deal with this?
Wow! That is great that you are able to do that. Many of us aren't and we live with it, and believe me, if he continues to drink, it will just get worse. I can't tell you how to deal with "it" or detach, it is very difficult. Since you are ready to move on, then I suggest you do that and do what you want to do with your life... I have lived with it for 15 years and it is awful. Many people on this board will tell you that you are capable of living with it... that is true, but it will be difficult. In my case, I don't know how anyone can TRULY be happy, living with an active drinker. Many of us grieve daily for not having a mature responsible adult to be intimate with, share lifes pleasures, share holidays, share our childrens accomplishments, etc. If he continues to drink, you will be sharing many of lifes pleasures alone or with other people besides your spouse. So, your question of how to deal with it... leave if you can. Sorry for the bluntness, but I know there are many many many people that would agree. I have not been on these boards for long, but I have met many people in my same situation, and many of us are about 15 years into it. And, none of us are happy.
So, why do we stay? I guess because we are married. For us, I guess it is easier. If you find it easier to leave, DO IT!!!!!!! and good luck!
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Old 11-26-2004, 03:25 PM
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So, how does one react to the alcoholic?

I've been #1 and lately, #2. I used to drink myself, but quit 10 years ago. I sincerely wish that I had had a good friend back then to listen to me and give me some "tough love" without being hurtful.

Instead, I got to the point where I hated the alcohol and it's damages and relied on my faith. That's when I FINALLY quit drinking.

God bless you for hanging in there for your loved one
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Old 12-18-2004, 08:58 AM
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Ive just realised Ive been a mixture of 1 and 3 all day today!

But after joining this forum I dont feel alone anymore and I can react calmly and rationally is been a hard day but I feel so enlightened by your posts

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