5 Ways to Stop Being an Enabler

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It can be difficult when your partner is an addict, because on some level you may still want to please them, even at the expense of their long-term health. Here’s an example. Let’s say your partner’s had a particularly bad day at work and you sympathize with them. They begin pacing around, exhibiting signs of anxiety, and a little voice in your head tells you “well, maybe they can use X just this once…they seem like they’re under a tremendous amount of stress.”

There’s no such thing as JUST ONCE for an addict, and any lenience you give them is a very slippery slope. It’s good to acknowledge their feelings and current state of anxiety, but as a loving partner you need to suggest other ways of letting off steam other than using.

This can be difficult, because it sometimes seems like the only way a drug addict is adequately satisfied is when they’re “allowed” to use their drug. Don’t fall for this! Because of the nature of their condition, addicts can be incredibly manipulative as they try to rationalize their drug use to us and themselves.

Here are five ways to stop being an enabler:

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  1. Don’t ever let an addict talk you into using again, even if it’s “just a little bit” or “just this once”. Don’t waver. You’ll regret you did once they get back into their cycle of drug abuse.
  2. Always have a list of other options the two of you can engage in when you’re both under stress. If you can tell your partner is feeling vulnerable, provide other alternatives, such as going for a walk or watching a favorite movie so that your partner can relax and buy some time to come to their senses.
  3. Set ultimatums and be firm about them. An addict will test your boundaries but also relies on them. Also, don’t be a hypocrite when you set these ultimatums. If you expect your partner to be sober and responsible, you should be too.
  4. Be clear from the get-go about your expectations and limitations when it comes to this relationship. Here’s an example of what you can say: “I’m at a stage in my life where I really need to work on building my career and save money. If you’re drug use begins to affect this, we’re going to have to take a break.” Don’t be afraid to put yourself first. Your partner may initially be angry about this but many times will ultimately respect you for setting boundaries that they are unable to set.
  5. Be keen on cross-addictions your partner may have and state your zero-tolerance policy against them. Maybe your partner has been addicted to heroin, but uses gambling as an escape when he or she can’t use. Gambling, eating disorders, and sex addictions are just as destructive and aren’t allowing your partner to heal from their underlying issues. Point your partner to a list of other anxiety-relieving activities or consider in investing in a relaxation kit as an alternative and gesture that you care about their wellness.

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