Having a partner who will hold your hand even during your worst moments is a big blessing. Even though relationships are meant to be happy, a simple downfall can ruin the trust between a couple. In cases of substance use disorder, the home can change from a haven to a place full of turbulence.
You want to help your partner get over their addiction, but what is the best support to offer them? You may end up enabling the person by providing excessive help and support. Here is some information about the right way to go through this phase.
What Enabling Entails
If your partner struggles with addiction, you may end up enabling them. Usually, the partners of addicted individuals feel pressure to make their path right. You will be concerned more about the negative consequences that your partner is facing or that they might face in the future if they continue doing drugs. The effects may be financial, legal, or societal.
The desire to help them may end up doing them more harm. Also, the person can easily be fed up with overbearing support. Once this happens, your partner might overlook their own needs because they trust you will take care of them. The addicted person may be even more motivated to use drugs and not care about the consequences that will result.
Examples of enabling behaviors include:
- Covering up for your partner when they miss work or an event
- Paying fines and fees for a person who violates a law due to their addiction
- Allowing them to have a few drinks and even accompanying them
- Lying about the person’s situation, leading to them denying the problem they are facing
- Neglecting your own needs to help your partner
If you do one of the above actions, maybe due to exhaustion or because you want to protect the person’s reputation, you are enabling. You may think that you are doing the right thing supporting your partner and helping them do better. However, the person in recovery will not see you as helpful or supportive as you view yourself. What you are really doing to your partner is unwittingly sabotaging their recovery journey.
The supporting partner needs to let the addicted individual take the recovery journey and own it. You need not remind them what they should be doing or question their whereabouts. By letting them take responsibility for their well-being, you help increase their self-confidence.
Supporting vs. Enabling
One thing about the recovery journey from substance use disorder is that the addicted person must be yearning for a sober life more than you, the helper. You may push the person into getting treatment, but at the end of the day, if they are not ready, you end up wasting your resources. During their recovery, you want to offer the best support that you can. However, will you be offering support or enabling them?
The emotions you hold for the person in recovery may dictate whether your actions are supporting or enabling. Enabling the person entails trying to ease the consequences that the person may face due to their choices. When offering support, you will be assisting your partner in doing something that they have decided to and that they are willing to do by themselves.
By making excuses for your partner or lying about what they are facing, you will be enabling them rather than supporting them. If you and your partner are codependent, then it is easy for the supportive one to be the enabler. As the supporter, you may lose yourself in the process of helping your partner. It may seem to be going well until you feel worn out.
It is essential to distinguish between the role of an enabling partner and a supportive partner. You want the best for your partner, but are you doing it right? It can be hard to separate these two, but it is the only way for your partner to truly have a chance at sustained sobriety.
Being the enabler is easy, especially if you are in love with your partner. You might end up asking for no corrections to your partner’s behavior, resulting in them relapsing. If you find yourself tired about the situation, evaluate your actions by asking these questions:
- Do I have enough time for myself?
- Are the actions of my partner making me suffer?
- Is my partner taking the matter into their hands and pushing themselves hard to be better?
- Am I covering up for their mistakes?
- Am I being used in the name of helping them recover?
- Am I making the situation any better by enabling them?
- Have I sought assistance from a professional?
You may have tried your best to help your partner, but it’s important to seek other alternatives if the situation doesn’t get any better. Most importantly, avoid covering up for them or being the enabler of the problem. Ensure that you are mentally and emotionally stable first. The best you can do is set some strict boundaries. Make sure that the person faces the consequences of their actions.
How to Support Without Enabling
To show support, you want to make your partner aware that you are there for them, and they are free to talk to you about anything. On your end, you should be ready to listen to them without judging and actively help them get back on their feet. Here are some specific ways you can offer support to your partner.
- Listen to them about their struggles. Listening to your partner should be the first thing you do when you notice they have a substance use disorder. Understand why they are doing it. Also, pay attention to how they try to cope with the situation. The best you can do is not judge them and help look for a solution to their struggles.
- Engage your partner in therapy sessions. A helpful gift you can give your partner during the recovery journey is the feeling that they are not alone in this. You can accompany them when they are receiving the treatment, not because you want to make sure they get it but because you want them to know that they can make it. Also, as a helper, you can go to a therapist to address your own needs. You will be better able to understand how to handle the situation well with professional advice. Their guidance will help you prevent enabling.
- Create boundaries. Enabling behaviors will likely end up escalating the situation of your partner. Clearly state the rules you have and closely follow them. If the person is caught drinking or using drugs, clearly say to them that you are not the one to pay the fines for them. Ensure that they understand they are solely responsible for their lives even though you support them. By doing this, you will be protecting your mental well–being and helping them realize the severity of their substance use disorder.
- Know how to handle addiction. To offer proper support, knowledge about addiction is essential. This way, you will know how to handle a difficult situation when it arises. Also, learning more about addiction will help you know how to distinguish enabling behaviors from supportive behaviors.
- Avoid exposing the person to situations that may trigger a relapse. As the person recovers, ensure that you are keen on things that may trigger a relapse. Parties where people are drinking or drinks in the house that you know the person may be tempted to use, for example, should be avoided.
- Try doing activities together. You want to distract the person’s mind from substance use in the best way you can. Therefore, let them have constructive fun. Introduce your partner to activities that you think they will enjoy and spend quality time with them to avoid boredom. Engage them in an exercise like running or swimming or any other activity that will help them forget about drinking or using drugs.
- Communicate with them. A partner in the process of recovering may easily get triggered to relapse, especially when they feel like they are alone. You will help them by making them aware that you are more than ready to listen. Let them know that they can always confide in you if they need someone. Do not judge them, confront them or make them feel less loved because of what they are going through.
You should know that your partner will not be entirely okay after going through rehab. They still need to be cared for, and therefore, you need to learn how to take care of the person in appropriate ways. Seeking help from a therapist is crucial for both partners. The sober partner will understand how to handle the situation without codependency or enabling when given professional advice.
At Granite Recovery Centers, your loved one will get the help they need. Our intensive outpatient program will play a crucial role in your partner’s early recovery. We will also teach you how to offer your partner help without enabling.
Speaking to Your Partner About Addiction
Talking to your partner about their addiction is the best way you can be supportive and get them help. You want to do it in the healthiest way possible without them thinking that you don’t love them. However, you want to make it known to them that their issue is hurting you, so they should find a solution to overcoming addiction. You will feel uncomfortable, but you have to confront the issues in your relationship. Below are some tips you can use to talk to your partner about their addiction.
- Do not be judgmental during the conversation. Tell them how you feel about their addiction in a respectful manner. Don’t scold the person or lecture them.
- Be calm and honest with them. Being honest with your partner will ensure that they understand what is happening and don’t misinterpret your intentions. Be frank about how their addiction affects them or will continue to if they don’t change. Use words that convey the seriousness of the problem, such as, “To be honest with you, you hurt me when you come home drunk.” Make it clear that you intend to discuss the situation openly and collectively.
- Ensure that they are sober before speaking to them. When a person is sober, they will be able to listen to you better. They will be more likely to take you seriously and agree with what you are saying. Hopefully, they will be able to open their eyes and agree that they need to change.
- Do not lecture them about an earlier incident. Rehashing the past may put your partner down or make them feel like you have been keeping track of all their misdeeds. Be firm but polite and convey that you expect better from them and are ready to support them in seeking help.
- Don’t rush them to starting therapy sessions. Recovery will go more smoothly if the person is willing and decides that they want to be helped. It would be beneficial if you focused on telling them this when talking about their addiction. Mention to them that you want them to start therapy but do not push them to it.
- Seek help from support groups. Community recovery centers will provide support and guidance if you support a partner who is battling addiction. At Granite Recovery Center, we can provide you with counseling to help stabilize your partner’s relationship. You will learn how to help your partner deal with addiction without enabling them.
Healthy communication sets the pace for the recovery process. You don’t want to sit back and watch your loved one lose themselves, but you may not know how to help. Getting the skills to handle an addiction is essential in supporting your partner and, at the same time, maintaining your sanity.