It is human nature to shield, protect and nurture the ones we love. Living with an alcoholic loved one challenges this instinct. A lot of things go wrong in the lives of drinkers: taking care of their home, work, family, appointments, etc., all tend to suffer in various degrees. Human nature kicks in and our help often consists in solving the things that go wrong, like running errands for the person, buying them drink to get them through a bad period, cleaning up after them, making excuses to work and friends or cancelling appointments.
When it comes to loving and caring for an alcoholic we tend to help them through their day whatever way we can so we can survive and live with hope. We adopt their responsibilities as our own. In the short term, this is helpful for the drinker, and they appreciate our help because without it life as an alcoholic would be so much more difficult. Think about how you help your alcoholic partner. Now start asking yourself what your help and support is actually doing for the drinker. Does your help make it easier or more difficult for the person to keep drinking? Are you enabling his bad behaviour by not letting him see what he is doing?
Think about it, if your partner’s bottles, spillages and mess are all cleaned up and tidied away by the time he sobers up he has no evidence of how bad his drinking is. His mind will tell him, ‘look around everything is fine and lovely, your drinking is in control so it’s okay for you to continue drinking.’
If he does not have to answer to people about his behavior because you have picked up the pieces, made excuses on his behalf and swam oceans to cover up for him – he doesn’t have to face up to awkward questions.
In other words he does not have to face consequences for his behavior or actions because you have already cushioned the blow or stopped it in its tracks for him.
So if he does not have to face up to the fact that his drinking is causing problems in his life, well then why should he stop drinking? He has no motivation to do so. You will continue to make sure life continues as is, solving his problems and so he can continue his life as is, ie. drinking. Why not? It isn’t causing any harm! What you are doing is, is putting off the inevitable. Things are not going to improve but only going to get worse if you continue to enable their bad behavior. So it may be better for him to face things that go wrong, so that he realizes what he is doing.
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