It’s one of the hardest lessons we will ever learn in this life: that to be emotionally healthy, it is sometimes necessary to cut off contact with people we love dearly.
This is particularly difficult when a loved one is engaged in destructive behavior, such as compulsive drinking or drug-taking. We might think we can help them, if only they would let us. But the truth is that they have to be willing to help themselves first.
Therefore, knowing when and how to let go of an addict you love is an important lesson to learn. Read on to learn a little more about this painful but necessary process.
Are You Enabling Your Loved One?
You’ve probably heard the term “enabling” but do you know what it means? Simply put, enabling behavior is behavior that allows the addict to continue on their self-destructive path. Here are some of the actions that an enabler may take:
- Lying about the addict’s behavior to protect them
- Turning a blind eye to foolish or dangerous behavior
- Making excuses for the addict
- Helping the addict financially, housing them, loaning them a car, etc.
- Regulating their drug or alcohol use to try to control it
- Acting out of fear or to avoid confrontations
The enabler smooths the addict’s path, removing obstacles that might stand in the way of their substance abuse. This makes it easy for addictive behavior to continue.
The Emotional Repercussions
Enabling destroys respect. The addict will eventually lose respect for the enabler, and vice versa. A person who enables an addicted loved one will begin to lose self-respect, as well.
As the addictive behavior continues unchecked as a result of the enabling, an enabler’s fear increases. They are afraid of what will happen to the addicted person. They may also be afraid to step in and take drastic measures, but also afraid not to.
In addition, enabling parents, spouses, children, or friends can easily start to resent the addict for taking up so much of their time, money, energy, and emotional bandwidth.
Knowing How To Let Go of an Addict You Love Is Crucial
Without letting go, you run the risk of continuing the cycle of abuse. That has implications for everyone involved. At this point, however, you must put your own safety and well-being first. The alcohol addiction is threatening your life and your sanity.
When you have reached that point, you may feel liberated. It won’t be easy to stay estranged from your loved one, but remind yourself that it is the best path forward for all of you.
Making a Difficult Decision
Unfortunately, there is no good way to stop enabling someone except to give them an ultimatum.
If you have ever watched the TV show Intervention, you know what an ultimatum looks like in cases of addiction. One decision the addict can make is to enter treatment and get help. The other is to continue using but without the support of their family or friends.
Once you have given the addict an ultimatum, it is essential that you follow through. Unfortunately, nothing less than a complete break can ever be effective.
Get the Help You Need
Don’t forget to seek out support for yourself. It can make the difference between following through and falling back into old patterns. Even if you know how to let go of an addict you love on an intellectual level, the emotional aspect can make it very difficult.
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