How Taking Care Of Your Partner Suffering From Addiction Is Actually Hurting

How Taking Care Of Your Partner Suffering From Addiction Is Actually Hurting

We love our partners deeply. When we see them struggling, and all we want to do is help. We may find ourselves taking care of them, picking up their slack, or otherwise compensating for their addiction. Can you relate?

Listen to the podcast episode here:

Or read the episode transcript here:

Here’s the thing: Taking care of some people can be a good thing.

Graham is my 12-year-old sweet pea. He is the one who notices when I come back from the salon and says, “Mom, your hair looks really pretty.” 

He melts my heart every time. 

The other night I fell asleep while we were watching the Black Panther together and he tucked me in, put on the fan and turned off the light.

But my little man is struggling right now, and I have his permission to share this story. 

He started a new school that’s academically very intense for the first time in his life. He has a locker and just four minutes to fidget with the lock, get his books, and run to his next class. 

This morning, driving on the way to school, he asked me, “Mom, what are the chances of the car breaking down, so I don’t have to go to school?”

I offered to help him.

So I put my hand on his knee and said, “Listen, my love, I know you’re feeling overwhelmed, and you lost your homework binder. It’s really hard to get organized when everything feels like it’s moving so fast, especially when you’re the new kid at school. Why don’t I walk you into class and meet with the principal to figure out how we can get you some help.” 

“You know,” he said, “That would be so embarrassing, mom.” 

But after I promised, and I’m not even joking you guys, after I promised him that I would walk 12 feet behind him, he relented. I could tell despite the possibility of judgment from other kids, he was glad I was willing to come alongside him and help. 

And because this community is not about me and it’s not about my kids, I’m going to skip to the part of the story that I think will help you. 

Here’s how this story will help you:

After an hour meeting with the principal and coming up with a well-thought-out plan, I walked to my car feeling a little hopeful that my efforts, my time, and my money to help my son who is suffering is the right thing to do. 

But my 12-year-old son is 12 years old to state the obvious. He is not old enough to legally get a job or take financial responsibility. He cannot drive a car. So he relies on me to take him to school and take him to doctor’s appointments.

He does chores every weekend, and he knows how to cook his breakfast. 

But most of the meals I’m cooking for him because it’s my job as a mom. I do his laundry, and he puts it away in his closet. Why am I telling you this? 

Some of you guys have caught on already. I can tell you that your partner, the one who you’re in a relationship with, who is struggling with this disease is hopefully above the age of 12, and therefore an adult. 

If the one you love is above the age of 18 they are responsible for their life, all of their life. 

We, as women, sometimes get our care-taking responsibilities confused.

And we end up taking care of too many people.

If they’re not getting sober, if they’re not coming home on time, if they are not doing chores and responsibilities on weekends, then you are going to stop taking care of them because you are not their mother.

You’re their lover. If your loved one is old enough to put a bottle into their mouths, purchase drugs, drive a vehicle, then they’re old enough to quit their addictions.

They’re also old enough to get a job and show up on time. 

They’re old enough to do chores every weekend and help around the house and take responsibility for their life. 

They can drive themselves to the meeting. 

They can do their own laundry. 

And they can cook for themselves and pick up their things around the house if they’re not putting in an honest and consistent effort to stop drinking, using drugs, looking at pornography and getting better. 

Taking care of their responsibilities will delay their own healing.

If they are not telling you the truth, like every responsible being should do, then stop babying them. 

Stop taking it on as your responsibility to solve their issues or keep their life organized. 

That is wasted energy.

My friend, all of your efforts are not even being appreciated.

Save your energy and save your breath. 

Put all the effort into something that brings you joy. 

In other words, stop investing in behavior that brings you a negative return. 

Do you want the anger and resentment to disappear? I know you do. 

Then you got to change your ways and stop waiting for them to get sober, to start to feel better

You can do this. You guys, I believe in you. 

Thousands of women have done it, and we started out just as sad, hurt,  and lost as you are.

My son, Graham, is a child and deserves my help and mothering and hopefully, what he learns now will set him up for success. 

But your partner is not your child, so start treating them like an adult.

What does enabling someone mean?

Enabling means that you take on the role of fixer. You always solve their problems, fix things that are wrong, or otherwise absorb their natural consequences.

What is the difference between enabling and supporting?

Supporting is doing something helpful for a person, addict or not, that’s not harmful to either you or the person you’re helping. You’re not taking anything on for them, your simply doing something nice.

Enabling is taking something on for them, so that they don’t have to. That includes doing things for them, cleaning up after them, lying for them, or otherwise taking on the consequences of their actions.

What is the difference between codependency and enabling?

Codependency is a collection of behaviors where your choices are dictated by an alcoholic or addict. People that have codependent behaviors and tendencies do typically enable. They are different, and one doesn’t have to lead (or be) the other, but they do tend to go hand in hand.

Someone who struggles with codependency will likely also struggle with enabling.

What is the role of an enabler?

An enabler role is someone in the relationship that intentionally or unintentionally makes it easier for the addict to continue their behaviors.

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.

Explore the Love Over Addiction program

Computer, phone and worksheets of Love Over Addiction program

Remember being fun? Laughing? Feeling giddy? Being carefree? Addiction can take all those things away from you and replace them with worry, anxiety, fear, and anger. It doesn’t have to be that way. Discover how to change your life and your relationship today.

Explore the Love Over Addiction: Stay or Go program

Have you ever wondered? Or maybe you know… but you don’t know how. Staying or leaving your relationship is a huge decision. There are questions you need to ask yourself, and ways to prepare no matter what you decide. Find out how to make this decision, even if you’re not ready to make it today.