I never really thought that I was enabling my partner. I did not count bottles or pour them down the sink. I never had to bail him out or try to hide his drinking. But as I looked at my behaviour I realised that I had in fact been enabling him to drink.
So often I have found myself reacting to his bad behaviour by being angry for days and not talking to him. I would then threaten him and yell at him. I guess he could then justify being angry at me and his way of coping with this was to numb himself in booze. I would try to set boundaries, threatening to leave him and not follow them through. I was so angry, scared and confused. I couldn’t make him quit drinking. I couldn’t fix him or make him do what I wanted.
When I came into Al-Anon I was broken and emotionally bleeding. I was nearly out of my mind with pain and despair. I had tried to fix the situation but didn’t realise that I was part of the problem and that my behaviour was exactly enabling him to be an alcoholic.
I was isolated in this situation which was rapidly becoming worse. His family wanted little to do with me because I wanted to talk about the situation and that was breaking the rules. I was breaking the family secret and they did not want to be part of that. This was hard for me. I had no support, no one to turn to, no one to talk to and so my behaviour became just as crazy as his.
As I started to work with the program I began to change. I learned about setting boundaries and about unacceptable behaviour. I started to take care of myself and to look at what I was doing. Then I looked at why I stayed in this unhealthy relationship and why I was willing to be a victim of his drinking. I began to question things that were keeping me unhealthy and why I was enabling him to drink. For me, this is where I hit rock bottom. What was keeping me here, why did I have a history of unhealthy and destructive relationships? What was it within me that had such a hold?
In a word, FEAR.
As I had such low esteem that I would put up with anything just to feel like I existed, that I was part of a relationship, even a sick one. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid that no one would love me. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough money to live on. I was afraid that I had no right to be alive. This all stems from my childhood which paved the way for me to be a victim and I was willing to accept anything or anyone just so I could feel that maybe someone liked me or that someone valued me.
As the alcoholism developed I became more and more damaged and distressed. I had no voice, I was ignored and dismissed. I felt totally devalued as a human being and I was at my breaking point when I came into Al-Anon. As I came to meetings and worked the program and got great sponsors this began to change. The first thing I got from the meetings was my voice. When I shared my story people listened. As I grew in the program and because people treated me with love and valued me I began to face my fears. Because people treated me with love and valued me I began to love myself and value myself. Then I was able to start looking at my behaviour and to change it.
The biggest change in me was that I treat myself with respect and love. I was then able to say that I couldn’t live with my partner’s drinking and treatment of me. This was very scary for me because I knew that this was the turning point in our relationship. I asked him to stay with his father for a week to give me the time and space I needed. Eventually, I decided that I could not live with the drinking anymore. I was willing to let go of the relationship and all the security that I thought it brought me.
I was then able to set a clear boundary for myself. If it meant that I had to be on my own then that was that I was willing to do so that I no longer had to be a victim or hostage to my partner’s drinking.
We got together and talked for a long time. I told him that I loved him when he was sober that he was really a lovely man and that I would prefer to stay with him, but I was not willing to live with his drinking anymore. He had lots of arguments and comebacks to my statements but I would not budge. I told him to let me know his decision in a couple of days. I really thought that it was all over for us and if that’s what it took to find peace and serenity then I was willing to do that.
It was a long couple of days before he got back to me and he had made a decision. He has not had a drink since that day and he has been going to AA since then.
As I continue in the program my behaviour is becoming part of the cure and the enabling behaviour is no longer a part of the problem. Through this program I am becoming more loving and caring for my partner. I show him I value and love him in lots of ways that I couldn’t before. I am becoming more compassionate towards him and more understanding of the battle that he fights and I am his number one supporter through this.
The Al-anon program is a gift and it has saved my life and it is the road map for my future, whatever it brings, and I will continue to trust my higher power with all my tomorrows.
Al-Anon Family Groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking. We believe alcoholism affects the whole family, not just the drinker. We are an international organisation with over 800 support groups in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Al-Anon is a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience in order to solve their common problems.
Al-Anon meets in Halifax every Wednesday 18:30 – 19:30 at Basement House, 10 Carlton Street, Halifax, HX1 2AL.
Many more meetings are held nationwide. Contact them for more details: www.al-anonuk.org.uk – National helpline number: 020 7403 0888