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"Codependence, Our relationships with adult alcoholics"
copyright 2011, all rights reserved

by Toby Rice Drews
author of the "Getting Them Sober" books

They say that one of the most obvious ways that the non-addicted persons who are involved with alcoholics, are "codependent'' is that we're "enablers''......... that we don't stop taking care of the alcoholic to the point where we are 'hurting them'. And that we're too attached to stop doing it--------- too 'codependent'.

Here's a small excerpt from the "Getting Your Children Sober" book------- which also applies to our relationships with adult alcoholics, too...........

When parents are told they are “enablers,” it leads them to stop the rescuing.

“Enabling” is meant to describe the res­cue opera­tions that the spouse or parent of an alcoholic carries out, when he can’t stand watching the alcoholic suffer the con­se­quences of the disease. When that hap­pens, he “cleans up” the alcoholic’s messes (lies to the school that his son has the flu when the child was actually picked up for drunk driving). That way, the alco­holic doesn’t suffer the real conse­quences of his behavior.

A parent must learn, eventually, to get some detach­ment on watching these crises happen in order to stop cleaning up after the child. The idea is to allow the disease to hurt the child so much that he or she wants to get sober. Of course, it takes a parent a lot of time in a healing group such as Al-Anon in order to be able to do this. And this detach­ment can’t be forced or rushed by counselors. It is a slow process, and very frightening.

When a mother rescues her alcoholic child and I label her an enabler, she ob­viously is still doing the rescuing behav­iors and is not yet unafraid enough to give them up. She knows I am being judg­mental when I use this term. Even when I say it lovingly, I seem to be admonishing her to go faster than she is capable of doing at that time. And she feels des­pairing, because she is doing her best. She may get so discouraged and frustrated and overwhelmed that she stops treatment.

More specifically, the term enabler implies that while the parents did not cause the drinking, their rescue operations con­tributed to the perpetuation of the drinking. Such thinking is dangerous; it leads alco­holics, who are already looking for a way to blame others for the drinking, into again placing responsibility for the drink­ing on the family.

Alcoholics do not need any encourage­ment to blame others! Alcoholism coun­selors spend most of their time trying to crack through the blame-systems of alco­holics. It is considered to be a major break­through in the wellness process of alcoholics when they begin to acknowl­edge that nothing “got them drunk.” In contrast, alcoholics who have had relapses and are re-entering treatment are now often heard saying, “I wouldn’t have gone out that time if I hadn’t been enabled!”

The alternative to being labeled enablers is to teach you to end the rescue operations through the simple but effec­tive process of detach­ment. For, de­tach­ment will help end your fears – and it is your fears that origi­nally caused you to rescue.

And even though, in this book, we are pri­mar­ily talking about par­ents and kids, the detachment process is espe­cially important if you also are married to an alcoholic. It is important for you to lose your fears of that adult alcoholic so you can get on with your life and become more able to deal with your children-alcoholics.

How does detachment work? How does it help you to lose your fears of your alcoholic child or spouse? The general process goes something like this:

1) When you begin to learn ways to stop watching the alcoholic in order to begin the healing process of seeing to your own needs, the alcoholic has ­radar and senses this switch in focus.

2) Much of the “games” stop then, be­cause the alcoholic child knows that less attention will be paid to him or her.

3) By continuing to focus on yourself in­stead of the alcoholic, you get an even greater distance (detach­ment) from the threats, and begin to lose your fears of them. You begin to see how you gave the alco­holic so much of his or her power. You can take it back!

4) Again, the alcoholic senses this. He or she begins to threaten even less.

5) You see that detachment works! You gain more confidence. Many of the illusions in your household are begin­ning to end.

6) You lose much of your preoccupation with the alcoholic. Your pre­occu­pa­tion was based on your needing to stop him or her from hurting you. You now see they are much less capable of hurting you than you thought. They’ve already done most of the damage they can do. But the game has been to keep up more of the same junk, to keep up the illusion that the alcoholic is powerful. This no longer works. You have learned not to look at him or her; to walk out of the room; out of the house – to not beg.

7) The alcoholic now stands alone with his or her disease. They’ve lost their audience, and therefore drop much of the bullying. You are not watching it.

8) The alcoholic can no longer get you to believe you are responsible for his or her drinking and for the craziness in that house.

9) The alcoholic has a chance to grow up and make a decision to get help.

10) You are free.

When I teach parents the dynamic of what I have just described, they begin to naturally let go of the disease – to detach, and therefore stop the rescuing --------– ­because they are losing their fears of the alcoholics. All of us stop manipu­lating and controlling people when we lose our fears of them.

("Getting Your Children Sober" is now available both in print and as a Kindle e-book on Amazon).

And now a little levity-------- here is the story of "Walter the dog"------- posted on the bulletin board on the website by "Penelope" ---- and a wonderful parody on this whole nonsense of blaming the family for the disease of alcoholism.........

''My dog "Walter" keeps hitting the toilet bowl. I can't stop him. If he sees the bathroom door open he goes and drinks from the toilet bowl. He just can't resist. If I leave the door open---- nothing can stop him He just goes straight to that bowl. I have yelled, shamed, made him go outside etc---nothing does any good!!!!!! After I am good and mad he tries to kiss me and apologize (like it will never happen again). I am then slimed with toilet water on my face kiss from Walter. I forgive Walter but he goes and does it again. He just has a need to drink toilet bowl water. Walter tells me that it is MY fault because I forget to close the bathroom door. He is just too weak to stay away. Also, now it is not only the door, that I leave open that is my fault.

The other day, I left toilet paper on the counter. He saw it and then he "had to drink toilet water" because toilet paper was a "trigger". NOW, Walter is telling me that ANY paper product is a trigger.

Napkins, paper towels, etc.

Now even POST IT notes have become a trigger.

I just can't win. It's all my fault. Oh and get this---- now I am an "enabler" because I am nice and take him for walks and he gets "thirsty". His thirst on the walks reminds him of toilet bowl water. Doesn't matter that he has nice bacteria free water and plenty of it in a bowl both in the house and outside. Walter now says, that even though I love him --- he is going to have to leave because he can't stay off the toilet water at home. The entire home, myself, and the kids have now become triggers. He thinks he will find a nice new owner who will understand and not be a trigger. This he says to the person (me!) who has fed and taken care of him and takes him to the groomer etc etc......... While he gets to sit around unemployed all day and never lifts a finger to help out. He does bark once in awhile for protection but believe me it is not an equal partnership. After all I have done and now Walter wants to leave me. I tell Walter "Nothing makes you drink from a toilet bowl. Toilet water is everywhere. You have to make a decision to not drink it. You bend your paw----I don't make you do it". Go ahead Walter and find a new home.

You will do the same craziness there.

There will be a toilet bowl there.

The new owner will not like it anymore than I do.

Oh sure---you can sneak your drinks from the water for awhile but soon they will realize what the water is on your chin and not appreciate those type of "kisses". Yeah -------now the dog trainer is blaming me too!!!!

She is saying that I have been too nice to Walter and she is colluding with him that I am a "trigger' and an enabler!. She agrees with Walter that he has to leave me.

What if Walter would get off the stuff and we could be a happy family??? She says that there is NO WAY Walter can stay off the Toilet Bowl water at home.---Penelope''

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