Question: “So, apparently walking on eggshells equals enabling.  If this is true, when I thought I was putting out fires, protecting my kids, and keeping the peace, I was actually just “helping” him to control {get his way, keep his addiction going, fill in the blank}?”

Yes, to an extent, walking on eggshells, protecting your kids, covering up, trying to catch what is falling through the cracks, et cetera, is enabling.  Yes, to an extent, these actions may have kept the cycle going.  And I know – trust me, I know – that is a tough pill to swallow.

But if I’ve learned anything from a few years of twelve-step recovery, it would be this.  You absolutely must come to a place of showing yourself deep and constant grace and compassion, trusting that that’s what God is doing with you.  And here’s why: You don’t know what you don’t know.  Let me say that again.  You do not know what you do not know.

When you were making sure your electric bill got paid on time so that your lights didn’t get turned off, you weren’t thinking, I am so totally helping him not take responsibility for his family.  You were probably thinking, my kids need electricity.  When you were rushing your kids to bed so they wouldn’t see their father stumble in drunk again, you weren’t thinking, I am so totally helping him keep getting drunk.  You were probably thinking, my kids are too young and innocent to see this and think confusing thoughts about their daddy.

In AlAnon, they have a saying about your loved one’s alcohol abuse: you can’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.  I believe that can be said of mental illness, of abuses of all kinds, of infidelity, of any type of addiction of someone you love.  Really and truly.  You did not make the person in your life do what they’re doing.  You cannot make them stop their hurtful actions.  And you cannot cure what is ailing them.  If you can really let this settle into your bones, this will bring you immense relief.

However, there will come a time…and it sounds like now is that time…when you will start to know what you didn’t know.  And that is this.  There are some things you can do and some things you shouldn’t do.  And they all pretty much fall under this heading — stop being your spouse’s Holy Spirit, mother, parole officer.  Just stop.  Jump off the merry-go-round.  This is one of those simple but ridiculously hard things to do.  Especially if you’ve been doing the dance for a long time, and especially if you’ve gotten really good at it.

It may mean letting the electricity get turned off.  (I know, crazy hard.)

It may mean letting him drive to work in the car that he just crashed up the night before, as opposed to giving him your car so you have to drive around in the banged-up one.

It may mean if his work calls because he didn’t come in again, you don’t tell a lie to cover for him.

It may mean if your children ask what’s wrong with Daddy?, depending on their ages, you tell them what’s true and appropriate for them to know.

It may mean taking the car keys out of his hand or refusing to get into a car with him if he’s been drinking.

It may mean walking through the doors of Celebrate Recovery or AlAnon and getting the help you need to cope with what seems out of control and completely unmanageable in your life.  It may mean breaking your silence and asking someone for help until you get it.

Now that you are beginning to know what you didn’t know, it’s time to do something about it.  It’s time to wise up and it’s time to stand up… evil, to sin, to perpetuating dysfunction.  You can do this.  You have what you need – the power of Christ dwelling within you – to turn some things around.


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