Enabling and Codependent

Pam has an alcoholic husband. Pam wants to know how to handle their money with this situation. Dave says there are a couple of things she needs to consider first.

QUESTION: Pam in Ohio has an alcoholic husband. Pam wants to know how to handle their money with this situation. Dave says there are a couple of things she needs to consider first.

ANSWER: I think there are a couple of underlying questions that we’ve got to ask ourselves here that should give us some guidance. Question number one is how is your family going to best win with money? Question number two is what is best for him?

So far, the methodology that you’ve used for dealing with this alcoholism has not helped him. Where does he get money to buy booze if you don’t give it to him? If he doesn’t work and doesn’t earn money, where does he get money to buy booze? You’re what we would call an enabler if we were in counseling. You’re codependent.

I think you’ve got to put some pain in his life, and it may be a controlled separation for a time to let him know that he has to stop this in order to keep you. He is not a husband by any definition. He’s a drunk who cuts firewood and steals from his wife’s purse. This is a pitiful picture of a man. It’s not helping him to just go on the way we’re going on.

I think you need to sit down with a good Christian counselor—your pastor—and get some guidance on some ultimatums for this man to live up to or he doesn’t get to keep you. Why? For you, yes, but more for him. Many, many people in these situations have turned their lives around and even had a spiritual experience—even met God—in the process of turning their lives around because we who love them didn’t let them sit in their sewage. If it were a child who wouldn’t bathe, you would physically make them bathe. It’s a misbehavior. We’re not just going to go, “Oh, well little Johnny just kind of stinks, and that’s Johnny.” We don’t do that. You cannot accept and just live in this and call that Christian activity. It’s not. At the end of the day, it’s tolerating it, but it’s not loving it. It’s not loving him well.

I think you need to get some guidelines there, and then I think that’s going to lead you in the other parts of the money stuff. Here’s the thing: No one prospers with money—no one even does well with money or can be a good steward of money—while they are an addict or married to an addict. It is impossible because the addiction drives every decision in the household. It makes all of your decisions. It makes all of his decisions. The emotional and financial energy you spend just surviving in this situation—you don’t even grasp how large it is. If all of a sudden all of this was gone and he was healthy and working, your life would turn around so fast you would feel like you were in a fairyland. You’ve been doing this so long you don’t even know how much pain you’re in.

I’m not trying to be mean to him or to you in this conversation. Don’t hear that. I just want to be a truth teller for you and say love him enough to not allow him to live this way. If he’s going to, he’s going to have to do it some distance from you to where he can’t steal money out of your purse. That sounds like a 13-year-old. It’s awful. I’m so sad for you all.

These things don’t get better unless they’re getting better. They’re always getting worse or they’re getting better, and this one’s not getting better. It’s gotten worse since last year even. The deception and the stealing—it’s gotten worse since last year. It’s certainly worse than it was five years ago. Five years ago, he was still working—barely.

The problem is I’ve seen so much of this, and I’m not an addictions counselor, so you need to sit down with somebody who will help you love him well with the love of Christ. What would Jesus do if he were sitting in this house? He wouldn’t just stand by and watch this guy do this. He confronted people lovingly with their eternity at the core of His confrontation, but He still confronted them. Even the Pharisees he confronted. This is just so sad.

I’ve worked with so much of this because it causes so much financial trouble that I can see it very clearly, and yet I’m not really qualified to really help you. I would direct you to a good Christian marriage counselor and/or to your pastor. Get some guidance on drawing some boundaries for your husband to help him begin to turn his life around, or he may lose the last thing that he has. Sometimes that’s what it takes for people to turn, by the way.