Dear Life Matters,
I am so upset with my husband because he will not stop enabling our daughter and her drug use! I have watched him deteriorate much like she has! I’m beginning to think he is sicker than she is!
And this is bad because she’s very sick with drug addiction. She’s been in and out of so many rehabs and seen countless therapists, but she always ends up right back where she started, on heavy drugs. My husband keeps giving her money, bailing her out of bad situations, including jail. He thinks he’s saving her!
I am really afraid she’s going to die; she’s using hard-core drugs and doing nothing else with her life. If this happens it will kill him, and I will blame him.
This has created great tension in our marriage and we no longer get along. He is so preoccupied with saving her that he has forgotten about our marriage. He just keeps insisting that he is saving her, and if he doesn’t help her he believes he will lose her. I think it’s the reverse. He’s making no sense and we can’t agree on anything anymore!
What can I do to save my daughter and maybe my marriage?
Please help. I am at a complete loss!
Upset, scared and angry
If this will help you feel any better, please know that I have heard this exact same scenario over and over again, both in my practice and in classes I have taught.
From your description, it does sound like your husband is sick or becoming sick. He is obsessed, but actually for good reason. He loves your daughter and doesn’t want to see her die or end up in jail. However, his notions about what will actually help are completely distorted.
Many people in similar situations do all the wrong things, but for the right reasons. They simply cannot see the forest for the trees and are too scared to stop and really analyze what they are doing. They are running so scared that they often do not even think about seeking professional help from the right people, such as those who really understand addiction.
Your husband is an addict too. It is called a co-dependent. My definition of this is a “cooperative dependence on unhealthy behaviors in order to maintain a relationship.” This, of course, runs the gamut of situations, but in your case it is a serious, if not grave, situation.
You are correct that it is the wrong thing to be doing with your daughter. Your husband is only enabling the behavior that might lead to the thing he fears most!
And yes, this has caused great strain in many relationships and marriages. It often leads to the end of them.
Because you are asking for help, I am going to assume that you want to save, if possible, both your daughter and your marriage. My first thoughts are that you should see if your husband would accompany you to a therapist for marriage counseling. He must know that things are strained. If he agrees, make sure that the therapist is someone who is truly schooled and knowledgeable about chemical dependency and co-dependency.
Like your husband, some well-meaning therapists can do more harm than good if they do not fully understand the issue.
If he will go, this counseling should help him to begin to understand that his best intentions are causing more harm than good. It will not be easy for him, but if he also goes to Al-Anon, which the therapist should suggest, he will gradually begin to see.
Unfortunately, it is not an overnight success, but rather a process. Hopefully your husband sees the light before something horrible happens to your daughter. But at the very least his trying should help you to understand him and begin to both forgive him and feel closer to him.
If he won’t go to counseling with you, I would recommend you consult with a top interventionist. The intervention may have to start with your husband and then, all going well, move on to your daughter.
In the meantime, you should consider attending Al-Anon or similar groups for the family and friends of addicts. You might want to consider counseling for yourself as well. This is a serious and very disturbing situation that few people, if any, can truly handle by themselves.
I wish you the best of luck with this and if you need referrals, please feel free to contact my office.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or e-mail your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let me help you with your life matters, because it does!