How to Say NO to an Addict You Love

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I was at my wit’s end. My husband had spent the rent money on booze and wanted me to tell the landlord that we had an unexpected expense with the car. This was right after he had me ask the neighbor for gas money the day before.

I was so tired of it all, tired of embarrassing myself, tired of never having any money, tired of feeling like I was working for nothing, tired of being evicted for non-payment of rent.

Later that night, my phone rang at 1:30 in the morning. Realizing that it was Jeff and surmising that he got another DUI caused something inside of me to snap. I had enough.

I didn’t answer the phone. Instead, I turned it off and went back to sleep. I did it because I was angry, but what I didn’t realize was that I had just taken the first step to no longer enabling him to keep getting drunk.

I felt a little guilty about it when my alarm went off the next morning, and he wasn’t sleeping beside me. But a half hour later, he called again, screaming and yelling at me for not answering the phone the night before.

He wanted me to call off work to come downtown and bail him out. Instead, I called in sick and sat down and cried. Then I called my best friend who shared with me the best advice I ever received: just say no.

Her sister is a recovered alcoholic, and my friend explained that in order for her to stop drinking, my friend had to stop helping her sister out of every predicament she got herself into due to her drinking. It took a few months, but when she ran out of friends and family and she had nothing and no one to turn to, she agreed to seek treatment. She has been sober for six years now.

It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my whole life, but it was also the best thing I could have done for both of us.


I told my husband I was no longer going to help him kill himself. Then I gradually let go of the guilt by attending Al-Anon meetings where I received advice and support in order to do so.

Meanwhile, my husband served his full term and began a court-ordered rehab program. I did not visit him when he was in jail; that decision was part of my tough love program. I learned that he had to be accountable for his own actions and suffer the consequences of his choices.

I learned all about people, places, and things that addicts need to stay away from. I decided to pack up and move to a city 65 miles away where I could continue working the same job with a simple transfer. The company even paid for my moving expenses. Now my husband could have a brand new start.

It still wasn’t easy, but at least I didn’t feel like a warden anymore.

Once I understood that saying no was the most loving thing I could do for my husband and for myself, it started to get a little easier. In rehab, he had taken the steps to learn how to say no to himself, and I didn’t have to anymore.

I learned it really is possible to have a healthy relationship with someone in recovery. All it takes to begin is to just say no. It worked for us, and it can work for you, too.

The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California. To talk to us about treatment options at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs, call (877) 959-2711.

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