Stop Enabling the PTSD, and Start Supporting

I had a lot to think about last Saturday. And I also had a lot of time to think, since my Saturday began at 1:41am. That was when I first woke up and realised my husband was missing.

His side of the bed was untouched. His car was gone.

I don’t know if I can do this anymore, was the third thought I had.

I barely dozed through the long dark hours of the early morning. I tried to read. I tried to write. I even tried to cry. I felt physically sick, and I knew it had nothing to do with the gastro bug my daughter had just recovered from.

He stumbled through the door sometime around 4:30am. But still I couldn’t sleep. And I knew it had nothing to do with the peculiar sounds of intoxication downstairs.

Predictably, the kids were out of bed by 7 o’clock that morning. Unpredictably, they found their father in a heavily drunken slumber on the lounge room floor.

Mummy, why is Daddy sleeping on the floor in his clothes?

I wanted to talk. I wanted some kind of explanation. Or maybe, selfishly, I just wanted an apology. But even after waiting a morning that dragged on for a year, he could still only brush me off with a mumble.

Can’t you see I’m still drunk? 

With relief, my words finally flowed onto the page. And my thoughts took me on a roller coaster. The ride eventually ended when I realised my choices came down to one simple question – are my actions supporting him, or are they enabling him?

I have come to realise that, although many of my actions are focused on keeping the family unit together and stable for the children, most of my actions are being solely directed by a deep-set fear I’ve been holding onto. The fear of letting my husband fall. I can see now that my emotional drain and utter exhaustion is borne from the strain of constantly holding him up.

The past still haunts me. It probably always will. But by absolving him of responsibility and consequence, I am essentially giving him the green light to stay on his not-so-merry path of avoidance and self-medication.

Today, it stops. Today is when I let go of my fear and throw away his safety net.

I will be here to love, here to motivate, and here to support. But I can no longer hold him up. That is something he needs to take full control of, or he’ll never beat this.


(original post published 7th June 2016)


11 thoughts on “Stop Enabling the PTSD, and Start Supporting

  1. Cheryl says:

    Yes I also struggle with the difference however I believe my husbands thought of “support” is much different than many of yours. He says I don’t support him, but then I ask what kind of support is he looking for and he says he wants a clean house to be his “safe place”. He wants no dishes in the sink etc. Our home is not dirty by any means, yes it gets messy like every other home because we live here. But if that is all he wants from his wife, is to be a maid, I think that is unfair and wrong. 98% of the time the wall around him is so thick that I can’t get through. He won’t talk about how he is feeling, how therapy is going etc and really cares less in how myself or our daughter is doing.


    • Lea says:

      Thanks for your comment Cheryl. I think each person’s idea of support is always going to be different. PTSD is an anxiety disorder, and in an effort to help alleviate that anxiety, a person will strive to find control in their life over particular areas that have always been important to them. So maybe your husband feels much calmer when his surroundings at home are all in order, though it’s unfair to pressure you into maintaining this standard. Hopefully, with therapy, he’ll begin to break down those walls and let you in a little bit so you can support him in other ways and rebuild the family relationships. Take care.


  2. Beth says:

    It is so hard to distinguish between enabling and Supporting. With the never ending roller coaster that is PTSD, I wonder if the behaviours we carry out in the down times are enablers, while the same behaviours in the good times are supporters? Or vice versa? Its so confusing but we all do what we can to keep the ride as smooth as possible.
    Love your work Lea.


    • Lea says:

      So true, Beth, it’s very hard to distinguish between the two most of the time. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of clear answers out there about what either might look like in different situations.


    • Lea says:

      Betsy, this is something I’ve also been struggling with for a long time. I think I’m slowly beginning to get my head around the concept of what is truly supportive and what actions may be enabling – maybe I should write a piece about it to get all those thoughts straightened out! Stay tuned.


  3. Sarah J says:

    Powerful words, Lea. I am fortunate in that my husband’s addictions with PTDS are nicotine and work. But you are correct, we mustn’t enable unacceptable behavior. Stay strong. You inspire me.


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