Will Serving An Ultimatum Make An Addict Stop?
You’ve had enough, come to the end of your tether. It feels as though you can’t take another moment of living with this addiction and the havoc it wrecks. You are fed up with everything that you have to deal with and you want to get right out of the mess if it can’t be cleaned up.
You serve an ultimatum, “Stop or I go”, or words to that effect.
And you mean it. At the time.
Ultimatums are served out of utter frustration, desperation and anger. When everything else seems to fail in making our loved one realise the damage they are causing, we believe that if we can convey an outcome serious enough, that our loved one will suddenly, finally be compelled to change. You want more from your life and you are ready to demand it.
So you reiterate your point, “Seriously, something has to change or this is over”
And you mean it. At the time.
Effort is made, a few days or even weeks go by and things might appear to get a little better. You begin to wonder if perhaps the message got through this time. Maybe, just maybe, the threat of you leaving was enough?
But then the addiction comes calling again. It always returns, no matter how forcefully you try to push it away, no matter what tactics you use. And you realise that your ultimatum has done nothing to curb the addiction that is controlling your loved one.
Your threat has made no difference.
So what do you do now?
You served the ultimatum, but are you really going to leave?
The Main Reason Ultimatums Don’t Work
Because we usually don’t follow them through.
By issuing ultimatums that you don’t follow through on, you are essentially giving the message that next time you put the same request out, it can be ignored then as well because your words are perceived as empty threats offered in a bid to try control your addict. A bit of good behaviour and a short time lapse always seems to reduce the threat and your addict learns this very quickly.
We teach others how to treat us.
For an ultimatum to have any impact it must be an ultimatum for YOU, not your addict and it must be an intention you know you can follow through on.
Any ultimatum of ‘If nothing changes I will leave’ must be made for yourself because you are the only person you can control. You are the only person you have influence over and you can set you own personal boundaries to protect yourself.
If you choose to communicate your ultimatum to your addict, do so in a way that is calm and respectful and make it clear that you are considering taking action so that things can be better for YOU but don’t demand or expect compliance. This is your choice, your boundary and you must be willing to deal with the outcome of having to leave if your addict doesn’t make the changes you want to see.
Are you ready for that?
Another Reason Ultimatums Don’t Work
Part of the problem with serving ultimatums to an addict is that they are unlikely to be able to deal with this request in the way you want them to so your demand is destined to be unmet from the start. If overcoming an addiction were as simple as giving up because someone asks them to, it would have happened the first time they were asked and you wouldn’t need to give them the hard line.
Also, an addict has been fundamentally changed in how they relate to others and by issuing an ultimatum you are trying to force your addict to make a choice between you and something they haven’t yet realised they don’t want. In fact in many cases, they may believe they want their addiction, more than anything. You are trying to give an addict with altered rationale, power that they incapable of knowing how to use appropriately.
Should You Make An Ultimatum?
Only you can answer this.
But I will finish by asking you whether or not you are sacrificing too much for the sake of your addict? How is your mental stability? Are your needs being met? Can you see any sign of hope for your addict? Is there a compelling reason to stay? Do you have children who are suffering? How much lower are you willing to let somebody else’s addiction take you?
The answers and the decision are ultimately yours.
Photo credit: © 2007 worak