Addiction, Enablement, Recovery:

Will Serving An Ultimatum Make An Addict Stop?

20 Jun 2011 by Recovering You, 3 Comments »

Loving an addict, living with an addict, relationship with an addict, addiction



You?e had enough, come to the end of your tether. It feels as though you can? 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? be cleaned up.

You serve an ultimatum, ?top 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, ?eriously, something has to change or this is over?/span>

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? Work

Because we usually don? follow them through.

By issuing ultimatums that you don? 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 ?f 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? 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? make the changes you want to see.

Are you ready for that?

Another Reason Ultimatums Don? 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? 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? yet realised they don? 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? addiction take you?

The answers and the decision are ultimately yours.

Photo credit:) 2007 worak

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  1. Johnny says:

    This article makes some good points. The best one is that most addicts DO NOT want to be an addict. My wife’s (ex wife, I failed) ultimatum was quit or I leave. It was like she was telling me to stop breathing or she would leave.

    I would add this to the article. Try to help in a positive way, something tangible, not just a threat. Help them get into a treatment program. I had a nearly impossible time finding someone to accept me based on my insurance coverage. She never once helped even make a call, but she was always there with another ultimatum. “Get treatment by next week or I leave” this threat meant I needed to control who accepted my crappy insurance, obviously not possible. She gave me a few more ultimatums which I could not meet and she left.

    It is also very important to look at why your loved one is addicted. My situation was not by choice. I was in a serious MVA and ended up going through a series of surgeries and severe chronic pain. I was prescribed opiates for years. I was the one who wanted to quit opiates, my drs felt I would need them for the rest of my life. I was never looking to get high, just wanted relief from the terrible pain.

    The happy ending is I met a wonderful Christian lady while I was addicted to opiates.
    She helped my find a program that got me off opiates and on another non opiate medication in addition to techniques to help control my pain through psychomanopulation. I am now a changed man. I finished my masters degree, landed a great job and I come home each day to a beautiful, loving woman who loved me so much that she helped me beat my addiction instead of standing on the sideline telling me I better win or she’s leaving. I feel forever indebted to the angel who rescued my six years ago. I want to make her every dream come true. There is a small part of me that wishes it was my first wife who stood by me and helped me beat the awful addiction, but I am blessed by the angel who did help me.

    This angel never once asked me to “stop breathing”. She helped me conquer the ugly beast called addiction. I thank God for this remarkable woman. Her selfless actions have been my motivation never to touch an addicting drug or alcohol again, and I haven’t.

    So, go ahead, give an ultimatum. Your loved one might be better off without you if you are the type of person who only knows how to hand out ultimatums and not help.

  2. Daox says:

    Yes I understand why you do not think ultimatums work…. Most do not… But what you fail to see is the ultimatum is most of the times not for the addict but the tired, broken and torn loved one. When it comes to that they do work.. Because maybe they make you feel good for a bit, you stood up to it!… You may loose the love one but atleast you know you did what you could before closing the door. Sometimes the closure it’s self is the prize.

    I have tried my entire 30 years to help my mother. The last 12 years have been hell on earth for me and my autistic brother… Everyone else has left.. Her father, our father.. Her mother and friends and any other family… All abandoned her.. For the last 12 years it has basically been me.
    Why? Because I can still remember her.. And by her I mean my “mom”.. What she used to be.. I still see glimpses of it now…
    But after double digit amount of rehabs, therapy and many other attempts at relocating and helping and basically parenting my mother.. I can not longer keep doing it..

    She was diagnosed with shrinking of the Brain and many other liver and heart problems… The hospital can not keep her any longer.. I can not have her live with me.. She is unwilling to go to an assisted living/ physical therapy… So instead of deciding to help herself she says she wants to just go back home…. Which means drinking again and killing herself.. Threatening suicide… Yada yada yada….
    It’s my time.. Ultimatum time… Either she gets help or I’m done.. I just can’t do it anymore… My entire life has been this.. And I just need to breath and live life for the first time at age 30…

    So when you write this article again remember this…. Sometimes.. Just sometimes the ultimatum is more for the loved one then the addict…

    • Recovering You says:

      Hi Daox

      Thanks for your comment.

      I have to respectfully disagree in regards to ultimatums working if they are for the person loving an addict. Why? Because ultimately if the person who loves an addict is tired, broken and torn and makes a decision to stand up for themselves and leave, that ultimatum may still do very little in terms of affecting the addict and their addiction. Hence my title of Will Serving An Ultimatum Make An Addict Stop.

      It may not.

      Yes, the person who loves them has made their choice, and if it is the right choice for them it is to be applauded but by asking our addicts to choose it rarely has the impact we are seeking. As you know with your mother. I am sure she has been given ultimatums every which way, including stop drinking or die, the biggest ultimatum nature itself can give, and yet she continues to drink. I have seen the same with my step father for the past 37 years and despite losing 2 wives, contact with 3 of his kids, jobs, homes, almost everything, he continues to drink.

      I understand your thought that the ultimatum could be more for the loved one of the addict, but I write from the angle of saying that it has to be a conscious choice to take a stand and leave, and a choice that you follow through with because you are ready to, not because you have hopes that it might shock your addict into changing. That is an ultimatum that will sink more often than it succeeds.

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