Enabling Makes You Suffer

     Enabling warps your perception and over time you cannot tell what’s up or down, left or right, true or false. What you’ve done by enabling is effectively disabled yourself from being able to help the addict, as you gradually lose the ability to see things clearly and honestly. 

     I had a phone call recently from a mother who’s son just blew the opportunity of a lifetime up North after just 4 days. The best part was when she delineated the pompous, delusional rant he went on when the police got a hold of him. Though he was essentially wet-brained, he did his damnedest to convince the cops how uneducated and stupid they were and how they wouldn’t be cops if they’d gone to college, which was especially amusing given he’d never attended college himself.

     The moral of the story is that you are a fool if you think you can talk any sense into a privileged little snob who is totally insane. But we can also learn much here about the toll that years of enabling will take on both the enabler (parent or spouse) and the addict or alcoholic. To note, this blog and the post below are my personal experience and are NOT case-specific suggestions. We must all find our own answers. These are mine.

     The truth is that enabling an addict may (unintentionally) facilitate his death more effectively than letting him or her go. Since we care nothing about you if we are anything but recovered, showering us with food, shelter, money and yes, even love, simply allows us to ride the train longer, which of course, may kill us. Not getting tough with an addict is a tragic mistake. Parents and spouses must conjure all of their strength and courage and try to act counter-instinctually. Naturally it is our proclivity to love and embrace our child or spouse, but when it comes to addiction, this approach is dead wrong. Giving us love should be reserved for after we reach out for help.

     Yes, I realize that by letting go you are rolling the dice and we may overdose and die, but we are killing ourselves anyway, so kicking us off your particular trolley at least gives you a hand to play. Sure it might not work but it may be the only chance you have. Removing privileges (i.e anything that makes it easy for us to use) shortens the runs we go on, and with nothing left we will drag ourselves into detox all the sooner, at which point the Universe may conspire to get us to treatment.

     Providing for an addict (including loving us and telling us what we want to hear), helps us to get worse. Why? Because any avenue by which we can manipulate you, we will. You can’t believe anything we tell you. Being an addict is an exercise in total deception, 100% of the time. Think about it, if we are not ourselves, if we are taken over by addiction, if we are fake and phony 24/7, then anything we do and say is also fake, phony, disingenuous, harmful and destructive.

     And to be honest, you are more important than the addict. You are the one who has sacrificed and loved the addict and therefore you deserve SO MUCH MORE than we do.

     At this point, I’ll need to be a bit more straightforward, but hey, that’s what you’re not paying me to do. Get it? By the way, this is why private TCs and private help is so much more effective than government and insurance sponsored treatment. But seriously, if you want it sugar-coated, you may want to look away as we discuss the ways in which enabling effects the enabler. And let me precursor this by saying that it’s not your fault that we are addicts. It’s 0% your fault and 0% anybody else’s fault we are addicts. That is a fact.

    To begin, enabling is exhausting and requires you to compromise your integrity, your morals, your better judgement, even your very code. Enabling requires that you sacrifice your own life, personal relationships, work, ambitions and dreams. Enabling is terrible for your own spiritual well being, as well as your mental, emotional and even physical health and stability. Enabling is a moral hazard. It feeds, fuels and thus perpetuates the very behavior you want to eradicate. Enabling sends the message to the addict that we can continue to use or drink or do whatever the fuck we want because you will ALWAYS take us back and shower us with love, food, shelter and money.

     What could be worse for a drug addict than validating what we do, albeit indirectly, because that’s what enabling does, it helps us to validate our drug addiction. We think, “Well, what I’m doing can’t be that bad because Mom or Wife still takes me in and gives me money.” If you let us, I promise you with every fiber in my being that we will rip your heart out and suck you dry until you are bleeding out – a ravaged, withering carcass left out in the cold. I’m not saying we want to do that to you, but I’m saying that we will because we have to because we are insane addicts whose addiction comes first before anything and anyone. Our #1 love on this earth is not you, it is heroin (or whatever). Everything is secondary to our addiction. This you must never forget.

     And finally, our addiction can be your bridge to insanity. After years of living with an insane person, it seems reasonable that you may go some degree of crazy yourself. You may be quite damaged from our addiction, and why wouldn’t you be? Look at us! Look at the lunatic you’ve been dealing with. You’ve been subjected to our lies, abuse and sheer lunacy, and it will rightly wear you out and begin to affect your own perception of what is up or down, left or right, right or wrong. Plus, you may have your own set of issues, and preoccupying yourself with our addiction can become a distraction to avoid working on yourself.

     If someone around you is a complete disaster, the bar has been set pretty low, and some codependents feed off of that. I’m guilty of that too. Us being sick makes you the hero, and empowers you in a maladaptive way. The enabler may get something out of being the caretaker, and uses the illness to conveniently avoid themselves. Hey, don’t yell at me, this is just codependency 101.

     The worst is that if and when we actually get better, the enabler may be left devastated. Imagine that? Your dream comes true and you’re completely miserable! This is often the situation with spouses of addicts, not parents, although I wouldn’t rule it out. Some of us are pretty damaged for entirely separate reasons, reasons which we must own as individuals and not blame on anybody or anything else, even the addict in your house. But needless to say, if you’ve been burying a volcano of pain, grief, anger, resentment or depression, us getting better is going to uncork it like a shaken bottle of champagne.

     My wife began to suffer tremendously when I came home all lit up and glowing with relief. In fact, she told me point blank that we wouldn’t make it unless she recovered as well… and so she took Steps as I did, and it changed and healed her as well. Anyone can take Steps. And trust me, the world would be a better place if we all did.

     So please, don’t let us take from you, steal from you, and rob you of your one life on this incredible earth. I don’t know much, but I know that life is not a dress rehearsal.

Codependent No More – Melody Beattie

God, please embrace our loved ones and shower them with comfort and relief…

14 thoughts on “Enabling Makes You Suffer

  1. Dear Charlie, Thank you for this. I knew you would tell it like it is and I needed to hear this. My son just recently blew a chance of a lifetime too. He got himself into detox yesterday and now we'll see what actions he takes when he gets out. The 12 steps has taught me that gratitude is the only way out of misery and today I'm so grateful to you for writing this, grateful he's in detox and grateful my head is a little bit straighter this am. Again…thanks.

  2. Such a powerful message and expressed so well. I always seem to find just what I need when I need it (divine intervention?). I'll be printing and sharing this one. Maybe, just maybe, this will have the impact that my words have yet to have.

    Thank you for your honesty, sooo refreshing!

  3. Hi Charlie.. I love this but here's my conflict … If addiction is a disease and my child is sick with this disease, am I just supposed to let her go off and figure out how to get better or turn my back on her by letting go? It's so hard for a mom to do that. I don't want to enable, but I don't want to give up either. Uggh.

  4. Such a good point, Liz. And being a new Dad myself, the love I feel is something I've never felt before and so I would probably go nuts trying myself… but that doesn't change the fact that all of my efforts will be fruitless, because they will be. I am convinced that human efforts are essentially useless, at least if you are anything like me as an addict.

    I really don't think anybody can stop a really bad addict, at least I've never seen it done. It is wasted energy until the addict actually reaches out and becomes willing to do some work. Trust me, if we don't want to change, there is no changing us other than some form of divine intervention. This is what I believe is not understood about addiction. If we get better, and I mean truly better as in insanity removed, than a miracle has occurred. God has intervened in our lives and has chosen us.

    After all these years, I remain convinced that no person, place or thing can change us, which is why I have no clue why there are thousands of doctors, therapists, and medications out there trying to do just that – perform miracles. They don't seem to realize that it just can't be done. Human powers are not capable of getting the chronic, hopeless addicts and alcoholics better.

    But you are indeed right that the solution has to be brought to them to assess for themselves, which is why I do this. Though I wasn't healed right away, meeting and talking to a recovered addict and seeing that he was truly okay was what inspired me to do the work, but the actual change in my brain, the sudden restoration of sanity was performed by God and God alone.

    God bless

  5. By the way, I wasn't even as bad they get and nothing could stop me. Believe me, there were plenty of efforts and interventions. Even with my entire family crying and heartbroken in the background, the only reason why I finally went to detox was because I was broke and couldn't get high and couldn't deal with another hellish detox at home alone. I couldn't care less about my family. Even my choice to go up North was just to get my melodramatic wife and mother out of my face. And then… something hit me and something happened (miracle) and here I am. And now I give back to my family as much as I can.

  6. Thank you Charlie… So much! I'm learning! After reading about how your wife needed to recover as well, it made me think that this is something that I need to do too. I'm going to start working the Steps.

  7. Hi Charlie, I'm the anon at the top of the comments. I laugh when I read my comment now. 3 days out of detox he relapsed. He stole $20 out of my wallet and shot up. He confessed that night and according to him all the AA people are super proud of him for confessing so fast. What they don't know is the 8 prior years of this revolving door of relapse/recovery. actually i don't think it should even be called a relapse if there is no significant clean time involved. So here I am tonight…weary to say the least. He is going to one or 2 meetings a day and pretty much “taking it easy” (his words) in between. He's tired although he hasn't worked in months. I'm on the brink of insanity and yet….I still find it hard to let go.

  8. Thanks again for sharing/reaching out and for your honesty. I would've been the one guy in the AA meeting who wasn't congratulating him. Of course, I don't exactly have a history of congratulating addicts for getting better. This is why I write this blog, because of the ever-expanding cavern between the two programs of AA that exist today – the bullshit version and the real one.

    As is so painfully evident, physical sobriety isn't a solution, just as detox isn't treatment but a mere clinical procedure that contains 0% treatment or recovery. If we don't go from detox to treatment, we are walking straight back to nowhere, i.e. failure, i.e relapse. Sorry to hear about this… and I totally agree with you about your assessment of what constitutes clean time/relapse.

    I usually look at sponsees who relapse and calmly say, “Well, it's apparent that you don't want to change. Call me when you're ready to get better and I'll drive you to treatment and then from there to sober living for like two years. Otherwise, don't call me.” I know letting go is brutal and I don't claim to have the strength to do so myself, but I will continue to repeat myself by saying that there is nobody more full of shit than an addict, except maybe a politician or a central banker.

  9. That’s a good question. I have the same problems with my alcoholic son. I think they resent those that try to help them because they don’t see it as “helping them.” They see it as not getting what they want. Alcoholics view people who genuinely try to help them as not helping them because their view of help is skewed. While they are active alcoholics they view “help” as getting what they want. They want to drink and not work, not have any responsibilities with all the luxuries of having a job. My son moved in with us along with my baby grandson and only held a job for a month before getting fired. He was mean, disrespectful, irresponsible, negligent to his baby and expected everything to be done for him. He laid on the couch while I took care of my grandson around the clock. He snuck alcohol in every crevice of our home and in his car!! When we confronted him he became angry and defensive and suddenly, he was the victim. He even got physical with me at one point which got him thrown out of our home. He has since gone to rehab for the 3rd time but he hasn’t apologized and doesn’t answer my calls or texts. He and the baby now live with his recovering alcoholic father and his father’s recovering alcoholic’s home. She has been clean for 13 years and his father for about 4 months. I can only pray for my grandson’s sake that this time he will stay sober. Being a parent to an alcoholic takes a toll on parents, I know it has taken a toll on me both physically and emotionally not to mention psychologically. I found this site when I had nowhere else to turn and it has helped knowing I’m not alone. I pray for all addicts and their loved ones and hope that they all remain sober.

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