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