Am I Enabling?
The changes addictions cause.
Addiction is a difficult disease to watch. It turns the kindest of people into manipulative lying strangers. Addiction perverts positive traits into negative character defects. A caring family member becomes cold and the intelligent friend becomes a capable liar. In active addiction, a person’s behavior becomes sociopath-like. A sociopath puts their needs above all else. An addict puts the needs of their addiction above all else. In the process, a person suffering from addiction often take advantage of those close to them. How should you handle them? What is best? The answers get confusing because caring has become enabling. Enabling is part of the dance that maintains an addiction.
What is Enabling?
When I protect an addict from the consequences of their actions, I am enabling. Enabling comes from a good place. By definition, addiction causes negative life consequences. No one wants to see his or her loved ones suffer. It is only natural to try and help a person from suffering. Especially, if you’re a parent. Unfortunately, this suffering is an important part of recovery. Every addict, at least early in their addiction, enjoys using. For many people, using is their favorite thing. They are not going to just give it up for no reason. And to be fair, it would be irrational too. The reason to quit is your life could be better without using. Consequences make this true for people with addiction. It is what separates them from non-addicts. Being hungover sucks, but being hungover too often that you lose your job sucks more. These are natural consequences, not punishments. These consequences are just delayed when you call the boss to create a cover story for an addict. If they continue drinking, the job will be lost eventually. Better sooner rather than later.
Breaking a cycle of enabling is not easy. In fact, the person suffering from addiction will actively fight the change. They will make promises or trying to guilt you. Don’t you want them to keep their job? I won’t be able to pay their rent if they don’t. Don’t you care? If you loved me, you would do this. There is a grain of truth in this ball of manipulation. I’ve seen grown men in the fetal position crying on the courthouse floor as their elderly mother watches. He was doing this to guilt her to drop a court order for treatment. This was an extreme case. But, getting ready for emotional blackmail and manipulation is necessary to break the enabling cycle.