Enabling is therapeutic jargon or tough love which is often heard in support groups is a way of describing some forms of helping as being destructive, for example, some might say that any act that helps an alcoholic continue to drink prevents the alcoholic from suffering the true consequences of their actions, or make it easier for an alcoholic to continue drinking.
I was advised that I shouldn’t enable, because by enabling dad I wasn’t allowing him to face the full-blown consequence of his actions.
Yeh, I could have said, “I love you dad, but you are on your own?” Or “When you are ready to see the errors of your ways, I’ll be there”
But Surely there are varying differing degrees of enabling?
Trust me dad suffered many consequences as a result of drinking and there were some consequences I simply couldn’t ignore or walk away from, for example
Relationships – Loss of relationships and friendships, because of dads drinking, he had lost many – had we walked away he would have had no-one, well, anyone who genuinely cared about his own best interest.
Physical health – Dad had many injures resulting from a fall where he fractured his shoulder, it was a very nasty condition he didn’t have the capacity and the pain gave him more reason to drink.
Advocating – Now one else would! I understood him, he was unable to articulate what he wanted, well not without offending or swearing at someone – a blind, deaf person is entitled to have assistance in communicating, how was dad different
I have often questions if we prolonged the inevitable? He could have died sooner, had we not intervened? I guess I will never know?
As humans it is our instinct to want to help others, we don’t do well-seeing anyone in pain, that is of course if you are a psychopath. We are all players in a game of relational transactions – hundreds of them a day. Either initiating or engaging in transactions for which there is always a payoff or loss. There were many times I questioned myself, christ I didn’t need someone else questioning me I needed someone to hear me
Advising someone to walk away is counter-intuitive and not always helpful. I do get it, it is vital that the person caring gets support for themselves, but sometimes advising them to walk away is impossible, so surely there is a compromise to be had?
I can look back on my addiction and god forbid if my mother, loved ones had turned their back on me. Even when I was acting like the devil incarnate one minute and walking around thinking I was John the Baptist the next. They didn’t walk, they didn’t know what they were doing, whether or not it was for the best, but thank goodness they never gave up hope and never gave up trying.
I would often wonder, had dad had cancer would the words of advice had been the same? Addiction in the eye of so many is seen as something self-inflicted, a selfish condition that cares about the one person, the user. But when I reflect on my addiction I didn’t set out to become addicted – no addict does!
I was fortunate to recognise that my recovery had to come from me and me alone, so with this personal knowledge and understand reasoned that I needed to afford dad the same. I knew no amount of coercion, manipulation, shame or blame would help dad, it would’ve been all wasted energy… and my words would have fallen on deaf ears.
Now I am not denying that there were many times that I felt like walking away, there were limits to what I would, could do in terms of support, but I always lived with a glimmer of hope, that maybe, just maybe that combined they might have some sort of impact.
Some would have said, my helping/enabling was filling a void within myself, to make myself feel better – I would argue, so what?
In my case enabler or not, I was able to negotiate some boundaries that helped us both. It wasn’t easy, it never is, watching someone you love commit slow suicide is heartbreaking, its frustrating, cancer, addiction there is no difference everyone has a right to decide what not just what’s best for the addict, but what’s best for themselves.
In the end, the biggest consequence as a result of his addiction was death. But I can live with myself knowing that I did what was right for ME and more importantly my dad.
If you are affected by a loved one’s addiction, regardless of the substance or relationship, please know this.
You are not alone
There is no right or wrong
Caring for someone addicted is all trial and error
Negotiate boundaries that work for you and your family
Make time for you
And remember there are 1000’s just like you questioning themselves
You are not alone
I don’t write for financial reward or gain, I just want to help share my lived experience with others in the hope that it helps. And I just love to write, so if ya fancy getting the occasional email with the most up to date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.
Love Fordy x