Enabling the enabler

Old 07-25-2008, 02:23 PM
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Question Enabling the enabler

The basic run-down... my 25-yr-old brother is an alcoholic and substance abuser. My family goes back and forth between denial and acceptance, but it is what it is. He lives with my mom... they live next door to me. She enables him by providing him with a car and a place to live, paying for car repair as well as food and gas and cigarettes, etc. Her health and quality of life in general have decreased since he moved in around Christmas, but she still has been unwilling or unable to get him out of the house.

I also enable him, but my enabling is more indirect. For instance, she'll call me and ask me to go down the street (or take him down the street) to buy cigarettes. The reason he can't take himself is that he has no job and whenever he gets gas money from her, he uses the car to hang out with his drinking buddies rather than conserve it for when he needs to go to the store, etc. She says I'm not doing it for him... that I'm doing it for HER. But I know that's bs... at the bottom of it is me enabling him. When I stand up to her and tell her that he can walk down to the store... that I will not enable him directly or indirectly... she gets mad at me.

Sometimes it's really hard to figure out what exactly is enabling behavior, so that's where I'm hoping to get some good feedback. Considering that most of the time, it's my mom asking me to do something in relation to my brother... is there some way to figure out if it's enabling him? I mean, most of it enables him to not be responsible for himself... is that an indirect way of enabling him to continue to drink and use drugs? I want to be a nice person, but I do not want to enable and frankly, I'm tired of dealing with his lack of responsibility... everyone treats him like he's a child when he's actually 25 years old.

Any thoughts on how to figure out where the boundaries should be set when it involves the gray areas? I won't buy him beer, but should I walk next door and unlock the house because he has (once again) forgotten his key? That's what I mean by gray areas. It's not that he's drunk when he forgets his key or when he comes home... it's just that he has not had to be responsible and therefore, he only really cares about when he's going to go hang out and drink or use... I guess he figures everyone else will take care of the other details of his life. Thanks in advance.
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Old 07-25-2008, 02:43 PM
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You know, I know someone who is in a situation almost identical to this. But there are some extremes in play. The user (not sure what his drug of choice is) is 45 and refuses to out of his mother's tiny condo. She's in her 70's and works fulltime to pay for groceries and support everyone. Her poor husband is also in his 70's and has emphysema. Everyone in their family is so absolutely disgusted with this guy. He wanted a carpet cleaning business, so he talked her into getting a loan for $3k to pay for a truck. Then he didn't like it and she took a big hit on the truck. Now he wants to buy a hot dog stand and sell hot dogs. The guy has lived with her the most of his life. He is just the biggest loser.

Meanwhile, her grandson (son of her other son) has just signed a professional sport's team contract for over $20 million. Her other son is worth millions in her own right, as are a few of her other offspring. The really odd thing is, if she'd kick her loser son out of the house, they have all offered to buy her a nice place and support her for the rest of her retired life. She'd have it made!!! But she feels she'd be turning her back on her son, who just drinks beer and watches tv all day.

Nobody can understand why she has continued to lose her sanity over this guy, cripple him with codependence and succumb her husband to this guy's insanity. But then again, nobody's trying too hard to figure it out. It's her deal. So, Grandma works fulltime and can't visit anyone much because she only has 2 weeks a year vacation, and can barely afford the basics.

So I totally see where you are coming from. The favors never cease to end. And in the case I cited, I can see where now the guy's mother really does worry that he'd be homeless because he just simply doesn't know how to be independent. He's only really lived in rehab if he wasn't at her house.

But I think you are really better off if the more people who agree not to continue enabling your mother as she enables your brother, the better. Because if the situation remains comfortable enough for them, it will continue. I know it has to be hard watching your mother care for him like she does.
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Old 07-25-2008, 03:13 PM
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You can enable your brother and enable your mother at the same time.

The way I see it, if she chooses to enable him, its her business. If you choose to enable her enabling by falling for the line that you would be doing it for her not him, well that is where you can decide to draw the line on enabling if you want to. Will it make your mother mad? Probably. So? Would you rather keep doing things that you don't want to do just to keep the peace?
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Old 07-25-2008, 05:44 PM
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I have learnt enabling is anything that robs another of a chance to learn something for themselves, and to be rewarded or to suffer the outsomes of their choices.

For example, my younger sister has two children, both of which my parents look after while she lives with her crazy husband. For the most part my mother spends 4 hours on public transport every Saturday taking her children to see her, despite the fact my sisiter has a car and my mother doesn't.

My father says it is nice for the kids to have a trip out which is probably true, but as long as my mother is taking the kids to her, she will never have to make the effort to see her kids.

While I can understand her kids need to see her, it is also not my parents job to play god and make this happen. It is my sisters responsibility to step up to the plate and make it happen.

I also think my mother taking the kids to her, robs her of the chance to build some kind of self esteem for herself. I.e. being responsible and going to see her kids would make her feel good about herself etc...

It would drive me mad having to unlock my parents house because my brother lost his key all the time, and to be honest I would probably 'lose' my own key too next time he asks.
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Old 07-25-2008, 06:04 PM
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Thanks for the feedback I've received thus far. I definitely do not want to enable him... it's just hard sometimes for me to figure out exactly what is enabling and what is not. I like the way you explain it, liz... that enabling is "anything that robs another of a chance to learn something for themselves, and to be rewarded or to suffer the outcomes of their choices"... makes sense. If I use that as a guide in deciding whether or not to do something, I will really have to change my behaviors in regards to my AB especially... which I am willing to do.
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