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Enablers? (article)

Old 06-11-2009, 06:18 PM
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Enablers? (article)

From a link someone put up today (sorry I can't remember who it was):

Families often say, “I should have recognized his alcoholism. After all, he was an alcoholic when I married him 30 years ago.” Well, baloney! Thirty years ago, who in the world recognized alcoholism? We knew people were drunks, but we didn’t know they were alcoholics.

* * *

Anyone who calls you “an enabler” has no concept of what real recovery is. It is important to look at this word and see what it means. Basically, it means that you have cleaned up after the alcoholic’s messes; that you have not been able to stop yourself from rescuing him or her from the consequences of their behavior. The reason you rescued the alcoholic is that you either were very fearful for them, or you were afraid of losing the alcoholic’s love, or you thought that the alcoholic would leave you if you “stopped putting up with it.”

Nobody has the right to fault you; it’s blaming the victim. That’s a terrible thing to do to the family.

Furthermore, when you call someone an enabler, you are giving the alcoholic yet another excuse for his behavior. I’ve heard a lot of alcoholics say, “I wouldn’t have drunk as long if I hadn’t been enabled.”

Alcoholism counselors consider it important for recovery when alcoholics stop blaming other people for their drinking. When an alcoholic says that he or she drank because they “were enabled” – they are adding yet another excuse to the repertoire. And that kind of excuse-making kills alcoholics.

That kind of blaming makes it easier for them to go back out and drink – the next time they think they’ve “been done wrong.”

* * *

What if you did enable – rescue – this alcoholic? If you did, you were acting from a very normal instinct to love and protect.

Let me quote from an article in the Baltimore Sunpapers a few years ago. A reporter was at a local outpatient treatment center where families were gathered to view a film. As they watched, many of the family members became visibly angry. The reporter asked why they were upset, and was told by viewers that in the film they were called “enablers.” One woman very articulately stated, “If we love them, we’re enablers. If we’re angry, we’re bitches. When do we win?”

* * *

We’ve got to stop calling family members “enablers” because they loved.

Families will stop rescuing when they feel safe enough to do so, when they have lost their fears of losing the alcoholic. Attacking them for “enabling” only increases their fears and feelings of unworthiness.

We’ve also got to stop blaming families for being angry when they are naturally angry because of all the junk that’s happened. We’ve got to help families to learn to stop blaming themselves and how to say, instead, “I did my best, I did what I could, I probably did more than anyone else could’ve done. I’ve certainly put up with more than my alcoholic would have done, had I acted that way toward him.

“Now, I’ve got to start believing my recovery is dependent upon my becoming self-centered in a healthy way.”

Let’s stop putting families in a no-win.
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Old 06-11-2009, 06:30 PM
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I was an enabler. I enabled my alcoholic X to keep drinking by absorbing - myself - any repercussions of his actions. It had little or nothing to do with love, and everything to do with fear.

I have never been attacked for it by anyone (Al-Anon, here, anywhere), and I don't see very many FFA attacked for it. This article makes it seem like there are people out there with flaming torches trying to persecute enablers, which hasn't been my experience.

I do see enabling behavior pointed out to people who are doing it, and I see it suggested that they are prolonging their own agony by doing so. That happens here every day, and in many cases it brings about positive changes. I only wish someone had pointed it out to me sooner - I very nearly lost my life because I couldn't see it.

I didn't like "them" pointing it out to me at first either. I bristled at the label. I'd convinced myself that what I did was noble, even though my X's alcoholism was ruining lives. I came to learn that "they" were right, and I was wrong.

Beyond the labels, I still had to make my own choices about how and when to end my own suffering, but until it was shown to me how I was continuing the cycle by my actions, I was a prisoner.

Just my personal opinion.
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Old 06-11-2009, 06:33 PM
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The counselors at the rehab my AH went to treated me (us) like this article states. And I've felt the no win also, from a family member. One day told to stop the enabling, and when I finally did something to stop it, told I was horrible for how I treated him.

I can definitely relate to the article.
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Old 06-11-2009, 06:39 PM
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I also see counselors at some rehabs treating their patients like inmates, like criminals, or like children - yelling, insulting, belittling, doing the whole drill instructor thing. I don't approve of that approach in either case - it's dehumanizing to me. Just like there are [email protected] therapists, I imagine there are also very [email protected] rehabs.
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Old 06-11-2009, 06:50 PM
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On the flip side, the one I saw was too lenient (in my opinion). I know for certain some smuggled drugs in, and there were several who got out of many things because of "anxiety".

They also belittled me, and my thoughts/needs completely. I read a nasty letter I had received from my AH (from rehab) over the phone to his counselor and was told I was overreacting.

I guess nothing is perfect

To add: This issue stuck in my mind from the family week, the enabling. They constantly told us the three C's, then went on about us enabling. It didn't jive too well for me.
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Old 06-11-2009, 07:01 PM
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Pfffffft

I'm angry because I couldn't find an 'enabler", that's why I drank!

I was however, "overserved" frequently, does that count?

I am being humorous, but the bottom line is alcoholics drink "until the wheels fall off", anything that keeps the alcoholic from "the wheels falling off" or the consequences of his own actions is enabling.

One day told to stop the enabling, and when I finally did something to stop it, told I was horrible for how I treated him.
Two things come to mind here:

First, who told you that you were being "horrible"?

If it was the practicing alcoholic of course he is going to say that, movement towards mental health in what has been a mentally unhealthy situation is ALWAYS met with resistance. Hey, you are upsetting the apple cart here man!!!!

Second, I had to learn what the difference between "protecting the alcoholic from their own consequences" and "punishing the [email protected] [email protected]", early on I would "punish" and think I was setting up boundaries or "not enabling".

I still get confused about that, search a bit in my past for some "tit for tat" posts, I thought I was setting boundaries, when in reality I was trying to make someone else feel the same pain I was feeling by doing exactly to them what I had perceived they had "done to me"

I do get offended by some things, it's pretty apparent by my posts here which posts make my fur go up, but sometimes I get offended if something hits too close to the mark, sometimes I get offended because something is offensive, but it's always a good idea to ask myself why I am offended.

If I protect an alcoholic from the consequences of their drinking, I am enabling.

Hey, at least you aren't a male alcoholic on a board mostly populated by women that have been seriously harmed and most foully used by alcoholic men. I'd take "just" enabler any day
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Old 06-11-2009, 09:50 PM
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I told my therapist I was a codie/enabler and she did not like the words... she said it was damaging to label myself that way. That I have codependent tendencies that have hurt me in the past, but I can change them anytime, and everybody is codependent to some degree...

For me enabler is not an insult... NOW, because I did stop, and I probably am doing many things wrong daily, but at least I am not helping anyone die while smiling to him and telling him I "love him".

My 2 cents: its an unhealthy sad dance, 50-50, and as I have to own MY 50, they have to own their 50 too.

The fact our 50% can be confused with "compassion" is what makes addiction all the more powerful, as our role is much more subtle, difficult to recognize, constant, conveniently disguised and confused with love, caring, affection, etc.

Now I see enablers think they are outside the ant farm, when in reality they are the worker ants serving Addiction - the Queen.

Mmmm, I could not come up with the role of the AHs in this "analogy" LOL. Perhaps the "worker" ants that instead of carrying food are lazy, watching Ant Wrestling in a mini TV and feeling they are The Kings of the colony.

Thanks for sharing the article!

Last edited by TakingCharge999; 06-11-2009 at 10:07 PM.
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Old 06-12-2009, 03:15 AM
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Enabler.. hmmm..

I'm not sure how to feel about this. Intellectually I know that by staying with the A and not challenging the behaviours I 'enabled' them to continue. Did I enable him to behave like that by staying? I'm truly not sure. I'm not trying to opt out or cop out but my feeling about my situation is that there is nothing I could have done.. by act or omission.. that would have changed him or his behaviour. I threw the kitchen sink at it (not literally!).. from being proactive to reactive to inactive.. and nothing changed. Actually that is not true.. something did change.. me. But HE was RESPONSIBLE for him. If someone buys me a box of chocolates do I have to eat them and then blame the person who bought them for it because I put on weight? No.. I'm an adult and I make choices. Even if those choices are coloured by addiction they are mine. I have yet to see a smoker blame the store keeper, his family, his friends for his addiction as he smokes a pack.

Every feeling I had during that time was valid. I might not have dealt with things perfectly but how I felt was true. The A (the night before the 'incident') said are you co-dependent. Never before had he said anything like that to me. Why did he say it? Well in context it was just another inventory taking.. another thing to throw at me to validate his behaviour. I think it is a cop out when the A blamethrows. I think it is a cop out when the family/friend/loved one is pigeonholed as 'enabler'.

So I guess I'm saying we are all responsible for ourselves.. the A, the family, the friends etc. I am loathed to say that someone always had the option to walk away.. because that is not always true. Each case on its own merits. That said.. in my case, I protected him from the consequences of his actions. I stayed. I take ownership of that. It does not make me a bad person. I loved someone and it just turns out that they didn't love me back (or they did but it was in a dysfunctional way?) and I stuck around for longer than I should have. I agree that someone shouldn't be berated for that.

Part of the OP really resonated with me. If I was proactive I was wrong, if I was reactive I was wrong, if I was neutral I was wrong. Bottom line is.. you're wrong.
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