If you have to ask…
People only ask this question because they believe that have at least some evidence to demonstrate that they are an enabler. People who are not enablers typically know that they are doing everything in their power to prevent, or at least discourage addiction.
Enabling an addict is a difficult thing to tackle. Typically enablers do what they do BECAUSE they love the addict. There are a myriad of reasons why, but it all boils down to they are doing the best they know how to do.
Why do people enable?
We don’t grow up being taught what enabling looks like. We have this notion in our society that love should always be self-sacrificing and serving the ones we love. But oftentimes, the best way to actually serve someone we love is to tell them “no!”
How do you know if you are an enabler?
Here is a quiz from Dr. Phil that might help (I have highlighted in red the ones I consider to be the biggest warning signs that you might be an enabler:
An enabler is a person who, acting out of a sincere sense of love, loyalty and concern, steps in to protect, cover up for, make excuses for and become more responsible for the chemically dependent person. This can prevent the addicted individual from a crisis that might bring about change, and thereby prolong his or her illness.
To find out if you may be an enabler, answer the following questions:
- Do you avoid potential problems by trying to keep the peace? Do you do whatever you can to avoid conflict because doing so will solve problems?
- Are you in denial about your loved one being addicted? Do you think his or her drug or alcohol use is just a phase and isn’t anything to be concerned about?
- Do you have a hard time expressing your feelings? Do you keep all your emotions inside?
- Do you minimize the situation? Do you think the problem will get better later?
- Do you lecture, blame or criticize the chemically dependent person?
- Do you take over the responsibilities of the addicted person? Do you cover for and pick up his or her slack to minimize the negative consequences? Do you repeatedly come to the rescue — bailing him or her out of jail, out of financial problems or other tight spots?
- Do you try to protect your addicted loved one from pain?
- Do you treat him or her like a child? Do you enjoy taking care of your loved one and feel superior when you do? Do you still financially support him or her, even though he or she is an adult?
- Do you try to control the dependent person?
- Are you good at just enduring? Do you often think, this too shall pass?
- Do you believe in waiting? That God will take care of this?
- Do you give him or her one more chance, then another and yet another?
- Do you join him or her in the dangerous behavior, even when you know he or she has a problem?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you may have enabling behaviors, which could be making the addicted person sicker. Educate yourself about addiction and find support for families of addicts.
So what now?
Well, now is the hard part. Now you have to break the pattern of enabling that sometimes goes back years or even decades. If you don’t get but one concept out of this, PLEASE catch this.
Love does what is BEST for the person, not what makes them happiest. And love sometimes has to allow (maybe even cause suffering) to bring about TRUE healing!
Examples of tough love
This is NOT a blame game, but I need to share from my past to give you an example.
I might have hit rock bottom sooner if…
- I had been turned over to the police for the things I stole from my family
- I had not been allowed to have power, gas, food, clothes or anything else because I blew all my money on drugs
- I had not been bailed out of jail
- I had been denied a place to stay
- Phone numbers had been changed
- Family members had completely cut me off
This will not be over quickly
This will probably be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. It will hurt your heart a great deal. But keep in mind that true love does what’s BEST for the addict, not what makes them happiest. You may very well save their life by allowing them to be in a situation with no escape but to ask for, or forced to find, help. You cannot be swayed by our tears, our sad stories, our problems (real or imagined), what we think about you, what others think about you, or what you FEEL.
The bottom line
To enable an addict is to watch them load the gun to play Russian roulette, while you hand them the bullets for the gun. You may not pull the trigger, but you’re still responsible. Take away their ammunition. If they find some other way around it, at least you did everything you could possibly do to prevent it. And if you believe someone you love is struggling with addiction PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE call the Home of Grace TODAY and see about getting the addict some help. Then you’ve not only refused to give them ammunition, you’ve also tried to remove the gun from their hands!