Just as fire needs oxygen, an addict needs an enabler. This disease thrives, with ‘help.’ Help usually comes in the form of money from well-meaning family and friends. Whether it’s paying a lawyer or child support, or paying the rent or bills, or paying off the drug dealers, or just lending a few bucks, without ‘help,’ an addict is left to face the consequences of their actions. It’s these consequences that most often get them sober.
So why would friends and family members choose to get in the way of these consequences? In other words, why would you help an addicted person to stay sick?
This is a difficult question and there is no one right, answer. Addiction is a genetic and environmental illness. It runs in families the same way blue eyes, or red hair, does.
When we grow up with or live in, addiction, we learn not to rock the boat. We coddle the addicted person. The number one rule in any addicted household is – don’t upset the addict.
Because all hell will break loose!
In essence, we are ‘trained.’ So how do you know if you’re being trained to enable addiction?
Below are 7 keys signs.
You feel ‘beat up’ after talking to your addicted loved one. Conversations with the addicted person are difficult. They leave you feeling wounded, emotionally bruised and sick to your stomach. Although you may not be aware of it, you are suffering from emotional abuse.
You question your sanity. You feel crazy. You find it difficult to focus. Your thoughts are racy and alarming. You question your every thought and second guess yourself. You wonder if you should go on medication, but feel too embarrassed to discuss it with a friend or your Doctor.
You feel guilty. Every wrong thing that is happening in the life of your loved one is your fault. You don’t tell anyone this. Logically, you know it’s not true. You aren’t the one shoving drugs up their nose, but deep down inside of you, you believe it anyways. You get relief from saying yes, when no, is the right answer. You have an exclusive relationship with your addict. They don’t tell on you for saying yes, and you don’t tell on them for asking.
You feel overly responsible. Control becomes an issue. You want to know who they’re with, and what they’re doing, at all times. You check through their drawers, pants pockets, cell phones and wallets. You might even drive by the places they claim to be, to see if they’re really there. By now you’ve become their banker, manager, lawyer, counselor and cop. Your well-being is dependent on their behavior. If they’re having a good day, then you are too. If they’re having a bad day, you make it your job to fix it.
You walk on egg shells. You sugar coat your words. You don’t say what’s on your mind, instead you hint at it. Then you gage the reaction of the addict to see if you can continue. You are hypersensitive to their every mood and need. You choose your actions accordingly. You feel like you are walking on glass and one wrong move could crack it all open. You’re afraid of saying ‘the wrong thing.’ Stress is your constant companion. Physically you may suffer from headaches, insomnia, weight gain, or loss, jaw pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and exhaustion.
You make excuses and tolerate abusive behavior. Your friends and family tell you – you’re being used. They plead with you to set boundaries and learn to say no. You make excuses for your loved one’s behavior. ‘They’re stressed out. They’re sick. They have an illness. He/she didn’t really mean to say that. They only borrowed the money, they weren’t stealing it. You just don’t understand them like I do. If you were a better parent/sibling/friend, maybe they wouldn’t have turned out like this.’ You protect the addict’s unhealthy behavior and normalize verbal, emotional, mental and physical abuse. You may even display the same behavior when being confronted on enabling.
You lower your standards to stay in the relationship. At one point in your life, you wouldn’t put up with the behavior you’re putting up with, today. You’ve made threats to leave, or kick the addicted person out of your home. You lay down a bottom line – If you ever do … again, I will… The addict crosses the line – and you move it. Instead of doing what you said you would, you give them another chance. Just one more time becomes your motto. You’ve lost count of the chances you’ve given, before this. You lock up your purse, car keys, medication and wallet. You hide the booze. Your home has become a fortress.
Addiction is an irrational and illogical illness for both the addict and their family members. No one sets out to live like this. It builds over time. Just as the frog in the pot gets used to the boiling water, so does the addicted person’s family.
If you’re tired of waiting for someone else to change, there’s good news. You don’t have to wait any longer. The addict in the family isn’t the only one who needs detox. Family members do as well. The best chance at a successful recovery, you can give the addict, is to reach out for support and learn what role you play in their addiction.
Don’t ask them to do, what you won’t. Rather than waiting for the impaired thinker to see the light – be the light, and lead the way. Statistics show, addicted individuals have a far greater chance of succeeding when their family is educated, and in recovery.
Need help? Let’s talk. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1 888 616-2379.
Best wishes, Lorelie Rozzano.