Getting hit with the reality of being an enabler was a pretty hefty blow to this mother’s heart. Never would I have put myself willingly into that category. Being the mother of an addict is one of the most difficult things I have endeavored. Reading Allison’s book (and re-reading it) has literally brought me out the darkness of enabling.
I have met many parents and loved ones whose hearts have been ripped out by addiction, who also walk the path of enabling on the way to their own Recovery. Each of us believes with all our heart that we will be the one to save our addict, to save them from drugs, from themselves and from the shunning of the family and their peers. We believe what we are doing is keeping them safe, fed, a roof over their head. When in fact what it is doing is feeding the addiction. If we are truthful it’s feeding both ours (our addiction to our addict) and theirs
Leslie Vernick, author of "The Emotionally Destructive Relationship" says it best:
“Fear grabs us when we think that if we say no, our adult child will make a worse mess of his or her life, and we will have to live with the pain and/or shame of those consequences. Guilt motivates us because we often feel that somehow we failed our adult child because of something we did or didn’t do when they were younger.”
I had to admit that one of the reasons I enabled was because I was afraid of what others thought about me as a parent. I thought if I hid the fact that my son was an addict, if I helped him look like a regular adult child, I wouldn’t have to bare the shame. It became about hiding the truth. Somehow I believed that giving him money, a place to live, clothes etc. would help hide the fact that he was a heroin addict.
By enabling him, I was a dance partner in the mess and chaos of his addiction. Every time I gave him money, allowed him to live in my home while he was doing drugs, I was joining him on the dance floor. Both of us trying to lead the other in a different direction.
When we begin to recognize we are enabling and we find it in ourselves to STOP and start applying it to our addict’s life, know that it will get ugly for a while. They will rebel against it; there will be chaos that will ensue. They will find themselves alone on the dance floor and will do all they can to manipulate you back out onto the floor. But know this… our doing this, our stopping our enabling and our refusing to take part in the dance, it will force them to see they no longer have a dance partner; they will be in their addiction mess alone.
When we STOP enabling it begins to “raise the bottom”, no longer will we have to wait for them to “hit bottom”, we can become part of what helps them get there quicker. And that bottom will be where Recovery can begin.