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Enabling An Addict

Enabling an addict

Enabling An Addict: Love Them To Death

It’s just counter-intuitive. When you love somebody, a wife or a child or an ailing grandmother, you’re supposed to stick by their side through thick or thin, never wavering in your unfailing g support. It just doesn’t make sense to say, “You’re on your own.”

Yet that is just what people sometimes have to say in order to get the attention of an addicted loved one. We love them so much that we would rather they die from their disease than give them the help they really need. Try to avoid enabling an addict.

Don’t be part of the problem!

Perhaps it’s like drawing the proverbial line in the sand, but there comes a point when our enabling is no longer a solution to the problem but part of the problem itself. Parents allow their adult children to live at home, rent free, providing meals and money.

Those children repay that kindness by stealing from their parents, alienating the rest of the family, bringing dangerous and illegal drugs into the home and controlling every aspect of the lives of those who love them. It’s a scenario that is repeated countless thousands of times. The parents fear the loss of a child, so they indulge the child, they can’t avoid enabling an addict.

Addiction is a nasty child. It is needy, completely self-centered, unruly, uncaring, indiscriminate, rude, myopic, manipulative, incapable of self awareness and deserving of decisive and immediate discipline. The disease runs its course until its host is dead. For that reason alone, the well-meaning enablers need to understand that they aren’t helping.

Yet people instinctively refuse to take positive, constructive action, electing instead to try to placate, reason with, negotiate and otherwise strike a kind of mutual deal with the disease. Fearing the loss of relationship with the one they love, they fight the obvious. It doesn’t work.

Getting them sober

Read the wisdom from Toby Rice Drews, author of “Getting Them Sober” (http://gettingthemsober.com) which addresses the relationship between family members in an alcoholic home. “We subconsciously feel like we should be like that new trash bag that is advertised on TV now, the one that stretches and stretches to way beyond what other trash bags have been able to do– to accommodate more and more garbage. That’s akin to us, and the idea of “compromise”. When WE compromise it goes way beyond the pale. We can’t avoid enabling an addict.

Life is not normal

What is different in homes with alcoholism? It’s like there is one partner who is normal and one with Alzheimer’s. And we’re trying to teach them how to make judgments about life, together. Why say ‘Alzheimer’s’?

“Because it, too, is a disease where the brain does not function properly, and one cannot rely on their judgment about matters. Oh, sometimes, while the disease is in earlier stages, the Alzheimer’s patient will be very lucid and fool everyone, but it is progressive, and that is less and less, over the years. In marriages with alcoholism, we, of course, focus so much on how he behaves toward us that we sometimes forget and think he ‘just needs to learn how to behave right’.

A Toxic Brian

“He has, if he is alcoholic, a toxic-brain disease.” A toxic-brain disease that is progressive and will either kill him or lead him to the back wards of a psychiatric hospital, with no more memory and no more ability to make more memories. Alcoholics who reach that stage have “wet brain” a blank brain with no knowledge of who you are, or who they are.

Becomes Irreversible!

When an alcoholic reaches that stage, it is irreversible. There are literally millions of alcoholics in the back wards of hospitals, with wet brain. The V.A. hospitals are filled with them.

No Compromise “No, we do not “compromise” with alcoholics in a marriage. For, ‘compromise’ means that two sides of a discussion make joint decisions about how to BOTH ‘give in’ to make things work out well.


We, instead, adapt. Adapting is done by the non-alcoholics in a family, to make the alcoholic ‘happy’, for a time. And we do learn ways to make that happen, in the short term. But, we also need to keep that ‘trash bag stretching’ to accommodate to what they demand. And those demands not only grow larger. Our ‘rewards’ get smaller. And occur less often.

“We reach the point where we “really feel we know them” where we are pretty vigilant about ‘reading them’ to see what they want to anticipate what they want in order to ‘head them off at the pass’. To be sure to meet their ‘needs’/wants hopefully, to make sure we reach our goal to stop them from hurting us to make them at least temporarily half-way-nice to us. We stretch and stretch and stretch to be able to ‘do’ for them so we can have a modicum of a relationship even if it is a pretense of a relationship so they will want to be with us.”

Toby paints a grim picture of what enabling does. The bag just stretches, but nothing changes and there is no healing. Fear drives us to do what is actually opposite to the best course of action. We are unsuccessful as we try to avoid enabling an addict.

We want to maintain, or hold on to the relationship, so we stretch. The disease does not stretch. It sucks the life out of the one we love. The line must be drawn. The enablement must stop. The disease must be treated appropriately, like a nasty child.

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