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Don't feed the Monster- Recognizing the Signs of Enabling

Michael Richman MA, LPC


There is a fine line between enabling and being supportive. When you are just being supportive, you are doing things for someone they can’t do by themselves, but when you are enabling, you are habitually doing things for people that they could do for themselves. People who are in an active addiction thrive on enablement because it allows them to stay in their addiction for as long as it continues.

Enabling for all practical applications means you are stepping in between your child/spouse/relative/friend and the consequences of his or her actions. By doing so, you absorb some of the impact of his or her actions and this a problem. It might sound like exactly the right thing to do, even necessary. You may feel shame or guilt if you even think about not helping but the confounding thing about addiction is that you get in the way of the addict or alcoholic experiencing the impact of his or her actions and you make things worse. You’re feeding the monster, so to speak, and the monster continues to grow.

One of the key aspects of addiction that makes it so different from other chronic disabilities is that certain attitudes, thought patterns and behaviors are symptoms of addiction. Lying, denial and manipulative behavior are all common in individuals struggling with addictions. People with addictions are not immoral or bad people because they engage in these behaviors, but it is important for people close to them to understand that these behaviors are part of the addiction pattern.

Not sure if your enabling? Let’s take a look at some key signs that you may have over looked:

· Have you been putting personal things aside to continually take care of them?

· Feeling resentful because you’re taking on more than your share of responsibilities?

· Do you find yourself lying to others and yourself about their unacceptable behavior?

· Spending a lot of time, money and energy focusing on fixing them?

· Does it seem like you’re constantly bailing them out of disasters they created, including bailing them out of jail, providing alibis or paying delinquent bills?

· Have you called their place of employment to make excuses about why they didn’t go to work?

If you can answer yes to any of these signs you are most likely enabling and if you’re an enabler, your participating in the addiction process. You are creating an environment in which the alcoholic or addict can continue behaving in an unacceptable way.


So What Can I Do?

· Be honest. Don’t make excuses for refusing to provide money and other enabling actions. Stick to your guns, be kind and speak the truth.

· Know what you know. Don’t get confused by the smokescreen of lies, excuses, stories or manipulation. You don’t need to argue or convince, just trust yourself and know what you know. If it doesn’t seem right to you than it’s probably not.

· Don’t equate love with saying yes. Learning to say “NO” in unhealthy situations show that you love that person and you refuse to help him or her succumb to this disease.

· Offer to help them connect with local self-help, 12-step, or treatment programs. Treatment works, and getting connected with a good program and therapist will help more than any money or favor they might ask of you.

· Be kind to yourself. You didn’t cause the problem and you can’t fix it. Let yourself off the hook and stay positive. Get help yourself if you need it and reach out to others who have walked in your shoes through self-help groups or an experienced counselor.

If you would like to meet with an experienced counselor and you’re in the Kent county area call Michael Richman MA, LPC at 616-888-4353

or visit his website at https: www.nrcsllc.com

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