Enabling Characteristics–Are You an Enabler?
Enabling characteristics are often easier for others to see in us than for us to identify in ourselves. They can reveal a side of ourselves that is painful to acknowledge and accept. All of us like to think that we are justified in what we choose to do, no matter what it is. Also, when it comes to the people we love who are in trouble, we like to think that we are helpful.
Enabling behaviors, however, are not helpful. They only appear to be helpful in the very immediate short run, and often, not even then upon closer inspection. For example, calling an addict’s employer to say he or she has the flu when they are really high takes care of that particular day. It gives no solution for the overall problem at hand which is an illness that is out of control. Plus, it lets the addict off the hook that day and does nothing to motivate change in his or her behavior. He or she does not have to worry about missing a day of work too much that day. They also don’t have to think too much about why they did
If you have an addict in your life, you are already in a distressful situation. Your own behavior is important and naturally, you don’t want to do things to make an already difficult situation worse. If you have wondered whether you are enabling someone, you may gain insight from the points below that describe enabling behaviors and internal reactions. Keep in mind that enabling is an attempt to protect the addict from the consequences of the addiction. It seeks to do damage control, but not to stop the use. Some pertinent issues and dynamics for enablers are:
- You can’t say ‘no’ to the addicted loved one.
- You want your addicted loved one’s approval.
- You are afraid of your loved one’s anger or retaliation if you don’t enable.
- You believe that you can control your addicted loved one’s situation.
- You are afraid that if you don’t enable, something worse will happen.
- You are vulnerable to guilt trips and manipulation by the addict.
- You believe in it won’t hurt this time, or I’ll do it one more time, but no more after that.
- You engage in enabling behaviors even when they are against your better judgment.
- You do things because of someone else’s addiction that you are ashamed of.
- You really believe that if you make things better in the environment your loved one will get better.
- You’ve done this for so long, it’s second nature.
- You believe that your addicted loved one is hopeless anyway and you might as well just ‘tidy up’ after him or her.