I recently began writing for a substance abuse treatment center.
Are You an Enabler?
You’ve heard the label “enabler” but you don’t fully understand what it means or why it is a big deal.
When you were growing up, did you have one parent that drank alcohol, smoked pot or was hooked on prescription medication? Your other parent kept the family together, that parent was the enabler of the relationship. Maybe your spouse or partner has a substance abuse problem. You have a full time job and maybe you have children.
Your spouse has a job but you are finding yourself calling in sick for him or her. You tell his boss your spouse has a cold or a stomach bug. He misses the family gatherings but you have an ample supply of excuses prepared no matter what the circumstances. He needs to stay home for the plumber. He has a doctor’s appointment. He’s working in the yard or he went boating with some friends.
You don’t tell anyone your partner has a substance abuse problem. As an enabler you are suffering the effects of your partner’s addiction. By protecting the addict you are carrying the burden, not your partner. The weight of the world is on your shoulders.
If you stopped making excuses and covering for him, what would happen? Are you afraid he would lose his job or would stop loving you? Maybe he would leave you, and then you would be alone; you’d rather live with a drunk or a spouse that is high all of the time.
If you stopped enabling him he would be held responsible for his actions, but you don’t. You have your own set of excuses, you love him, he can’t help it, or I can’t live without him. He told me he was going to stop, he promised. What would happen to him if he didn’t have me?
You find yourself fighting with him; he tells you he doesn’t need your help. Both of you start resenting each other. He resents “your help” and you resent having to do everything and cover for him.
Now that you recognize what an enabler is, where do you go from here?
You are in too deep to change your behavior without help. You need professional help before your resentment turns you into a victim. Without help, you’ll try to stop covering for him but then he’ll cry and tell you he is sorry and if this one more time you could call in sick for him.
Just one more time. . . If you love him. . . He’s going to stop, he promises. . .
Because this cycle will continue without professional counseling for you, the enabler, and him, the substance abuser, you’ll never heal. You’ll never find peace in your life.
You need help managing the anger you carry with you. During your counseling you’ll learn how to talk to your partner, confront him but not take the responsibility of him quitting. You can’t carry the burden of the abuser.
You’ll learn how your role in this dysfunctional relationship is unhealthy for you, him, and any other family members living under the same roof.