As Tammy and Teri have described, living in an alcoholic or dysfunctional family can cause problems that carry over for generations to come. It is so important to recognize, deal with, and change those patterns of problems for the upcoming generation to feel true freedom from the dysfunction.
By now, you are aware of what "enmeshment" is and how to know if you are in an enmeshed relationship (see earlier blog posts this week). What are the dangers of being in an enmeshed relationship?
Loss of self. When you are in an enmeshed relationship, you lose your identity. You ultimately lose the parts of your "self" that made the other person fall in love with you to begin with!
This week we are talking about secrets! Secrets come in many forms. There are healthy secrets, but also toxic ones. What is the difference? A toxic secret is one that will block you from intimacy and puts walls between you and your loved one. Support4change.com says, toxic secrets “hide a part of your heart, disguise your vulnerability which denies a gift to your loved one, or prevents your loved one from supporting you.”
This week, we are discussing the ever sought after goal of many of our clients— peace. Peace of heart, peace of mind, a peaceful home, peaceful relationships, or a peaceful work environment. The issues we see in our office that bring couples, families and individuals to therapy may vary, but underneath the presenting problem is usually the same core struggle: Whatever is going on in their life feels chaotic, unsettling, insecure, or just simply without peace.
Enabling is a way that we knowingly or unknowingly protect an addict-- which actually helps the addiction get worse, instead of helping the individual learn to become healthier. Today we will finish discussing different ways we enable another person:
- Protecting them from negative consequences. It's difficult to see a loved one suffering consequences, even if they are obviously the direct consequences of their addictive behavior. Sometimes it's the most difficult to see how we might protect someone from negative consequences when it doesn't seem to be related to addictive behavior. Either way, protecting someone from negative consequences means that they never have to feel the impact of their unhealthy choices. For example, if your drug addicted son or daughter can't afford to pay their cell phone bill, so it gets shut off and you pay to get it turned back on. This might not seem to be directly related to their use, but if they are using their money for drugs and not paying their bills, you are protecting them and enabling. Another example would be if your spouse is too hung over to go to work or a family function and you call his work or smooth things over so no one is angry with him/her. Or maybe your wife or husband hits a car while driving drunk, and you get the car fixed on the side and lie to the police so they don't get in trouble with the law. Natural consequences are how we learn to change. If an addict doesn't feel the uncomfortable feelings as a result of their choices, they will most likely stay exactly like they are.
- Avoiding social functions. When you make excuses to avoid social situations because you are embarrassed by your loved one's addictive behavior, you are enabling them to keep their behavior a secret. This causes you to become the one in the relationship carrying the weight of shame that belongs to the addict. It also isolates you and decreases your support system, keeping you even more dependent on your relationship with the addict (even though you aren't getting your needs met).
- Offer the addict a job. This is a way that rescues the addict from once again facing the necessary consequences to their actions. Maybe they have lost their job for addiction related reasons (poor attendance, viewing pornography at the workplace, coming to work while still under the influence, etc.). Providing them a job is like handing them money to go use, which is enabling. It doesn't allow the addict to take full responsibility for finding their way in life and being an adult, which only feeds their addictive behavior.
- Pay for school. Many times, it's easy to become so hopeful that if an addict only gets what they need, they will be happier and stop using. This can make a parent or loved one step in and offer to pay for things, such as school, that seem like providing them the "tools" to succeed. However, when an addict is still using, they will most always pick their drug of choice over the day to day responsibilities of adulthood. Doing this takes away the addicts sense of ownership for the decisions to get better, and can prevent them from feeling the pride of accomplishment for going through something difficult to make a better life for themselves. It can then leave the enabler angry and bitter when the addict isn't following through with investing in classes, homework, or attendance.
- Pay for alcohol or other drug use. Sometimes the fear of what a person might do (or how they might feel) when they are without a substance can cause an enabler to actually provide the very thing they hate the most. Maybe you are afraid your child will start selling their body for drugs or fear they will harm you in anger, threaten you or steal from you, so instead of setting boundaries with them and being firm, it's "easier" to give in and buy them what they are addicted to. It might also be the only way you know how to feel close to them-- since drugs or alcohol are the most important thing to them, you "join" them to feel as though you are a part of their life. However this manifests, it only shows the addict that you aren't willing to set the boundaries necessary to take care of yourself and that you don't really believe in them or their ability to get clean. It also can create a great amount of shame for the enabler, knowing you are helping their addiction thrive.
Did you recognize any of the enabling behaviors this week? Loving an addict can be a very difficult thing, and it's something that most of us can't do without a healthy support system and the help of others to hold us accountable. If you are struggling with addiction in your family or with a loved one, we encourage you to seek out the help of a professional to work on your enabling behaviors and learning healthy boundaries. The positive changes of one person in a family system can have a dramatic impact on the rest of a family system. Even if the addict continues using, you will feel healthier, happier and more whole because you are taking care of yourself-- and letting them take responsibility for their own life.
Joleen Watson, MS, LMFT, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.
Do you enable an addict in your life? Many people think they are helping a loved one with an addiction, when in reality they are giving an addict permission to sink further into it. As the addiction has more room to grow, the addict gets sicker and loved ones become more discouraged that the addict will ever recover. An addict needs to hit rock bottom in order to make a paradigm shift and get into recovery. Consistent rescuing of the addict will only extend the time it takes for someone to hit rock bottom.
This week Imagine Hope is pointing out some common ways people enable an addict without even thinking about it.
- Give or Lend Money- Giving an addict money might open up more doors for the addict to invest in their addiction. Having easy assess to money can keep them from realizing how much their addiction is actually costing because they don't experience the pain of struggling to get money.
- Provide a place to live- A roof over our heads is a necessity. If an addict has pushed the boundaries so far that keeping them in your home will feed their addiction more, than you might need to consider kicking them out. This can be a painful and scary situation for both you and the addict, but might be what creates a rock bottom moment for the addict.
- Clean up after messes- When an addict doesn't have the chance to see what messes they have created, they will not know how bad it has gotten. As hard as it might be, you need to let things sit until they are able to clean things up on their own.
- Supply a car- Having a car gives an addict an easier ability to engage in their addiction. The freedom a car provides can enable them to be blinded to their addiction. This could also be a safety issue in that they may use their car after engaging in their addiction and could hurt themselves and/ or someone else.
Addictions are a painful reality for all involved. Whether it's alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, or the list of many others, make sure you are doing your part by not enabling them to continue down their self destructive path.
Keep checking in this week to see if you are an enabler!
Written by guest blogger Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC
Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling. Teri does virtual therapy for residents of Indiana and Florida using videoconferencing technology. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling and adolescent counseling.
This week, Imagine Hope is discussing the Serenity Prayer and it's meaning. So far, we have gone through serenity, courage and change. Today we will discuss wisdom. The serenity prayer states "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
This week, Imagine Hope has covered some common areas of addiction: Sex addiction, TV and internet addiction, and Relationship addiction. In the final part of this series, we will cover a very prevalent addiction: Drug and alcohol. So, what exactly is the line between being a "social" user, and a problem drinker? The bottom line is how alcohol and drugs effect you and the ones you love. If your drinking is causing you problems in your life, then you have a drinking problem. The same goes for drug use. Is your spouse or significant other complaining about how much you drink?
You might be thinking, "how can a person be addicted to the tv?" Have you ever watched tv longer than you intended, or feel mesmerized or "spaced out" as you're sitting in front of the tv? Watching tv can be calming and a nice way to relax. However, when it crosses the line into interfering with what we want to accomplish, or when we're sitting & feeling as though our energy is being zapped right out of us, then there might be a problem.