Thursday, May 5, 2011

Are you an enabler?

What is an enabler? The definition of an enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet inadvertently assists the person with the problem to persist with their 
detrimental behaviors.

For example, lets look at *Suzie's life. Her husband *Carl is an alcoholic and has been for over a decade. Embarrased by it, Susie covers for him when he is hungover. She may call in sick for him and lie and say he 
has some virus when really he is passed out in bed.

Then there is *Hannah and *Jim. Their adult son Michael has been a drug user since his early teens. Never good at managing money, now seems to always be on the brink of starvation, because what little he does seem to bring in is spent on his addiction. Not wanting to see him go without food, or power, or gasoline for his car to get back and forth to work, they dole out the money....knowing that most of his income  is spent on drugs.

These people are all unwitting victims. They are trying to help their loved ones. Instead they are actually allowing their loved one to keep acting out their detrimental behaviors. They are taking responsibility for the bad behavior themselves, instead of handing the responsibility right back where it belongs: in the hands of Carl, and Hannah and Jim's son, and thousands of others just like them. By refusing to get Michael out of a financial bind, by insisting that Carl calls in sick himself, they will begin to change the dynamics of their relationships with these people.

When an enabler decides to stop "helping", relationships invariably become difficult as the enabler becomes a target for rage, pleading, and emotional blackmail. This is the time to stand firm. It's not easy, but if you love your friend or family member, it is the best gift you can give them. Making them take responsibility for their actions is the only way that your friend or family member can begin to change their lives. 

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