If you have an addicted loved one (ALO), the answer almost 100% of the time is yes. Many of us have asked this question of ourselves. What is the difference between enabling and helping? The diagram above sets apart the distinct differences between the two, but emotions often cloud the judgment of the family of the addicted loved one (ALO). Many times, what appears to be the most helpful gesture you can make ends up being another mistake in the long run.
One important thing to remember is: You are not alone!
An addiction loved one’s behavior will not make sense to a family member or friend that doesn’t have addiction. Addiction is an all-encompassing disease that blinds the sufferer from reality. When you try to reason with the ALO, you become exasperated because they cannot be reached by your logic and good sense arguments. What happens over time is that the family begins to lose perspective on the situation and how bad it actually is. We just attempt to do the best we can, but often the best we can is losing in installments! If you are waiting for your loved one to hit their “bottom”, that day may not arrive before something happens that can’t be hidden by the family from the public.
Can you go on like this?
Let me ask you some questions:
- Are you just trying to keep the peace?
- Do you avoid the confrontations with the ALO because they don’t seem to do any good?
- How many days and nights have you lost in the paralyzing fear of losing your ALO? Where are they? Are you terrified when the phone rings because of what could have happened?
- Are you trying to keep your ALO from getting in legal trouble?
- Are you paying for legal issues without your ALO seeking help with their addiction?
- Are you taking care of the children of your ALO?
- Are you in fear of losing your grandchildren? Do you feel like the children are used as leverage to keep you at bay?
- Does your ALO ask you for help with anything financially? What about rent, bills, food, cigarettes, or even gas money?
- Is the ALO having trouble keeping a job? Do you call in to work for them or make excuses to keep them out of trouble?
- Are you hoping that one day your ALO will grow up and become responsible?
- Are you hiding the behaviors of the ALO from other members of the family, friends, bosses, or co-workers?
- Are you lying about your ALO in any way? By omission?
- Do you feel sick inside the pit of your stomach when you agree to something the ALO asks you for?
- Are you regretfully dodging creditors for the ALO?
- Do you feel like others see you as a bad parent or spouse because of the inability of the ALO to get better?
- Do you see yourself as failing as a parent or a spouse because your ALO won’t stop?
- Do you avoid social functions out of fear or anxiety arising from fielding questions about your ALO? Do you think people are judging you if they don’t talk to you about it?
- How is your physical and emotional health? How is your job performance? Are you emotionally present in your current relationships and dealings with others?
- Do you think you might be losing your mind? Do you feel like you are suffering in silence? Do you isolate? Are you lonely? Do you feel like no one understands your pain or position? Do you feel jealous of other families that appear to have it together?
- Is your marriage deteriorating over disagreements on how to deal with the ALO?
- Do you feel spiritually detached?
- Do you question what the loving thing to do is in any situation?
Taking the Blame:
- Do you feel responsible for the addiction in your family? Is it due to your family of origin (such as having a father or mother that was alcoholic)?
- What about the way you raised them? Do you feel like your punishment of your children or spouse is why they act the way they do today? Did you ignore them? Give them too much? Give them too little?
- Do you blame their addiction on a divorce or separation? Do you feel like you caused this situation from past actions you or your family took? Does the ALO verbally blame you for their addiction?
- Are you trying to make up for the way you feel by giving them help?
As hard as it may be to accept, this addiction is not your fault! It does not discriminate in its terror. This disease destroys every life situation you can imagine. There is no family that is insulated from the havoc that it creates. In fact, you would probably be surprised to meet people in your exact situation, suffering just down the street.
If you are answering “yes” to these questions, even if just a few, the ALO can continue to use at a rate that can destroy themselves. So, what is the most loving thing to do with an addicted loved one? In our experience, the word “no” can be the most loving thing that you can say to them. It certainly won’t be the most popular, but that is what we are here for. Do you want to be supported? Are you worn out from going it alone for too long?
It is time for your entire family to embrace recovery. This is the first move in the battle for the life of your ALO. If you and your family are not a unified front, the ALO will play you against one another. Some of you know this has already been unearthed as a major weakness in your armor. Let us help you find that power you lost along this weary road.
Remember, anything you ever did, right or wrong, you did out of love!
That is how tragic this disease is. It uses your love against you, and the ALO uses your love to stay sick. This is not something that is done intentionally, but because your ALO is sickened in the mind, body, and spirit.