Are you loving someone to death

The headline is centered boldly at the top of the page of an article about enabling addiction. You can’t miss it. “Are you loving someone to death?” And it stands out sharply enough to stop you in your tracks and give you pause to think about the very idea for a minute or two. Thinking about it is good.

Maybe you know someone who struggles to help a loved one who has an addiction. Maybe you are asking yourself, “Do I enable others or empower them?” “Aren’t you supposed to help the people you love and care about?” It’s one thing to help people who can’t help themselves. But when “help” feeds a problem rather than solving it, that’s a completely different ball of wax.

Children need to grow up learning about responsibility. They don’t learn responsibility if they don’t have to face the consequences of their actions. That is enabling. (A wise woman once advised her offspring to think about consequences before they acted and to make sure the consequences would be something they could live with, perhaps for the rest of their lives.)

Making excuses for a life partner or family member with an addiction might “keep the peace” but, well, that is enabling.

“Enabling your loved one can put them in their grave,” advises Addiction Campuses (www.AddictionCompuses.com), from which came the above mentioned article. “There is a difference between helping and enabling. Knowing the difference is crucial to getting your loved one into treatment to get the help they actually need.”

“It’s a fine line between helping and enabling,” writes Karen Khaleghi, PhD. at www.psychologytoday.com. “Letting a teenager ignore chores while studying for finals may be helpful. Dismissing that teenager’s drug use, drinking, bullying, defiance or violence as ‘just part of being that age’ is not helping.”

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation explains enabling as helping someone to be irresponsible for their actions. They don’t feel the full impact and the consequences of their behavior. No consequences. Keep secrets to keep peace. Make excuses for them. Bail them out of trouble. Blame others for the addicted person’s actions. Give them money that they haven’t earned or don’t deserve. Try to control what the addict can’t. These things are enabling.

Something that you can do for yourself if you are an enabler is to set boundaries and detach. Al-Anon can help you with that. The core principle of Al-Anon is that alcoholics can’t learn from their mistakes if they are over-protected. Setting boundaries means that you consciously set your boundaries about what is acceptable and what is not in your relationships. Detachment with love is caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes, being responsible for your own welfare, and making decisions without the desire to control others. You can’t change an addicted person, advises the Foundation. “Detachment with love plants the seed of recovery.”

Setting boundaries isn’t easy, but it is essential.

“A complete lack of boundaries may indicate that we don’t have a strong identity or are enmeshed with someone else,” according to the Boundaries and Self Care blog at hazeldenbettyford.org. You have work to do on yourself, if you find yourself in this position. Others will challenge your boundaries to which you are entitled. But each time you enforce your boundaries you will become stronger and a better advocate for your loved ones.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org.


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