What is Enabling?
Enabling, as part of the codependent vernacular, is helping, assisting, supporting, or bailing someone out, in order they may avoid the natural (and perhaps unpleasant) consequences of their actions.
Why We Enable
We enable because we feel guilt, fear, or an over-active sense of responsibility. And we may call it love or helping. We may label ourselves as compassionate or label ourselves as empathetic. We may offer THIS reason or that reason. If we call ourselves some noble labels or have some socially-approved reasons [ie, “I don’t want my child to suffer.”] while remaining in insanity, it may feel more palatable or more legitimate being a sacrificial martyr than someone who is causing this to themselves.
We love the one we are enabling (unless we are currently calling it ‘hate’ due to our feeling victimized by their needs) but our own insanity or feelings of victimization may be misappropriating our self-caused anger.
Why We Stop Enabling
Of course we do not want to see our loved ones suffer! Of course! NO person in codependent recovery looks forward to the day their loved one can ‘finally get their natural consequences.’
[Sure, some of us may wish this for our enemies but for our loved ones we just want – if we’re honest – for them to ‘straighten out.’]
One problem is that chronic ‘enabling’ [whatever that looks like in your situation] is only a temporary fix that happens REPEATEDLY.
Another problem is that from the perspective of the one you continue ‘enabling’ they have NO good reason to change anything because you have shown that you will contort yourself to whatever their situation calls for.
And depending upon who, how, and to what extent you are enabling, this may lead to a rapidly accelerating or progressive insanity, more frequent or harmful behaviors or even death. Sure. People have been enabled right into misery, psychosis, neurosis, isolation, and death.
So that the natural consequence you may have been avoiding on their behalf happens anyway; but only AFTER you have made yourself and kept yourself financially strapped, emotionally wrecked, and mentally nuts. Maybe you’ve even lost relationships and sacrificed so much you feel you need to keep going to see how it plays out.
How to Stop Enabling
What might happen if you went ahead and felt the pain (anxiety or fear) of ‘not doing’?
Yes, you may have your own pain; That is absolutely correct. Just like the one who would not be enabled by you – at least just this once – might have their own feelings about not getting what they ‘usually’ get from you.
I know that I have. And I have been on both sides of it.
The Taker’s Pain
I know that when I was drinking and someone might try to cut me off I would ‘punish’ them; One manner was a manipulated attempt at having them think I was suiciding and another manner was a drunken physical attack upon a family member.
There were others but these were the most desperate when I remember the insanity of my ‘taking.’
The Giver’s Pain
And on the other side, after sobriety and into Codependent Recovery, I also have gone through fear, panic, guilt for finally saying no, not doing, or taking care of my OWN finances, emotions, beliefs.
How to Engage Healing and Recovery
Cliche Corner: When I got sick and tired of being sick and tired I was spurred into action.
I was sick of feeling like Atlas holding up the world. I was exhausted with the mind-reading, the walking on eggshells, the people-pleasing, the fixing, the managing, and the controlling.
I was sick of barely holding it together and I no longer had alcohol or other behaviors as an outlet to ‘feel better’ because I knew they were only temporary.
I needed something real.
I was finally pissed off enough to stop accepting the blame and shame of whatever I was doing to bring about my own ‘natural consequences.’ I was annoyed that nothing I did was working to improve my life. I was tired of micromanaging every small calamity that may arise.
So finally, I did the scary and went to Al-Anon and eventually grew into Codependent Recovery as an entire approach in dealing with all people, not just alcoholics.
I admitted I was powerless over other people and that my life had become unmanageable.
- I acknowledged it hurt.
- I felt whatever I was feeling. Sometimes I talked about it with a trusted friend.
- I stayed in touch with others in codependent recovery and/or Al-Anon.
- I went to Al-Anon or Codependent Recovery 12 Step meetings.
- I went back through Codependents Guide to the Twelve Steps [Link below]
- I went back through Paths to Recovery [Al-Anon Book] [Link below]
- And the more I practiced these recovery principles in the literature, the more natural they became.
- My entire paradigm shifted.
The Wonderful Gifts of Sanity
The soul pain lessened immediately upon discovering others understood. I learned how to take care of myself in small ways at first and then in larger areas. I learned how to say No. I learned what boundaries were. I learned the signs of knowing when to release a situation or a person. I continued to take care of myself through any painful emotions or the painful ‘and natural consequences’ of my OWN actions.
And one day (when I wasn’t looking) the soul pain simply disappeared.
The bad news is I could no longer blame any person for my own misery, fear, guilt. I mean, I ‘could,’ but internally I knew it was no longer the Truth. I knew the Truth. The GOOD news is that I knew the Truth. I was responsible for myself and I was capable of healing.
Recovery gave me the gift of not only facing myself but the gift of BEING myself. I faced every dusty corner I covered up with martyrdom, control, victimization, people-pleasing, perfectionism, and fear. I looked at my patterns from childhood. I learned what made me tick. I faced my fears and dove in. I took the scary actions. I said the No I had fear of saying. I made the boundaries I knew I’d die over.
And I DID die.
The old fear and survival-based beliefs I’d grown into and adopted in an attempt to keep me safe from harm, died. The mind that thought I had to change my externals in order to fix my internals died. The belief that I had to be perfect, died. The belief that if I could save you, I would be saved, died. Many things did die that I would have considered ‘myself.’ And even that died; the belief that my raging non-stop thoughts and insane beliefs were really me.
And the truest gift was being able to be fully alive.
ONCE in a while, the one I had released DID change. But they changed as a ‘natural consequence’ of my NOT handicapping them as the SIDE effect of my putting myself ABOVE the codependent and enmeshed insanity.
Enable Yourself with Codependent Recovery
- Books to Regain Sanity & Serenity Despite Where you Currently Are
Words on Alcoholism, Drug Addiction or Crazy-Making in All Forms
If you have ever tried to get an alcoholic to stop drinking you are not alone. (And if you’re a kid, do not think I have forgotten about you; This applies to you as well.) If you have ever tried to manipulate, lie or even well-behave yourself into someone else ‘getting better’ I also want you to know you are not alone. If you think you are the worst person who has ever walked this planet, I can assure you that this, too, is a hallmark of crazy-making in all kinds of forms. There is hope. I promise. I was a slug-stain on the shit-side of humanity after I got sober – or so I felt. And continuing, for me, the process of Codependent Recovery (or even just beginning the process with Al-Anon) did miracles for me.
I unlearned and became undone.
And it was and continues to be the best thing I ever did for myself right after sobering up into consciousness. And the good news is that you do not have to be an alcoholic or drug addict to embark on this new life adventure. I welcome you in joining me and so many others in this new life of wonder, sanity, and beauty.
Amen and Namaste, Samsara
Updated August, 2015