The dictionary defines “enable” as to make possible, to give power, to give someone the authority or the means to do something. On the other hand the definition of “help” is assist and to make it easier; to do something by offering one’s services. So the big question is why do we rescue our alcoholic from the pain of their repeated poor decisions and choices? Why do we do that? Are we improving their life when we bail them out, and when we lie and run interference for the same mistakes over and over again? What is our motive?
When you think about, it every time we “rescue” our alcoholic from their chaos we make it possible for them to do it again. We give them the power and the means to continue on their path of self destruction. In our mind we are helping them right? Well, in a way we are helping by making it easier for them to continue to repeat their mistakes. We help them continue on their path of self destruction because we offer our services to clean up their mess-ups.
Oh we have good intentions. We are going to help them, they are going to see the light and clean up their act. Sure they are. Bahhahaha! Somewhere in the literature I read that the first time someone does something we justify it in our minds as an accident. We give them the benefit of the doubt. The second time they do it we justify it as a coincidence. But folks, by the third time we need to wake up and smell the coffee. There is no justification for their behavior. It is not an accident or a coincidence; it is a habit.
I don’t know why other people keep trying to save the alcoholic from themselves, but I can tell you why I did it. I was afraid. I was afraid of losing what I had and I was afraid of not getting what I wanted. So I was buying time until I could figure out how to stop him from self-destruction. I was trying to figure out how I could control him and save him. Another reason was that I was trying to protect myself. If he lost his job we would suffer financially. Also I was prideful. I did not want anyone to know how bad things were. And there were even times I felt guilty like it was somehow my fault that he drank the way that he did.
To me, living with my alcoholic was like watching a volcano blow and standing at the bottom of the mountain looking at the burning lava slowly come down the side of the mountain. There was no way I was going to stop it. I could stay and get burned and be destroyed by it, or I could get out of the way and let it run its course.
It took me a while to realize that my “helping” did not help my husband with his drinking problem, but instead it helped him feed his problem; I was enabling. It was a while before I realized that my “helping” was an attempt to control the fall out from my alcoholic’s drinking. I took over his responsibilities so that he would not have to suffer his consequences. I even took the blame sometimes to divert his consequences. I adapted my schedule, my needs, my life to “protect” him. It seems that my best intentions often times had disastrous results. My sponsor ask me why I thought that I was less important than my alcoholic? I told her I did not understand. Then she ask me why I sacrificed my needs to accommodate his harmful conduct? I did not have an answer. I had never thought of it that way.
Accepting my powerlessness helped me understand that even though I was powerless over him I was not powerless to change the situation to protect myself from the effects of his behavior. My rights ended where his began and his rights ended where mine began. Knowing that allowed me to get off of that merry-go-round of setting myself up for failure by trying to save or fix him.