You’ve been through rehab and done the hard work of getting sober. You’re back to the real world and striving to make real changes in how you live your life so that you can be healthy and happy while maintaining your sobriety. You have loving family and friends on your side to support you, but you’re beginning to wonder who is really on your side. Do you find that some people in your life are resistant to the positive changes you’re making? Are some encouraging you to slide back into old behaviors? They may not mean to be doing it, but some of the people you care about may be enabling bad behaviors. To truly change, you need to address the issue.
What Is an Enabler?
An enabler is someone who allows you to get away with bad behaviors by taking away consequences. This person is typically someone who loves and cares about you and thinks she is helping you. Enablers can impact all kinds of negative behaviors but are most commonly associated with addiction. For example, an enabler of an addict might take care of his responsibilities when he falls down on them because of drug use or drinking. Maybe he forgets to pick up his kids from school because he’s drunk. Instead of letting him experience the consequences of that, his enabler picks up the kids.
How to Spot an Enabler
When you’re in the thick of your addiction and getting high or drunk, you have little awareness of what is going on around you or how people are reacting to your addiction. Now that you’re in recovery, it’s up to you to recognize any enablers in your life. These aren’t bad people, but their actions may keep you from making the positive life changes you need to stay sober. Here are some signs that someone in your life is an enabler:
- She makes excuses for you or blames someone else when you make a mistake or fail to meet a goal you set.
- She picks up your slack when you forget to do something or don’t do it correctly.
- You set goals to make positive changes, but she tells you that you don’t need to make those changes.
- She never tells you how she feels about the mistakes you’ve made or the hurt or damage you have caused.
- She puts aside her own needs and desires in favor of yours.
Spotting an enabler can be tough because they seem like they are all love. When you are really trying to change, though, you need some tough love. You need people who care about you to tell you when you mess up, to tell you how you have hurt them and to let you experience the consequences of your poor choices.
How to Change the Relationship
Once you have identified your enabler, sit down and have a talk. Remember that this person does care about you and love you but doesn’t know how to help. Explain to her that when she doesn’t let you feel the consequences of the choices you make, you can’t become a better person. Use specific examples so that she knows what she needs to do to change. Be sensitive but firm and insist on change. If you discuss the issue with your enabling loved one several times and still don’t see change, you may need to distance yourself. You can’t let someone hold you back from making real, positive changes, especially when your sobriety is on the line. You may not need to cut this person out of your life, but just a little distance could make all the difference.