How to Distinguish Between an Act of Love and an Act of Enabling
feel like Im about to lose it. I swear to God if one more person blames me for being
the cause of my son using drugs, Im going to explode. Doesnt anybody
understand that I love my son. Im just trying to help. Whenever I try and explain
myself, why I do the things I do for my son, everyone calls me an enabler and tells me
that my son wont quit using drugs until I stop enabling. How can an act of love
possibly be the cause of my sons drug problems.
reasonable person doubts how much you love your son. In fact, your situation is one of the
most heartbreaking aspects of chemical dependencythe dilemma of how a loving,
well-intended family member can best rescue a loved one who has fallen into the
abyss of chemical dependency. Given the choice of idly standing by and watching your
sons life deteriorate, spiraling out of control right before your eyes or doing
anything and everything that you can to save your sons life, well thats a
no-brainer, youll do anything and everything that you can to save his life.
question is not whether you should do anything and everything or nothing at all for your
son. The question you need to focus on is what is the best thing for you to do.
Whenever a family member evaluates whats the best thing to do for their loved one
who is suffering from the disease of chemical dependency, its helpful to be mindful
of a phenomena referred to as enabling. When evaluating the effectiveness of
your specific efforts at helping your son consider the following question: Are you
providing aid and comfort to your chemically dependent family member or are you merely
pouring gasoline on an already raging out of control fire? To answer that question,
lets first examine the difference between helping and enabling.
is an act of providing assistance to somebody for something that theyre not
capable of doing at all or at least by themselves whereas enabling is an
act of providing assistance to somebody who could and should do
something for themselves.
is an act of assistance whereas enabling is an act of insulating an individual from
the consequences of their behavior.
is an act that contributes to the solving of a problem whereas enabling is an act
that contributes to the perpetuation of a problem.
is an act that empowers a person to grow and become independent whereas enabling is
an act that gives permission to a person to remain sick, helpless, and dependent on the
is a statement of love for and belief in another individual whereas enabling is a
statement of pity for and lack of belief in another individual.
is an act of support whereas enabling is an act of control.
should you be mindful of the line between helping and enabling?
about it this way. Family, interpersonal, occupational, emotional, psychological,
physical, spiritual, financial, and/or legal consequences are what can most effectively
break through the denial system of a chemically dependent individual and eventually
motivate a chemically dependent individual to seek help for their disease. Not your best
intentions! Not your threats! Not your love! Not withholding of love! Not your pleas! Not
your punitive actions! Not your self-righteous indignation! Not misguided applications of
compassion! Not your pain! Not your apathy! Consequences and only consequences
have the power to do what no amount of human willfulness can doget the attention
of a chemically dependent individual who is in denial.
anything that insulates a chemically dependent individual from the
consequences of their drinking and drugging is actually fortifying the denial system of
the chemically dependent individual. And in so doing, any act that fortifies the denial
system of the chemically dependent individual enables the chemically dependent
individual to remain active in their disease protected from experiencing any of the
consequences caused by their drinking and drugging.
be mindful of the following. Its possible to love your son to deathliterally.
If, in loving your son, youre enabling him to not experience the consequences
of drinking and drugging then youre insulating him from the experiences necessary to
open his eyes to the one truth that may save his lifeuntil he accepts responsibility
for the consequences of his alcohol and other drug use, his life will continue to be
ravaged by the use of alcohol and other drugs.
leave you with this last thought. Youre not to blame for your sons
behavior and your sons disease. Youre a good person who no doubt loves your
son! Your life undoubtedly is drowning in despair and desperation. You, rightly so, have
no intention of standing by while your son throws his life down the toilet. Take your good
intentions. Mix your good intentions with more good information about the disease of
chemical dependency. Dont try and defeat this disease all by yourself. There are
dedicated professionals in your community who have dedicated their life to helping people
just like you make the best decisions possible for both you and your sons emotional,
physical, and spiritual well-being. So how best to know what enabling behavior is? Let me
suggest the following questions as potential guidelines for you.
from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to
choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D.
Recovery book seriesFrom Insanity to Serenity.
1.) Do you cover up for your son when he fails to go to school or work because he is
2.) Do you protect your son by accepting part of the blame for his drinking or behavior?
3.) Do you avoid talking about his drinking for fear of how he will respond to you?
4.) Have you bailed your son out of jail and/or paid for his legal fees?
5.) Do you pay those bills of his that he is supposed to pay himself?
6.) Do you loan him money?
8.) Do you find yourself giving him one last chance time after time?
9.) Have you finished a job or project that your son should have finished himself?