Al-Anon Lifer

Anonymous sharings from a long-time member of Al-Anon, which is a safe place to recover from the effects of alcoholism in a friend or relative...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Is Enabling?

Now that the leaves are off the shade tree in my front yard, I have a better view of the neighborhood. As we go into winter, not only has my little dog wanted more to eat, the wild animals are feeding on whatever they can find. Or in the case of the local foxes (and raccoons and skunks...) whatever my animal-loving neighbor will feed them.

She thinks she's helping them by giving them hot dogs and cobs of corn. But the experts tell us that we should let wild animals fend for themselves. Not only will they be better able to take care of themselves should we suddenly disappear as their source of food, but their ability to fight off disease and other natural enemies if they live off the land.

Plus they won't be too fat. I realized when I saw a really fat red fox run across my yard with a hot dog in his mouth that my neighbor is enabling the animals, although she'll tell you that she is only helping them - she loves them. But in so doing, she is really harming them. They are becoming dependent in an unhealthy way.

So it is with we friends and family members of alcoholics. We may think we are helping them because we love them when in reality we are hurting them - we are enabling them. What form does this take? It is a lot more subtle than buying them their booze.

For me, one way of enabling was being the designated driver - giving the drunk and buddies an excuse to drink out-of-control. I solved this by driving separately to events. Turns out it helped me because I could leave when I wanted and thus was able to enjoy myself - what a concept!

But, you might say, aren't we saving lives by being designated drivers? Maybe if you take turns in your group of friends to be the one who doesn't have even one drink that night... but if you "help" someone by taking away their being responsible, you are enabling. My rule of thumb is if I'm doing for someone what they could/should be doing for themselves, on a regular basis, that is enabling.

Feeding the fat fox (the disease of alcoholism) is enabling the fox to just get fatter...

(c) 2010 Al-Anon Lifer

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