Enabling, by definition is “doing for someone things that they could, and should be doing themselves.” In doing this, all consequences are removed from a drug addict or alcoholic’s life. Enabling can look like many things. It can be constantly giving someone money, continuing to repair damaged property, paying for lawyers and court fees, bailing the addict/alcoholic out of jail, or making excuses for the addict/alcoholic. Often the issue of enabling arises from co-dependency issues. Co-dependency is a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (typically narcissism or drug addiction).When I was 19 and heavy into my opiate addiction, my father suddenly passed away. My mother could see that I did not know how to handle this life-changing situation and became very co-dependent, helping and encouraging all my choices even though she knew they were wrong. She reacted this way out of love and I took advantage of the situation. I was completely dependent on her for support and manipulated every situation so I could get what I always wanted, heroin and alcohol. She had no other choice, this is what mothers do for their sons, love them unconditionally. However, after 6 years of abuse on my part and multiple attempts to try to help me sober up by letting me pick the manner in which it was done, my mom had to put her foot down. She had to consider if she was willing to go through some short-term pain or continue a lifetime of misery.
When my mom made the decision to refuse to continue to enable me, she saved my life. The instant she started saying, “No Mark, I cannot do that,” and “No Mark, I am not willing to help you with that,” things began to change for me. She even took vacations away from her own home for weeks at a time to save herself from the nightmare I had become. I finally had to start experiencing the consequences of my actions, which took the form of financial debt, car accidents, hospital visits, arrests, jail time, and internal misery. She stopped supporting me, kicked me out of her house with the threat of calling the police if I returned (which she FOLLOWED through with), and cut off all forms of monetary support. Yes, she took away all of these things, but never did I say she stopped loving me. She was doing all of this because she loved me and couldn’t watch me continue to kill myself and destroy my life. At the time, I lashed out at her in resentment, but I now realize that I brought all these problems upon myself. It took me losing everything and suffering enough to be willing to get help. When she offered treatment, I had no other options left. I was sick of running the gauntlet of addiction. I was sick of the pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization I had put myself through. I had to admit defeat and my mom was there with a plan when I was willing. She never gave up on me and this saved my life.
The relationship that I have with my mom today is truly amazing. After all the awful things I did to her and said to her, she never gave up on me and never stopped caring about me. We are able to call each other and have civil conversations and ask about each others’ day. I can finally be the son she has always deserved. I can be that brother I have always wanted to be. Sobriety has allowed me to rebuild the structure I tore down years ago. Relationships have been repaired and we can finally be a family again. Speaking with my mom now, she says it was all worth it. That short-term pain was just that, short-term, and now we can both experience long-term happiness. It began with a simple, “No Mark, I cannot do that,” and has blossomed into a new life, a new freedom, and a new happiness for not just me, but for my mom and my family.
-Mark Rector (Tech at The Last Resort)