“What Is The Difference between Enabling and Helping?’

First let me qualify myself as a gold medallist as an enabler. My personal life experiences in this area at least qualifies me to attempt to make the differentiation between these two behaviors. On first blush when discussing enabling as it relates to a behavior between two people. One currently under the influence of an addiction and the other a family member, friend and how they interact with support or lack of support of this person.

From my perspective enabling was an action in which I was the constant rescuer. Continuously taking care of issues and problems that my family member should have been taking care of themselves. Not allowing an individual to deal with the consequences of their actions is also enabling. Giving money to an individual that is capable of working and is not, is the purest form of enabling. Constantly making excuses for our family member’s inability to perform normally in our society is also enabling. I could go on and on with many examples of enabling, but I think you get the idea.

So what is appropriate help for an individual dealing with addiction. A rule of thumb our family finally adopted is, when our loved one was truly dedicated and serious about their addiction we would help with family support in the following ways. First and most important we told our family member that when they are doing the right things ie. treatment, working addressing their issues and accepting responsibility for their behaviors we would be there and form a reasonable support system to enhance the recovery process. When your loved one is actively involved with their addiction this can create a high degree of family stress and dysfunctional interaction affecting all family members. When this occurs I felt it was necessary for our family to develop the philosophy of “Let Go, Let God.”

Often times the difference between enabling and helping is difficult to distinguish. Using common sense and learning to say no, I feel can help one make the right decisions in terms of helping and not enabling. Remember, enabling is harmful and counterproductive. Whereas, helping can lead to positive situations.

Remember, enabling will never help the addict, but helping in the right way will.

Have you been a gold medalist enabler with your loved one? And if not how did you avoid this difficult behavior? Don’t forget the natural reaction for us is the help our loved ones, not abandon them.

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