Essential Enabler

With addictions, there are often, if not always, people around who “enable.” We all know this. We all have seen it or lived it or read about it, and I never wanted to be an enabler. I did not see myself as an enabler before I knew addiction lived in my house. I was determined to raise strong, independent children who would grow into strong, independent adults so when they forgot their lunches? They ate the proverbial peanut-and-butter-on-white-bread sandwich and drank water supplied by the cafeteria – no running the forgotten lunch to the school for this mom. Didn’t get the permission slip signed? Missed the field trip – no frantic return to school to provide the missing document for me…or how would they ever learn? No way, no chance I was going to raise an enabled child – huh, uh. Not me.

PBJ

Except there was one little problem in my plan.

I was an enabler.

See…an enabler can look kind of good in many ways. And when you grew up in that kind of home, it is all you know…your way of life…part of your DNA. Some of the things enablers do? And that I do, NO, that I did?

  • Enablers act out of a sincere sense of love, loyalty and concern: I honestly loved HUSBAND. Adored my children. Had high levels of concern for all and was loyal – to a fault.
  • Enablers step in to protect, cover-up for, makes excuses for and sometimes take responsibility for others: Even though I worked overtime on the obvious to NOT do this, over and over and over I did each of these things. When HUSBAND abandoned me during important times (story for another blog) I made excuses and covered up. When he treated someone poorly, I took the blame – he often even made me the heavy knowing I WOULD take the blame.
  • Enablers avoid potential problems by working to keep peace…doing whatever they can to avoid conflict thinking this will actually solve problems: Funny that I could see this so clearly in my own mother and determined not to do it…yet upon close examination, I did the same. You know, avoiding subjects. Not saying how you feel to avoid conflict. Curbing your ask to make it more palatable. Yup, I was a master who learned from a master.
  • Enablers have a hard time expressing their feelings, often keeping emotions inside: This one was tricky, because I acted like I had emotions. However, I stuffed my real feelings so deep inside that I didn’t even know what they were. I was STRONG. I was EMPOWERED. I didn’t need anyone or anything. Of course, that girl was impenetrable but really deeply wounded, deeply needing to be cherished and valued and loved.
  • Enablers minimize situations thinking “the problem” will get better later: Over and over and over. Again, I acted as if I was facing issues. HUSBAND and I went to counseling from time to time. We went to marriage classes and family seminars and family groups and all that stuff. But the real meat of pain and sources of confusion? Just couldn’t quite go there even though I fooled myself into thinking we had and were.
  • Enablers tend to lecture, blame or criticize the person they are enabling: This really doesn’t need more explanation. Other than it is tied to protecting, covering-up and making excuses. After doing so, HUSBAND would get a lecture to which he’d respond “I’ll do better.”
  • Enablers sometimes take over the responsibilities of the person they are enabling. They will cover up for them, pick up their slack and come to the rescue – all to minimize consequences: Again…doesn’t need much more explanation. But if this is you, then you know you likely pay the bills, select and purchase the presents – even for his family, explain to others why you forgot the event/party/funeral/etc, complete the expense reports for HIS company/work, write the reports for HIS company/work…the list goes on. Interesting, though, how HUSBAND was fantastic about planning hunting trips, fishing trips, fucking trips…didn’t need any help there…
  • Enablers are good at enduring…convincing themselves that this, too, shall pass: A life mantra…
  • Enablers believe in waiting…often believing God will take care of this: He has a plan and all that…
  • Enablers give one more chance. Then another one more chance. Then another one more chance… Story of my life with HUSBAND, pre discovery of the double-life.

Enabler

So DDAY sucked. But it started me on a path of self-discovery like no other event or time before. My healing and journey and changes have been important no matter the outcome or state of our marriage. This…THIS is what I had to recognize, to grieve, to let go of and to change about myself. NOT to save my marriage…to save me. Whether I stayed married to HUSBAND or moved on, this would follow me unless I learned to see it, to purge it, to learn new ways to approach old things. I had to find my voice, a healthy, non-manipulative voice that could recognize and care for me – share my needs and hopes and wishes and dreams and allow myself to feel – DEEPLY – without fear. I have put that essential enabler in a grave, alongside my old marriage, and today am living in a freedom I never knew existed. The essential enabler has become a healthy human.

healthyhuman

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29 thoughts on “Essential Enabler

  1. I raised independent children. I did not coddle them. Your list of what enablers do, fits me exactly. I struggle with the enabler label just as I struggle with co-dependent and (gag) co-addict. I think everyone enables others now and then. The important thing, as you noted, is that we can turn this crap we are going through into an opportunity to be a more “healthy human.” I like that. I’m discovering things about myself that I would have never known if D-Day didn’t happen. Yes. Becoming more healthy has also made me feel more free and liberated. Your post makes me feel hopeful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Avalon…I’m grateful that anything I shared could make anyone else feel hopeful. We have so much to give each other, and I’m grateful for this community that is giving me so much. I hate these labels too. I hate that I ended up being able to see me in some of these behaviors. But I’m grateful that there has been amazing support to help me embrace health…

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    1. It does…but as I worked to disentangle myself, I had so much fear, so many times it would have been easy to go back. I still work daily to ensure I’m not going back there…

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  2. Oh, Susan…how hard I fought against the label of “enabler” and “co-dependent”… I mean, how could I possibly enable something I knew nothing about? Ha! It is true that what you don’t know can hurt you. I enabled Will’s addictions simply by enabling his many, many other behaviors which allowed him the freedom to pursue those addictions unchecked. Knowingly or unknowingly, my covering for him, excusing him, tolerating the intolerable….all of that is enabling. What is empowering is knowing now and not being willing to ever go back. Great post! xoxo

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      1. No, the hurt is healing. However, your enabler post really hit home. I’ve always been a loving, loyal and supporting husband but also minimized situations and told myself things would get better down the road. The post while spot with highlighting the most common traits of “enablers”, it just got me mad at myself for not recognizing the signs earlier. Also, I’m not a big fan of the phrase ‘enabler’, though technically accurate, it just rubs me the wrong way, just need to get over it. I know I speak for everyone, thank you for your insightful posts and support.

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        1. We are all in this together in an odd and horrible but strangely amazing way. I am not an enabler either–worked so hard not to be — yet found myself absolutely matching up to so many of the behaviors. Let’s get strong together. Strong without bitter…brave but gentle. HUGS to you…and thank you so much for your honesty.

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  3. I am, too, struggling with the label ‘enabler’ (I plain reject being ‘codependent’). The list you pulled together, SS, fits me perfectly, I’ve been all those, I’ve done all those. Enabler? Maybe. Good, trusting, supportive, emotionally healthy and available partner? Possibly. Somewhere in between? Potentially. I think all these traits you listed are ‘enabling’ only if there’s a narcissist sick man on the receiving end who takes advantage of the kindness you bring into the relationship. Had you applied these traits to an equal (and by that I mean emotionally healthy) partner, maybe you wouldn’t have been hurt. In other words, you need to go through the devastation and hurt so you change your thinking and feelings – and it that sense I am wondering if instead of peeling layers off and finding your real you, isn’t it really building a new you, adding layers, layers that shield you, that make you wiser and stronger going forward. Am I making any sense? Or am I really off the track? Hard to see the line between ‘enabler’ and the ‘trusting partner’ I thought I’d always been (in all my relationships).

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    1. Oh yes, MWS…there is lots of truth in what you are saying. I know for me it has been peeling layers off that I didn’t even know were there…but since you mention it, I’ve also added new, healthy layers – yet in a strange way, they are transparent. For me, the reality that I could not see HUSBAND wasn’t trustworthy has been difficult – and part of what drove me to work on me. I can’t speak for you, but now that I am here, I can see that the behaviors, while perhaps loving and trusting in the right doses, for me were exaggerated and extended even when they were not warranted. Taking blame for his faults/failures? Covering up his inadequacies? Doing his work? Making sure he looked good even when he wasn’t doing good? For me those are not ever healthy or loving, they are allowing him to be one thing, and appear to be another. It is hard to see the line, and believe me, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else…only looking in the mirror… HUGS.

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      1. I hear you so clearly – and I hope I didn’t come across as confrontational, I know you are definitely not pointing fingers, you are the most graceful lady in our little Shitland and I am ever so grateful for every word you share about your journey because it’s helping me (and I’m sure others) tremendously. Using your mirror on my situation (if I may), in retrospect, I have also discovered actions and behaviours on my end that were exaggerated love / trust / patience / endurance – such as when he never called during his work trips and I never made a big deal out of it, or when it was always about him and I didn’t fight, or didn’t fight strong enough about my wants and needs. And many more, really. In that sense, I am an ‘enabler’, too – I think I just don’t like the sound of ‘enabler’ because it rings too close to ‘codependency’, ‘coaddiction’, and those I am quick to reject.

        Also, I completely understand how for you it’s been very difficult to accept that you could not see him being not trustworthy. It’s a struggle for me, too, but you’ve been in this for way longer – longer marriage and four kids. I hope you can work your way through this particular issue and accept that – even with your over-loving, over-trusting, over-supporting behaviours – you had no part in what he really is. HUGS, big ones.

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        1. Thank you so much for your heart and understanding. I did not take any offense…in any way… I so believe that while we can each learn from the other, we are also on solo journeys…side by side…HUGS!

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