Adrian spared a glance to his friend. “You know, one day you’re gonna wake up and look around you and realize that your life isn’t as awful as you think it is. One day you’re gonna realize that there is something worth living for. And I hope you don’t have to wind up in a jail cell before that day comes.”

Ian shrugged. “Honestly? I couldn’t care less.”

He looked back to the road. “I know. That bothers me worse than anything else. But if it comes to that, I promise, you’ll care then.”

“What would you know about it, little Mr. Sunshine?” He pulled a pint from his pocket, and Adrian jerked it away from him.

“Not in my car; especially not while I’m driving.”

-excerpt from Something Called Redemption

 The topic of enabling has been brought up with me a lot lately. For those who may not know, enabling is any action on the part of someone that in turn allows or contributes to an addict’s/alcoholic’s behavior.

Many enablers believe they are helping the person they love. They don’t want to see them go hungry or have nowhere to live. They can’t stand to see them hurting or upset so they try to keep them happy. The reality is that their actions are continuing and perpetuating the addict’s behavior. Even something that seems innocent can have devastating consequences the enabler doesn’t see coming.

A few examples of enabling are: loaning money, driving the addict to ‘a friend’s house’, allowing them a free place to stay with no responsibilities, allowing them to threaten self-harm or harm to others if they don’t get money and/or drugs/alcohol, paying bills for them, not enforcing any rules, acting as if their behavior isn’t a problem, and many more.

Each case is different. I know of someone right now dealing with an alcoholic and one form of the enabling going on in that situation is always answering the phone when the alcoholic calls. A phone call doesn’t seem like it’d do any harm, right? In this case, it is. Those phone calls are the last link he has to anyone who cares and he uses them to exert his control over the person he calls. He feels justified in his actions because the calls are taken seriously.

Many times enablers don’t realize that their actions can actually help the addict/alcoholic on their road to complete destruction. Look at it this way, there are many different ways for someone to hit bottom, including but not limited to overdose, alcohol poisoning, or accidents and fights that result from being high or drunk. Would you rather your loved one hit bottom in an emergency room or when they realize they have no money, nowhere to live, and no true friends left to turn to?

I know it’s painful to have to hurt those we love, but many times it’s the most loving thing we can do. Forcing a ‘rock bottom’ scenario could lead to a quicker recovery. Take it from someone who’s been there, I’m so thankful that I didn’t have anyone to enable me when I finally quit drinking. At the time I was frustrated and angry, but now that I’m nearing my two year mark of sobriety I’m extremely thankful.

The answer to enabling is simple and yet difficult. Stop. No more handouts. No more money. No more free rides. Do whatever it takes to force the addict to really examine their situation. Be firm, but also do it in love. Remember, they’re blinded by their actions. Make sure they know that they’re loved. Make sure they know that should they choose to get help, they will not be alone.

James 5:20 says: let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The best way to truly help someone in the grips of addiction is to pray for them, offer help to them, and refuse to be any part of continuing their downward spiral. Enabling is NOT the same as helping. But remember that the choice is ultimately theirs. You can’t force them to sober up any more than you can force someone into salvation. But you can do your part to lead them to the right path.

If you know an addict or alcoholic please examine how you relate to them and make the decision to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. I happened to stumble upon A Mother’s Heart a week or so ago and found a woman who truly understands the heartache but importance in putting an end to enabling. Susan J Silva is a great source of encouragement to others who are dealing with a loved one in the midst of addiction and I highly recommend her blog.

Do you know an addict, alcoholic, or enabler? Please, leave your comments, questions, or maybe even advice. I’d love to hear from you.