Most enablers are well-intentioned. We act out of kindness, not realizing we’ve been lured to the tip of the skewer by the addict. We try to rescue the addict from himself by fixing his circumstances and kicking his troubles down the road.
Other enablers do-the-deed through denial, low stamina for high-alert, party-buddy preservation, or simply because they couldn’t care less.
And then there are the enablers who adhere to an Unwritten Code that commands loyal protection from ‘getting in trouble’ (not seeing the real trouble the addict is already in). These enablers guard secrets that shouldn’t be kept, covering for even the most destructive behavior, like drinking while driving or overdosing or relapsing. To be nice. To be helpful. To protect.
Protect. A concept so simple, yet so misconstrued. When applied to an addict, the definition of protect needs to be turned inside-out.
Protect /prə-ˈtekt/: a) to make the addict violently angry and hate you and think you are mean; b.) to re-examine the meaning of help and hurt, and to act on that new understanding; c.) to be negatively judged by the whole world; d.) to feel sick and tired; e.) to suffer all the above short-term for the sake of the addict’s long-term well-being.
The addict pushes away the people who get in his way — the ones setting up roadblocks and shining lights in dark corners and speaking truths — but clings to (and flatters) those who so accommodatingly allow him to thrive. My son pushed away me and all the rest of his family and everyone else who truly cared, surrounding himself instead with people who would make his pathetic addicted existence comfortable. People who made it easier for him to use. Enablers. But, every time Joey was broken or dying, the enablers disappeared, thankful, I’m sure, the mess wasn’t theirs to worry about (if they bothered to give him any thought at all).
The enablers won’t lose a single night’s sleep if Joey dies.
But I will.
The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction is available in bookstores and libraries.