Like many of you, addiction has touched our family. Many years ago, my aunt’s brother, who was my age, began drinking heavily. A super-talented guy, he had no problem finding a job but after a few months of outstanding work, he would show up drunk and get himself fired. Upon occasion he would wind up in jail for driving drunk. His mother would always bail him out or take him in after he got fired. Because he was broke she gave him spending money which he, as you might guess, drank up. He went through numerous treatment programs but to no available but with each crisis there was mom to rescue him. Was she helping him or hurting him? Obviously she loved him, or did she?
What separates helping from enabling? As Hannah Harrison writes in her article on enabling, “Enablers believe they are helping. Instead, they are shielding the addicts from coming to grips with the consequences and taking responsibility for their behavior” (AFA Journal, October, 2019, p.17). Those in the recovery movement put it this way, “If you bail them out once, that’s mercy. If you bail them out twice, that’s enabling.” Harrison writes that enablers need to know that an addiction is not their fault. It is the addict’s. The 3 “C”s for enablers are: 1. You did not CAUSE the problem, 2. You cannot CONTROL it, 3. You cannot CURE it.
The road to recovery is hard but the enabler must learn to practice “tough love.” What does tough love for an addict look like? Here are some thoughts from Harrison: 1. Refuse to help your addict financially, 2. Stop covering up for him or her. 3. Protect your family and yourself. Don’t put yourself or children in harm’s way, 4. Get help from a counseling professional who can help you to stop enabling, 5. Be part of a church family., 6. Join a support group of others with an addict in their lives.
As you practice tough love and refuse to enable them in their self-destructive behavior, know that they are not alone in their struggle. The God who promised to never leave the addict or forsake him is with him every step of the road to recovery (Hebrews 13:5).
Christ is our Liberator. He never enables us in our wrongdoing,