Being an Enabler in a Codependent Relationship

Published: 08th September 2008
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An enabler or rescuer is a person whose actions make it easy for someone with an addiction or who is dependent upon something to keep on in their poor behavior. The person you are aiding could be doing any of the following: drinking too much, abusing drugs, getting arrested, gambling, have an eating disorder or even working too much or not enough.

If you are protecting or covering up for another by making excuses or lying for them, you can become overly dependable to compensate for them. The intent is to give support to the other that they might end their substance abuse or whatever it may be that is their addiction. To the contrary, by helping in such a way, you are making it possible for the dependency or bad habit to continue. No matter how well-intended your actions may be, by saving them from unpleasant situations, in reality, you are helping them avoid responsibility they should be taking for themselves and their behavior.

Maybe you find yourself thinking or focusing on the other's behavior and problems more than your own or are feeling anxious about their behavior and are constantly checking up on them. Maybe you even blame yourself for their problems. Maybe you're not even conscious of the fact your actions and behavior of becoming a caretaker is enabling the person.

A lot of the time when a codependent enables another it is satisfying a need within them to feel needed and to provide order within what they see as a chaotic situation. Whether you provide the other in some way or sometimes by saying nothing, you are enabling.

Enabling can be a clear sign of low self-esteem. It can be because you haven't acquired the skill to be able to say no. It could be the fear of losing the other person'a love. Everytime you respond to what you see as negligent behavior, whether you say so by speaking up or not, you become a rescuer and enable their behavior to continue.

As codependents, we struggle with the need for being in search of approval from others. We also fear being abandoned or rejected, which is why we end up rescuing or enabling another. In our minds, we believe we will be found worthwhile and a success because we've helped another. Maybe we're just avoiding conflicts and problems that we know would arise if we were to voice our opinions. As an enabler, we are determined to protect the other person even if we must sacrifice something in our own life. We believe we can "fix" whatever problem the other faces. We always think it is the other person that is the one who needs help. When it comes right down to it, it is both who are in need of guidance.

Once we realize things are the way they are because of our enabling and when we decide to seek help, where do we turn? First, it is important to realize that we are not the cause of the other person's problem. We must realize that we cannot control the other or cure what we see as their problem. It might be hard, but we must stop coming to the other's aid. Don't lie for them or try to cover up or make excuses for them. Set limits on what you will or won't put up with or do. Once the other realizes that you won't be coming to their aid or resuing them every time, they will become accustomed to taking care of themselves more often.

There are a lot of books out there on codependency. Check your local bookstore or library. There are also self-help groups such as Al-Anon, Alateen and Codependents Anonymous. Many are based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. Check with your local community or community health education programs. If you do not feel comfortable in a group setting, there is also individual therapy you can seek.

Learn to let go of the control you've had over others. Let them be responsible for themselves. Hold others accountable for their own responsibilites and their actions. Learn to focus on your own needs and feelings. You know what is good for your own well-being. Take part in new interest that you may find when you turn your attention back on yourself. Take responsibility for only yourself and learn to live a better life because you do deserve it!

© 2008 Lori Klauser

Visit Lori at: Receive her free e-book Traveling the Road of Codependency when you sign up for her newsletter. She takes codependency one-step at a time; delivering concepts that help you master healing.

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