What is enabling?
Dictionary: Make able, give power or strength.
In the context of addiction: Helping to preserve, protect and maintain addictive behaviour.
When does enabling occur?
Following are some common patterns of enabling behaviour:
–When you put up a brave front
– When you work hard to keep a peaceful and stable home
– When you try to protect everyone around you from pain and suffering.
Addiction is a progressive disease that can only get worse without proper help. An Addict will try maneuvering you into helping him or her maintain the substance abuse. Codependents are motivated to ‘enable’ this substance abuse for various compelling social and personal reasons. These reasons can often appear to be ‘good’ and ‘generous’, but in the presence of addiction, they become twisted and misused.
Here are some examples of common enabling behaviour seen amongst Codependents. Let us see how each one of them effects both you and the addict.
? Peace at any price
Wives are often seen shushing the children when the addict makes unreasonable demands. She would not support the child’s reasonable position because of the threat of anger of the addict. The wife ends up fulfilling all those ‘wrong’ demands of the addict, negating the reality. Thus, she is often found dropping all the good things she actually liked doing because she doesn’t want the husband ‘loosing his temper’ over such ‘small’ things.
But what is it that is actually happening here? The wife actually betrayed her own standards and accepted the unacceptable as a trade -off for a ‘little peace and quiet’.
This sort of constant tension damages one in many subtle ways. It keeps you from paying attention to your own life, pleasures and needs. In the long run, it also results in physical/psychological morbidity. And finally, if you keep dancing to his/her tune, you are making him/her believe things are just fine, as a result of which (s)he becomes more unreasonable.
? Conspiracy of silence
One has always been told not to wash the dirty linen in public. No matter how hurtful, crude, intimidating and violent the addict is, no matter how ‘embarrassing’ you find his/her behaviour, you want to keep quiet about it. The message that is passed on through this silence is ‘It’s okay to behave this way’.
Example: Husband gets drunk at a party, creates a ruckus, and drives back home. Wife keeps her mouth shut through out the evening, trying to ‘ignore’ the embarrassment.
The underlying message:
– He is not drunk enough to be out of control
– I would rather be dead than be embarrassed, so I let him drive the car in this state
– Allowed him to maintain the comfortable delusion that he is in control of himself.
? Getting you to feel guilty
All our lives we have learnt to be ‘good’. A good child, a good spouse, a good parent, and so on. An addict is known to manipulate this feeling that we have in us. (S)he might make statements like:
– If you really love me
– If you were not a nagging wife
– If you were a good mother
The real message is:
You have to behave ‘my’ way. YOU are the problem, not me.
He has harnessed your guilt to maintain and protect his/her habit. However, your guilt does not have to lead you by the nose.
? Your sense of duty/responsibility
It is not upto you to be the ‘perfect’ one in the family. The need to be responsible and dutiful can backfire just like the feeling of guilt. You need to realize that your kindness and sympathy are misplaced. You are again giving messages like:
– he does not have to suffer any consequences for his/her addictive behaviour
– It is okay to be incompetent and irresponsible, because I will do it for you.
This enabling behaviour has some negative consequences on the addict as well. (S)he has an already low self esteem, which goes down further, making the substance even more necessary and attractive. Lack of actual responsibility also makes drinking more comfortable.
? Explaining it all the way
Family members, especially co-dependents are often found giving ‘reasons’ that would explain the substance abuse. One often hears statements like
? “The job is stressful”
? “How else do you deal with the death of your own child”
? “His circle of friends is responsible for this”
? “His marriage is rotten”
One need not discount these circumstances as they might have acted as triggering factors for addiction. However, they may also be the ‘results’ of addictive behaviour.
How to stop?
One must keep in mind one important thing, enabling behaviour of co-dependents and family members actually denies the addict a chance of recovery. You really cannot stop the enabling behaviour all at once. Before trying to stop the action, you can try acting on your thoughts. There are three thoughts that may help you stop before you plunge into one more of those behaviours. They are:
1. Is it really helping?
Rethink everything you have learnt till now. All your life you have ‘learnt’ to behave in a particular manner. Can you stop and examine each one of them? Before acting, can you consider the consequences for you as well as the addict? You can try ‘THOUGHT STOPPERS’ like “WAIT”, “STOP” each time such delinquent thoughts come to your mind.
2. Whose responsibility is it?
You need to re-examine the actions that do not allow the addict to experience the full consequences of his/her actions. You need to ask yourself repeatedly who is responsible for the things going wrong in his/her life.
3. What are my motives?
You need to relook into the ‘real’ motives behind your enabling behaviour.
- Are you doing it because you like the praise you get for ‘taking care’ of the ‘poor soul’?
- Is it going back to the misery driven by the ‘need’ to be ‘good’?
It is not an easy job to examine one’s own self, one’s own motives behind the apparent ‘caring’ and ‘responsible’ behaviour. You would probably find yourself all alone in this new path. However, the self -help groups like AA for family members may be able to provide you with the much-needed guidance and support in this path of self-discovery.
Symptoms of Co-dependency:
- Inability to know what “normal” is.
- Difficulty in following a project through.
- Difficulty having fun.
- Judging self, others without mercy.
- Low self esteem, often projected onto others. (eg: Why don’t they get their act together!)
- Difficulty in developing or sustaining meaningful relationships.
- Belief that others cause or are responsible for the codependent’s emotions.
(Codependents often use language like “you make me feel ______”, or “I was made to feel like____”)
- Overreacting to change. (or intense fear of / inability to deal with change.)
- Inability to see alternatives to situations, thus responding very impulsively.
- Constantly seeking approval and affirmation, yet having compromised sense of self.
- Feelings of being different.
- Confusion and sense of inadequacy.
- Being either super responsible or super irresponsible. (Or alternating between these.)
- Lack of self confidence in making decisions, no sense of power in making choices.
- Feeling of fear, insecurity, inadequacy, guilt, hurt, and shame which are denied.
- Isolation and fear of people, resentment of authority figures.
- Fear of anger or bottling anger up till it explodes.
- Hypersensitivity to criticism.
- Being addicted to excitement / drama. (Chaos making.)
- Dependency upon others and fear of abandonment.
- Avoidance of relationships to guard against abandonment fears.
- Confusion between love and pity.
- Tendency to look for “victims” to help.
- Rigidity and need to control.
- Lies, when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
Are you codependent?
- Do you feel responsible for other people–their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being and destiny?
- Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems or take care of their feelings?
- Do you find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others than about injustices done to you?
- Do you feel safest and most comfortable when you are giving to others?
- Do you feel insecure and guilty when someone gives to you?
- Do you feel empty, bored and worthless if you don’t have someone else to take care of, a problem to solve, or a crisis to deal with?
- Are you often unable to stop talking, thinking and worrying about other people and their problems?
- Do you lose interest in your own life when you are in love?
- Do you stay in relationships that don’t work and tolerate abuse in order to keep people loving you?
- Do you leave bad relationships only to form new ones that don’t work either?
Characteristics of Co-dependent People:
- Controlling behavior
- Avoidance of feelings
- Intimacy problems
- Caretaking behavior
- Hypervigilance (a heightened awareness for potential threat/danger)
- Physical illness related to stress
- Exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- Tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- Tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- Tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- Unhealthy dependence on relationships, will do anything to hold on to a relationship, to avoid the feeling of abandonment
- Extreme need for approval and recognition
- Sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- Compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions
Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Codependency
This condition appears to run in different degrees, whereby the intensity of symptoms are on a spectrum of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale. Please note that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of codependency; not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from codependency.
1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?
If you identify with several of these symptoms; are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships; you should consider seeking professional help. Arrange for a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or psychologist experienced in treating co-dependency.
Homoeopathy can play a very important role in treating codependency.
Natrum mur: Responsibility, bitterness, resentment, broods, weeps alone
Hateful to persons who had offended him. Detests consolation or fuss. Sad; during menses; without cause. Reserved. Easily angered worse if consoled. Company distresses. Hypochondriac. Weeps bitterly; or wants to be alone to cry. Weeps involuntarily, without cause or can not weep. Cheerful, laughs, sings, dances, alternating with sadness. Boisterous grief. Dwells on past unpleasant memories. Anxiety. Apprehension. Awkward; in talking; hasty; drops things from nervous weakness. Absent minded. Scattered thoughts. Revengeful. Thinks she is pitied for her misfortunes and weeps. Immoderate laughter with tears. Abrupt. An idea clings, preventing sleep, inspires revenge. Alternating mental conditions. Extremely forgetful. Aversion, of men (females).
Cocculus: Caring, anxiety, mildness, sympathetic, loss of sleep (looking after husband), not complaining, recognizes and accepts reality (Sehgal)
Dazed. Profound sadness. Thoughts fixed on one unpleasant subject, sits as if absorbed in deep and sad thoughts and observes nothing about her. Sudden great anxiety. Things seem unreal. Slow grasp. Easily offended, cannot bear contradiction. Extremely sad, taciturn and peevish. Takes everything in bad part. Time passes too quickly. Drunkards; reeling, roaring, quarrelsome, singing. Very anxious about health of others. Talkative, witty, joking, dancing, gesticulating. Sees something alive on walls, floor, chair etc. Vaccillatory, does not accomplish anything at her work. Fears death and unknown dangers.
Ammonium Sulph: Resentment about partner, Rancour, anger (Jan Scolten)
Concepts of Ammonium Sulphuricum according to Jan Scolten
Resentment, grudge Clothing
Anger, hate criticism, Beauty, grace, harmony
Closed, reserved Joy
Idealism Love and relationships
Disappointed, gloomy Jealousy
The group analysis gives us the theme of resentment towards the partner.
They feel that their partner doesn’t give them enough love. They see him or her as a cold, reserved and hard person. So they themselves start to behave in a similar way, trying to hide their own vulnerability and need for love.
Another possible situation is that they are resentful because they don’t have a relationship. They feel that they are not receiving any love and when they do finally meet a partner they have such high expectations that it is impossible to fulfil them. So they are disappointed in their ideals and they take this out on their partner. They become irritable and resentful and their partner usually escapes after a very short time. This Am-s behaviour pushes away all potential partners and they end up alone.
Another variation might be that they really do have a partner who is cold and reserved. In this case they have chosen such a partner in order not to have to show their need for love. This often follows the example they had from their parents, who often had the same sort of marriage, with little love and a lot of bitterness and disappointment. They feel that it is impossible to have a loving relationship, so they avoid it altogether by choosing an unloving partner.
(Ref: Jan Scholten- Minerals and Homoeopathy)
Rhus Tox: Anxiety about children, suspicious, suicidal, wife of an alcoholic (Sankaran)
Anxious, sadness; helplessness and profound despondency. Inclination to weep worse in evening; without knowing why; with desire for solitude. Fear of being poisoned. Satiety of life; thoughts of suicide, wants to drown himself. Forgetful cannot remember the most recent events. Fear worse at night, cannot lie in bed. Confusion. Anxiety, respecting one’s children.
Sepia: Overworked, overtired female, too many expectations from household, resentment against the husband, over demanding husband, aversion to sexual contact, anger aggravated by contradiction, beats children, frustrated
Angry, sensitive; irritable; easily offended, and miserable. Wants to commit suicide. Nervous, so that she wants to hold on to something or she should scream. She says and does strange things. Nobody knows what she will do next. Anxious fear; over trifles. Aversion; to family, to those loved best, to sympathy, to company; yet dreads to be alone. Repugnance to customary business; disgust of life. Stifled affections. Poor Memory. Makes mistakes while writing or reading. Sad. Irritability, alternating with indifference or sulkiness. Sad over her health and domestic affairs. Constantly worries, frets and cries about her real or imaginary illness. Sexually minded. Weeps when telling her symptoms. Miserly. *Stupid, wants to go away. Indifference. Takes pleasure in teasing others. Feels unfortunate without cause. Sits quietly and answers either with yes or no. Women hate men and men hate women. Breaks down in spells of weeping.
Ignatia: Disappointment in love, grief, suffers in silence, undemonstrated grief, sadness, grief, hysteria, duty conscious
ALERT;OVERSENSITIVE AND NERVOUS. Highly emotional Moody. Brooding GRIEF. Silent and sad. SIGHS, weeps or laughs by turns, laughs when she ought to be serious. Changeable moods. Unhappy love. Inward weeping; enjoys being sad. Angry with himself. Desire to be alone. Everything irks her. Intolerant of contradiction; of reprimands. Anguish; shrieks for help. Capricious. Delicately conscientious. Fear; of thieves; of trifles, of things coming near him. Introspective. Faints easily, girls who faint every time they go to church; or who fall in love with married men. Sensation as if she had been fasting for a long time. Hurried during menses; no one can do things fast enough for her. Looks about the bed as if to find something. Delights to bring on her fits and produce a scare or a scene. Thinks she has neglected her duty. Sighing and sobbing. Not communicative. Fear of robbers at night.
Naja: Duty conscious, noble, anger
Pulsatilla- Mildness, Timid, Indecisive, weeping
MILD, TIMID, EMOTIONAL, AND TEARFUL. Disgusted at everything. Discouraged. Easily offended. Whining. Craves sympathy. Children like fuss and caresses. Morbid dread of the opposite sex; marriage; thinks that sexual intercourse is a sinful act. Given to extremes of pleasure and pain. Easily moved to tears and laughter; after eating. Religious melancholy. Fear; to be alone, of dark, of ghosts in the evening; therefore wants to hide or run. Capricious. Miserly. Suspicious. Very irritable, touchy; feels slighted or fears slight. Answers, yes or no, by nodding her head. Imagines that certain articles of food are not good for the human race. Sad from disagreeable news. Mania from suppressed menses.
Magnesium carb: Smiles even in the face of grief, neglected, forsaken feeling, theme of repression (Sankaran)
Lac can: Feeling of worthlessness, dirty feeling, Low self-esteem, seeks approval in others
Full of imaginations; horrid; of snakes; vermin. Very forgetful; makes mistakes in writing and speaking. Every symptom seems a settled disease; which is incurable. Fear of disease; of falling downstairs. Child cross and irritable, screams all the time especially at night. Despondent. Attacks of rage. Hysteria at the height of sexual orgasm. Feels as if walking on air or of not touching the bed when lying down. Thinks himself of little consequence. Absent minded. Imagines that he wears someone else’s nose. Thinks that whatever she says is a lie. Fits; of weeping. One’s body seems disgusting. Strong tendency to reproach oneself, which is coupled with lack of self confidence. They feel very low of themselves. They feel they are worthless.
Opium: The main feeling of Opium is Numbness. These people are in Denial. They are not ready to agree that they have a problem. Therefore the rubric “well says when he is not”.they cover up the facts and show a false faÃ§ade that everything is OK.
Dr. Samir Chaukkar
M.D. (Hom) P.G.Diploma-Addictions treatment and prevention (Canada)
Consulting Homoeopath and Addictions Counsellor
Professor-Materia Medica, Y.M.T.Homoeopathic College and P.G.Institute, Navi Mumbai