Monday, January 11, 2010

Enablers: Addicted To Feeling Needed

They whine, and they moan; the selfless amongst us who wait tirelessly hand and foot on the addicts in their lives. We listen empathetically to our friends who are stuck in relationships with alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts and alike. We view our friends as noble, committed and dedicated. We listen on the phone, at work and send countless emails back and forth in support of our friend who is being sucked down into the pits of despair by the loved one in their life. Hey wait a minute. What's going on here?

On the surface it seems like the sickest person in the trio is the one abusing the drug. I say think again.

Patterns represent predictability. As long as the above scenario continues to get played out exactly as it has for as long as it has, the results will be the same. While the partner of the abuser claims she/he wants the abuser to get clean, on some level this may not be the case. And while the friend of the partner of the abuser believes he/she wants the same, one must wonder if this is true as well.

All of us possess basic emotional needs. Some of us need to be needed. Those of us who do, will actively yet unconsciously seek others out that need to be taken care of. Adults who still need to be taken care of are "huge problems", and yet people willingly step into the role of caretaker often.

Needs are not always obvious. Our emotional and psychological needs are invisible yet probably our strongest motivation for behaviors, choices and thoughts. Unless we know who we are, and what our needs are, we can often end up in situations and circumstances that hinder us more than they do propel us.

A person in love with a drug addict may be hiding a need to feel needed. Perhaps somewhere in their childhood programming is the sense that they are worthless and only worthy if they are giving of themselves continually to others. Perhaps there is a history of suicide, or drug use in their childhood that has conditioned them to fear not being completely available to others in their life. Perhaps the love addicted person was taught by one of her/his parents to give up themselves for the sake of others. Perhaps even the love addicted uses the addiction against the addicted person to ensure the abuser never leaves them.

The friend may be drama addicted too. While it is kind and represents compassion to be able to be emotionally available for others, it is not healthy to be sucked into the dramatic soap opera like lifestyles of those around us. Accountability is essential for us all.

Often times the partner of the addicted person not only needs to be needed by the abuser, but also hides even deeper and darker needs. Enablers many times often possess the need to be seen as martyrs by the outside world. Their whining and complaining helps make them feel like they are "good" because of how well they take care of the addict. Their ego shouts, "Look how good I am. I take such good care of my drug addict. Look at me. I haven't eaten in days, but see how well fed he/she is? See what a good little girl/boy I am for taking care of...."

The needs represent deep seeded feelings of low self worth and a detachment to the self.

Any healthy "self" would not tolerate an abuser in their life. Instead, a healthy mind would expect the abuser to take accountability for the problem and to get help. A healthy mind would take accountability for its own happiness and refuse to spend it whining about someone else. Instead healthy minds make lives for themselves rather than make lives about unhealthy others.

The "comforting friend" needs to get a clue as well. Sometimes peoples lives are so dramatic, some feel less anxious when they are helping their friends out with their problems rather than addressing their own issues. Sometimes our friends get a bit enabling too, and get their ego pump by being the one everyone leans on. While being supportive is a requirement for good friendships, when lines get crossed that allow for non accountability to continually and repeatedly take place, no one is being a good friend.

When the addict finally decides to get clean, what then happens to this cycle? Where will the enabler get their sense of self worth from when their is no longer a need to take care of the addict? What then happens to the friend who spends all of his/her free time counseling the enabler?

When the entire dynamic is addressed accordingly, and everyone starts to mind their own business, miracles show up. People find their true selves and learn to live with conviction by being accountable for their own needs and behaviors.

When instead the entire dynamic is not addressed, many times the addict decides to get clean, and the enabler falls apart. As part of recovery, as the addict continues to get healthy he/she will come to realize their partner may have been a big part of the problem. Moving on, the addict leaves the co dependent enabler behind for higher ground. The enabler either continues to chase after the recovering addict or will seek a new addict out to cling to. The friend will usually continue to cling to the drama queen in the middle for her chaotic fix.

We all have a choice to know or to disown our own truth. Each of us are the captains of our own ships. Complainers are simply people who have not learned how to take responsibility for their own happiness. Straightforward, direct, honest, harsh but nonetheless true.