Are You Empowering or Enabling?
Let me first start by stating that I am not a fan of the concept codependency. There is little empirical evidence for it and respected psychologists have fairly criticized that the concept pathologizes normal helping behaviors without considering the full context of the helping. Although I disagree with a lot of the language used in the article, I do believe that the 8 questions posed by the author are useful for family members to consider if they are thinking about changing how they relate to a loved one’s addiction. At times the ways we unintentionally (or sometimes intentionally) make it easier for an addicted loved one to use are not obvious; the questions listed in this article can help someone start to identify their own actions that may be “enabling” a loved one to keep using. Once an enabling action (e.g., cleaning up a loved one’s vomit) is identified a family member can think about ways to stop or decrease doing the action (don’t clean up the vomit). Because family members often want to help their addicted loved ones, I often work with family members to come up with actions that “enable” sobriety (e.g., inviting them to dinner at a time or place where they aren’t likely to drink) while they also work to stop doing things that make it easier for their loved one to continue drinking.
Stay tuned to our blog because we’ll be discussing specific strategies to disable enabling and to support sobriety!
~Dr. T of the SoberFamilies Team