Dysfunctional Family and Enabling

Dysfunctional family members enable alcoholics and addicts preventing recovery. Addiction creates enablers, codependency and other dysfunctional family behaviors.

When you live in a family when there is an alcoholic or addict, nobody escapes dysfunction. You may not be the addict yourself, however, because of the addiction, others in the family play roles. In North America, approximately 48% of all adults over the age of 18 have been impacted by alcoholism and if you came from an alcoholic family, you develop certain coping strategies.



It’s been said that it takes four people to maintain an addict. I believe it. Think about it, if a family member has an addiction no none of the dysfunctional family members want to talk about it, so they share lies and give excuses to keep the family secret. In the process, they hide their pain, anger, and concern, but these emotions will surface inappropriately, and can even make them physically ill.



The Enabler: There are different types of enablers, but usually the spouse or the partner enables the most. Ex.: the husband comes home drunk and is sick the next morning. After nagging and trying to get him to work on time, she calls his boss and with an excuse. She’s in a bind. If he loses his job she’ll have another problem to deal with, however, if she didn’t enable him he’d be confronted by his drinking and this can push him into treatment.

Enablers are usually high functioning. They handle everything and pick up the slack for the addicted person. They do car-pools because they don’t trust the addict. They make appointments for everyone and make sure they’re kept – I think you get the picture – but eventually it takes an emotional and physical toll.

An enabler can be anyone: the parent who keeps giving money, a boss, a friend, or family member -- even a child who feels sorry for the dysfunctional parent and helps any way that they can. The addict will take advantage of all of them. Enabling has got to stop because it prevents the addict from taking responsibility for their behavior and getting help.



Codependency: Codependency is common in addiction. Addicts are needy (although they may not act as if they are) and they attract people who will help them and feel sorry for them. This relationship is based on need, and this is not a healthy relationship.

Living with an alcoholic/addict is abusive, however, codependents don’t leave – and if they do, they eventually get back together. It’s very hard to break up if you’re codependent, because codependents have low self-esteem and they need to be needed. If you think this applies to you try these codependency tests.

You may feel defeated and can’t get out of a codependent relationship, Al-anon and codependency anonymous can help dysfunctional family members.

Codependency counseling is very effective and coaching is another way to help you deal with the situation and when you’re ready, you’ll be strong enough to move on.



Have a question? Just ask

When you're in a codependent relationship, you can drive yourself crazy with what you do -- particularly when you've told yourself you won't do it again. You're angry, frustrated, hurt -- so many feelings. Telling your story (anonymously if you like) is liberating, and also you're helping others, knowing they are not alone.


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