Chronic Enabler

by Cindy
(Ohio)

For some reason I never thought of myself as an enabler. The word popped in my head and I decided to investigate more deeply.

I watched my mom bullied by my father and dealt with the physical, emotional, verbal and mental abuse until I got married and moved away.

The man I married was in the military and convinced me that he could not live without me, which I see now was a sign. The first year was great but then he started isolating me unless he was there to control the situation or people I was with. I allowed him to control my every move because I thought I was reassuring the man I love that I was not going to hurt him and to "make up" for the fact that his every living moment was "controlled" by the military.

After 4 years of that he went from the submarine to shore duty where he had plenty of time for "himself". He began to drink and I thought it was the transition and the stress of becoming a father. The drinking got worse, I made every excuse for him to friends and family.

He did his 9 yrs and got out. He got a job that made us travel and when I was pregnant with our 3rd child I could no longer follow him from hotel to hotel with the kids.

One month after I was to have our 3rd child, my oldest was turning 5 and needed to start school, I was almost 4 hours away from any of our family or friends and was scared that I would not be able to be the mom I needed to be without help.

Since he only came home on the weekends (if he wasn't "too stressed"), I asked him if I could move back to our small home town where I could send my son to the school that I went to and after a lot of debate he allowed me to pack our things and move 6 days after I gave birth, without his help.

For the next year I raised our two toddlers and baby with little to no help from him except financial. To end this chapter I will some it up with he drank more, drove the whole 3 hours home to see us less and less and after missing 3 birthday parties I put together within 2 weeks for our son... I told him that I was couldn't do it anymore and I needed a divorce. 11 years I was with him and I enabled, and sometimes encouraged him, because I thought that the more I gave, the more he would love us as a family.

A few months later I began a relationship with a man that I had known since I was 15 and although he had a habit of smoking "pot" he claimed that he would happily give it up for me and my children. He made me feel like I had a complete family and I adored him for that.

To make this chapter even shorter, I ended our 6 years together today because I just can't continue to live my life like this. I supported him financially, emotionally, and every other way possible. I allowed myself to enable him to sleep all day, and play video games and do whatever he wanted because he couldn't hold down a job "due to the fact that he needed pot to sleep". The truth is that I knew it was bullsh*t but I was trying to "reward" his behaviour for not doing drugs.

He ended up getting so behind in child support for his own 2 children that the court put him on probation so they could monitor actions or lack there of. He has failed his second drug test and I couldn't do it any more.

I enable my kids by not making them do chores or keep their bed times even though it is effecting their routines at school. I Just ended friendships with 2 of my closes friends because even after playing "husband" to both of them financially, emotionally and taking over alot of daily tasks for them for the past 3 years, they both still continue to put themselves and their wants before the needs of their children.

I ALWAYS THOUGHT I WAS BEING A GOOD MOM TO THOSE THAT I LOVE. I never thought that I was the root of the problem.

Everyone that I left became a better people after I was gone to "prove to me" that they could the people I needed them to be to be in my life and apart of my children's lives. I thought I helped them grow as people. I now realize that I hindered their growth and have no doubt that all of them would go back to their old habits if I allowed them back into my life.

I feel the need to take care of those I love.
I also didn't believe that I fit the "enabler" bill. I am intelligent, attractive (so they tell me), I don't drink, do drugs (I won't even take an Advil unless I have a headache for more than a day), I am not depressed, I take pride in my appearance but I don't need make-up on at all times to feel good, I take time out with my kids to enjoy life, I weigh 129lbs but I eat healthy. I almost 35yrs old but just wish that I was born in the June/Ward Cleaver days. Where men were men, women were ladies and the children had a chance to grow up slowly.

If you can relate, please understand that although misery loves company, you can be unhappy all by yourself. It hurts more when the one you love either doesn't notice or doesn't care. It feels like a wet blanket has been lifted off of me every time I have gone through this change but you will have withdrawal. Don't be bitter, just know that there is a whole world out there. God Bless

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Dec 07, 2010
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Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you for sharing your story. I am new at all this. Is leaving the person you enable the only answer?

Apr 28, 2010
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I recognize myself in your story
by: Bonnie

Hi Cindy:

How similar your story is to mine and to so many other women who think that if we just keep giving more that it will all work out.

We use ourselves up and then cannot understand why the people that we have been taking care of do not recognize and respond to our needs.

I am almost 2 years out of a 30 year old marriage where I thought that if I kept giving and changing that I would be enough for my husband and that we would both be happy. After years and years of being unhappy, telling him that we needed help and being ignored, I finally got out. The changes I have made in my life are astounding and the fact that the world doesn't stop spinning when I tell people "NO" when they ask for help is a simple but profound revelation.

I think we are programmed from a young age to be "nice" and that those of us with strong maternal instincts can run amuck with being "nice" to the point that we are everyone's doormat and are allowing ourselves to be used up.

It ultimately comes down to being responsible for our own feelings and not feeling guilty for having them.

Your post resonated with me and I thank you for sparking the dialogue.

Apr 21, 2010
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Thank You
by: E

Hi Cindy,
Thank you for your inspiration. I broke off my relationship tonight because I realized that I was neglecting my life and trying to control his and it's not the first time. I feel like a dirt bag for breaking up with him, he's in the middle of dealing with his 2nd DUI sentence and his mom's having a lot of health issues that he's completely unprepared to deal with. He's the nicest, kindest person I've ever dated and he treats me like gold. I just don't like who I've turned into since we started seeing each other and I don't want to resent him for it. I feel like maybe there's something to be learned from being IN it for me, but at the same time I don't want to realize 5 years from now that there wasn't really, that I was just addicted to him because he drinks like my dad and I still need to prove my worthiness or whatever.
I'm relieved for the most part. I didn't like hurting him, he didn't see it coming. We had a great day together and then I dropped it on him at dinner. I wish I could make him understand how unhealthy it feels from here and how many of my decisions are based on what's happening in his life and with his mom. I want to be his friend and I don't mind helping him with some things as long as I don't feel 'responsible' for them or him and as long as the 'helping out' is mutual. I don't want to 'own' his recovery (he hasn't had a drink in 4 months) or feel responsible if he falls off the wagon.
I've had a suspicion that if I could find the strength to walk away that he'd be more likely to get the help he really needs. Your post gives me hope that he will. Thank you.

Mar 16, 2010
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Response to Chronic Enabler
by: Kathleen D. Cone

Thank you Cindy!

For writing this comment. Your strength of character has given me hope. What a wonderful and caring person you really are. I'm not saying that in a superficial way. I'm thinking about how if you had been afforded a healthier childhood yourself, what an amazingly goood hearted and kind person you are.

Yes I can very much relate to your commment, subsituting my own unique circumstances to the stories you told, but reaping from this hope that moving forward in life means moving beyond enabling.

But I just wanted you to know that the real person inside of you is one heck of a compassionate, kind, caring and genuinely outstanding person.

Enabling as I read in Don's first definition is not a negative thing, until it becomes a negative form of enabling....

but being a person that cares enough to want to help someone else is admirable.. I'm sorry it turned out the way it did.

But, by your example I see that I can break the cycle of enabling (at least with myself and others) and understand it in the meantime, so I can do my best to feel good about myself regardless.

You have kids so I don't doubt we will have more cnversations in the future on the 'internet of the mind' as they continue to grow and you are dealing with how everything effected them and you...

I'm working hard to overcome and would love to be able to be here for you, the way you were here for me in my time of need, just by posting this comment on 'internet of the mind'...

Thank you so very much, Kathy


Mar 15, 2010
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RIGHT ON THE MARK
by: Anonymous

Good for you. You are absolutely right.

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