Because so many of us struggling with addiction are in relationships with other addicts, a very common relationship theme that coincides with addiction is enabling. We enable each other’s unhealthy habits, emotional and behavioral patterns, and addictive cycles. We encourage each other to use. We exacerbate each other’s self-destructiveness. We compound each other’s self-sabotage. Enabling can take on many forms. We might cover for each other and lie to other people to protect each other so that we can maintain our addictions. We might try to convince each other and ourselves that we don’t have a problem. We might compound each other’s avoidance and denial, using each other and the relationship as a form of escapism from the reality of just how serious our problem has become. Addiction is so pervasive and overpowering that our behavioral responses such as enabling add fuel to the fire. How can we stop enabling addiction in our relationships, especially when we ourselves are still in the clutches of our own addictions?
The answer to changing any behavior is developing mindfulness around it so that we are aware of when it’s happening, how it’s affecting us and how it’s presenting itself in our lives. Without mindfulness, we will continue the same patterns without being aware of them. When we are mindful, we can work to change our habits, especially the thought patterns that are contributing to our addictions and mental health issues. For example, the thought patterns that contribute to enabling can be a fear of abandonment, a fear of inadequacy, and a fear of loss. We fear that if we don’t enable our partners’ addictions, they will leave us, and we won’t be able to live without them. We haven’t realized yet that our own emotional stability and peace of mind are more important than any relationship. We allow our partners to maintain their addictions because we’re afraid that if we call them on them, they’ll abandon us. We’re so afraid of losing them that we sacrifice our own well-being. Mindfulness helps us to see these thought patterns and the underlying fears beneath them. Without mindfulness, our patterns can go unchecked and uninterrupted, continuing to wreak havoc on both the relationship and our lives as a whole.
Let’s start to examine our relationships and all the ways in which we are promoting unhealthiness. What behaviors are we demonstrating within our own lives and with each other that are enabling addiction in both of us? What emotions and fears are preventing us from doing the work we need to do to heal? Addiction and its accompanying behavioral patterns such as enabling go hand-in-hand with a lack of mindfulness. Our denial, our avoidance, our lack of understanding and our fear allow our addictive patterns to be perpetuated. Healing from our addictions and our unhealthy patterns requires developing mindful awareness of who we are, how we operate in our lives and in our relationships, and all of the emotional issues pertaining to our unwellness.
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