It took me a very, very long time to recognize that my efforts to protect my son were actually hurting him because rescuing him allowed him to keep engaging in the same self-destructive behaviors. Over the years, I have gotten better and better at recognizing opportunities to just “let the chips fall where they may.” If only I was the only possible enabler in my son’s life, that might make more of a difference.
It seems like there are people everywhere who see my son for who he used to be – charming, polite, kind and well-intentioned. And they are right that he can be all of those things, even now! I love those qualities about him. But in his addiction, he has also developed the capacity to be deceitful, manipulative, dishonest and self-centered. So those who have not had repeated exposure to the latter behaviors tend to get fooled by the former ones. Those unpleasant behaviors are part of his addiction, but when he displays the pleasant ones, he recruits new enablers to rescue him, even after I have ceased doing so myself.
Perhaps the hardest part of that is my recognition that some of those new enablers may think I’m a mean, irresponsible or uncaring mother because I do not rescue him. If I discourage them from rescuing, I assume that opinion of me will only be reinforced. So I have to deal with my own internal negative self-talk any time that kind of situation happens.
But as his mother, I have watched addiction change my well-mannered, sweet and charming son into someone who is capable of fooling others, just like he fooled me for a long time. I too wanted to believe and protect him. I too didn’t want to think I was gullible or being manipulated. I too thought he needed someone to stand up for him. I needed time to come to know that his behaviors were symptoms of his addiction. Those who enable him now just aren’t there yet.
Fortunately though, because of listening to others in recovery from their own addiction, I know that when my son progresses in his recovery, he will be better able to demonstrate those positive, pleasant behaviors, make better decisions for himself, and grow in his ability to take personal responsibility for himself and his actions.
Today’s Reminder: I will remember that the new enablers my son cultivates are not any different than I used to be. It’s good to remember that good people still look for the good in others and that not everyone has been jaded by the experiences of loving someone with the disease of addiction. I accept that I am powerless over new enablers just like I am powerless over my son and the disease. But I will never lose hope for him to experience recovery and grow into a healthier, more insightful, more mature version of my sweet, charming, well-mannered son. But until then, I will choose to not enable, even when it hurts.
You can listen to an audio of this devotional at our podcast A Dose of Hope.
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