The definition of enabler is one that enables another to achieve an end. This takes on a negative connotation when the “one” enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (such as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behavior. Usually we think of parents, spouses, children and close friends as potential enablers of people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Keep in mind, first of all, that alcohol and drug addictions are proven diseases of the brain. In the addict’s brain, a malfunctioning and distorted reward center makes ever-increasing demands on the person in the form of cravings that can override his or her ability to adhere to values of right vs. wrong.
In the advanced stages, the addicted person will lie, steal, manipulate loved ones and strangers, even kill or destroy the lives of others, in order to satisfy the unbearable craving for the object of the addiction or “agent.” At this stage the addictive agent only provides momentary relief from the awful craving. If addicts are able to hold a job, the job becomes meaningless except to the extent that it provides means to gain more of the craved agent. They are incapable of considering long-term consequences, because the immediate craving is too overwhelming. The brain – even the soul – of the addicted person becomes unable to empathize with even their closest loved ones, much less the rest of humanity.
Now that we recognize that drug and alcohol addictions are diseases, we also understand that it takes more than detoxification to restore the patient to a productive life. Long-term solutions, such as well-run 12-step programs and/or residential recovery programs, help tremendously to restore or establish a patient’s ability to make good choices for healthy living. These programs may also provide a long overdue refocusing of the destructive enabling and/or stigmatizing behaviors of families (and society) toward those who are addicted.
This got me thinking…
A chemical substance is not the only “agent” leading to addiction. The reward center of our brains may also malfunction to cause psychological addictions.
Let’s take a look at some behavioral symptoms of addiction:
(a) keeping a job only so long as it provides the means to obtain the craved addictive pleasure;
(e) destruction of other’s lives;
(f) lack of empathy;
(g) inability to consider long-term consequences –
– all in service to the craving for more of the addictive agent. That agent could be money, material possessions, power, popularity…..
Which got me thinking even more…
One group that comes to my mind are politicians – not all, of course. But think about it… Are some politicians addicted to the political scene? This could explain much of the otherwise inexplicable behavior of our “do-nothing” Congress of the past few years.
And what does that make of “We, the people?”
It makes us enablers.
You may say “No way! I don’t even vote, I hate our system so much.”
Sorry… still an enabler.
Allowing “political addicts” to continue to make our laws is the equivalent of letting inmates rule the asylum. It points out the inescapable truth to me that if I do not accept responsibility for who I elect to office or who I return to office (by act or omission), I must then accept some responsibility for their actions (e.g., sending a son to bleed his life into the sand of a Middle East desert; allowing a grandmother to die in agony because a law will not allow her the only medication that will relieve her pain).
One alternative to doing the patriotic, time-consuming, tedious work of researching each and every person for whom we cast a vote is to turn our country over to a benevolent dictator who will take care of us so that we won’t have to take care of ourselves. Even if such an enlightened person exists, is that really what we want?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead