Hemingway said, “I drink to make other people more interesting.”
I find the world plenty interesting, and perhaps that’s why I drink like a cartoon character. One gin and tonic and I want to take a nap, or take my top off. I know addiction only through the eyes of an enabler. I am one. I’ve been one since I was a boy. I don’t know exactly why my father drank so much, but I do know it made him, and life, far too interesting. Overstimulated. Chaotic.
An addict will lie to you, knowing it’s a lie, knowing you know it’s a lie, but knowing you’ll believe false hope and, thus, believe the lie. My father told me often he would quit drinking. He told me while drunk. I — sober as a church — believed him for far too long. I was drunk on the wrong kind of hope. I had to quit the stuff. Sober up on the real thing.
Enablers act like Gods. We believe we can accomplish what only Higher Power can. We can love them, cajole them, ease them, comfort them enough that the addicts in our lives will stop being addicts and become fully human again. We think we can make life so interesting for them they won’t have to drink anymore. That’s our folly — spending money, time, prayer, more money, more prayer, tears, tears again, pleading, begging, raging. We do so much heavy lifting trying to make a drunk sober. And the drunk keeps hoisting a pint — or needle, or pill or whatever elixir leads to death. It’s not just the drunk’s death. The enabler somehow dies first. Stone sober and living out a living death of trying to work a miracle.
Only God works miracles. We who enable only work that rock back up the hill, bracing to feel it roll over us again. Sisyphus surely had an addict in the family.
The takeaway here is — stop. Stop giving money to a drunk. Stop giving ear to an addict. Cease to become the silo for their harvest of lies. Stop suppressing your instincts and callusing your feet on their eggshells. If they yell, “You don’t love me, your never loved me, I’ll never forgive you for this” as you walk away, keep walking. You are not God. Nor a superhero. Trying to save another human being from himself/herself is like trying to walk on water. Not even Peter lasted long at that.
Ask yourself how many times you tried to surround an addict with love, only to have that love of your life come staggering through the door smelling like hell.
Real love doesn’t stink to high heaven. Enabling looks like love, and smells like hell.
My friend, Rich Jones, is a recovering addict. He works now in addiction recovery. That means he learned enabling from the school of hard liquor. Rich is licensed therapist and MBA, an expert in co-dependency and the specious toxin of trying to fix an addict. He knows why you shouldn’t try to talk your daughter out of shooting up again. Why giving your boyfriend money or your car again is anti-love.
Rich admits he doesn’t know why the following approach works, but it does: Go take care of yourself. Go, and be a better, healthier you. Stop begging an addict. Stop being with one. Don’t pray the same old prayer with her ever again. Take care of you, and things with the addict will work out as they should, according to the natural law of addictive behavior, not the law of you and the world you think you can create. Not all addicts survive, but in the absence of enabling, they tend to rise. They tend to roll to their knees and off their sticking bottoms — high or low — and begin to live again. Life becomes interesting without gin or heroin or Hydrocodone. My father lived as proof. This happened to him. It happened only after I walked away.
And that made me a living example of this: Life will begin to carry the perfume of real love, not the stench of hell on earth, only when you walk away.
Another dear friend of mine likes to send me the occasional text with the letters YNG/BGI. Those letters remind me to cease the idolatry of trying to fix someone addicted to something. The letters stand for You’re Not God, But God Is.
Enablers, we carry a sickness of our own, summed up in those simple letters. It’s the illness of the folly of playing God. We think we can do what only God can. We believe we can stand against anything. Tolerate anything. Love our way through anything.
We are wrong.
Enabling is no pathway to heaven. It is cliff we tumble down into an ass-busting hell on earth. Lord, it smells like hell down in there. But what’s that? A rope, hanging just within reach. A rope, able to hold only one. Grab it. Climb out. Climb out of hell, pull up the rope behind you, and dust yourself off at the top. We don’t want that phony love stench up in here where we belong.
YNG. BGI. Peace.