enabling (according to 12-step programs) – the process by which family or friends provide an addict with the opportunity to continue his or her addiction (money, shelter, etc.)
We were in the school library. First grade. We were about to check out our first book. I noticed that a boy named Arthur didn’t understand what he was to do. Little caregiver that I was, I said “Here, Honey, I’ll help you.” Imagine my uncomfortable surprise when another child said with a giggle, “You called him ‘Honey,’ is he your boyfriend?”
It was early in the school year, but I had already figured out that Arthur was challenged in some way. My natural instinct was to assist him. Was that a bad thing? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I didn’t do the job for him. I simply reminded him to fill out the card the way the teacher instructed. He did the work.
I think I recalled this incident recently because it was probably my first inkling that helping doesn’t always turn out well. Good intentions can reap criticism at best and a disastrous result at worst. The smart-mouthed child made me question my instincts, my heart. That was the beginning of many years of wondering when to help and when to keep my helping hands and opinions to myself. Examining one’s motives can be a good thing, but it was confusing for me as a child. It still is sometimes.
I mentioned in my last post that I was preparing to help an addict who is dear to me. I had serious questions about whether I would be helping or enabling. I believe there was some of both. I have no idea how to determine which carried more weight. I don’t know that it matters. I entered into this little experiment with a pure heart. I was aware that I was probably enabling on some level. And I was. Even though it ended less than ideally (an understatement), I’m glad I did it.
I seldom see things as black or white; I see many shades of gray with little sparks of color. I don’t see one or two sides; I see multiple possibilities. That’s who I am. I will remember this time with some sadness and pain, but after a while my most vivid memories will the meaningful conversations, the hugs, the food we shared and the love we have for each other. It is what it is, and what it is, is mostly good.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Note: Many thanks to those who wrote notes to check on me and to encourage me to write. I hope I’m back for good. I’ve missed writing, but I’ve especially missed the interactions with you.