Growing up your parents always told you that your sibling was your first friend. In my case my first friend came out about 4 years after I did, so was pretty excited and apprehensive. Fast forward to today, we have weathered our parents’ divorce, lived thousands of miles away from each other, talked and laughed until we cried, and hugged it out or punched it out depending on the day. Today things are a little different because he and I are both adulting but I had tried to take the role of a third parent to try to guide him. I have shed many tears, carried lots of stress internally, and even popped a few pimples because of my worries.
This doesn’t just happen with family, but can also happen with our closest friends. It’s a fine line that we walk on between wanting to be helpful and being a complete enabler. I made many excuses for him to my parents, justified what he did, and even insisted that they were not being considerate enough when talking to him. It took me a long time to realize that I was not helping him, I was enabling him to continue on the path he was on. Now mind you, my brother is not addicted to hardcore drugs or anything like that, but addiction comes in many forms and so do enablers. I put my foot down not too long ago with great difficulty, but it has changed my life for the best. I love him and will always be there for him, but I cannot continue letting him steal my happiness if he is not willing to help himself.
He may be mad about me posting this, but this is a way for me to cope and hopefully the light I shed on the ways our relationship has changed will help someone who’s struggling with supporting their loved one from a distance.
Be a Supporter, not an Enabler
Ever seen the show Intervention? It was one of my favorites when I was in college. I had to close my eyes with all the needle parts, but it was fascinating. The show highlighted addicts but it also showed the enablers that fed into the addict’s lies and helped them ultimately get what they wanted. Now, I am not throwing shade at these people because when you love someone, you’ll do anything to help them and see them happy. But at what cost? Stop and ask yourself every time you think of sending/lending money to that person if you are sending it to them because you know they will be using it for what’s right? If it’s groceries they need, get them a grocery store gift card. If they need some things for school, send them an office supply store gift card or an Amazon.com one. Don’t be fooled by elaborate stories they tell you otherwise you’re only hurting them, not helping.
Think of this as your “terms and conditions.” When I finally decided enough was enough, I had to create some boundaries. I wanted to make sure he knew that I was serious and that he had to meet my terms and conditions before I will speak to him again. I told him to please only contact me if he has made the right steps needed to better himself and his life. This put the ball in his court because he knows clearly what I want, and what I will ask him about if he does decided to contact me. I was always running around alongside my mom trying to pick up the pieces for him, offering to help him get a job where he was, but all it did was stretch me thin and cause stress. You have to remember that you can’t help those who are not ready to help themselves, but you can help jump start their recovery by setting some clear boundaries.
Open Up, Don’t Bottle Up
Ever seen a volcano explode? Me either, but when I see it on TV or online I realize the amount of damage that it causes to surrounding areas. That’s what happens when you bottle things up. We all, especially women, like to think we are so strong and can handle anything without having to talk about it. And then one day a lady cuts in front of you at the pharmacy and YOU LOSE YOUR SHIT. Normal? I think not, but I’m sure it’s happened to every one of us. Talk it out. It doesn’t matter who you choose to talk to about it but it’s important that you share how you are feeling for YOUR sanity and also bounce ideas off of a somewhat objective party. As fantastic as my fiancé has been with supporting me through this, my boss has been a great blessing as well. He’s gone through similar stuff so that helps to talk to him. Can’t tell you the times that he’s made me feel like I was not going crazy.
Remember the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If what you’ve been doing to cope with your sibling or friend’s issues has not been working, STOP AND REEVALUATE! Talk it out, find a new way to support them, or just step back from the situation all together. Though these choices may be hard, they are necessary and could possibly save your loved one in the end.
Have you dealt with a friend or family member that it has been difficult to support because of their choices? Share your story below or leave some suggestions!