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My Family Label – The Enabler

**Long post but one that has been a long time coming.. **

Earlier, I was reading Vee’s post and she talked about how her family viewed her.  That got me thinking about my role… I am the family enabler.  At least that is how most look at me.  My younger brother, my “baby” brother who just turned 50 two weeks ago, is a long term chronic alcoholic.  See where I’m going with this?

January 2015 my sister calls me crying so hard, I can barely understand any words.  Eventually, I am able to gather that my one and only brother, Darren, is in a hospital in Dallas, in intensive care no less and they have amputated one of his legs above the knee.  See, he also suffered from long term uncontrolled type 2 diabetes and one of his legs had become so necrotic from a wound that would not heal, that it almost cost him his life.  I tell you that so you understand my frustration.

Darren being sent to a long term care facility for rehab was probably the first time he had been “dried out” in 30 years.  So long as he was in any of the care facilities, he was sober.  Finally sober.  Eventually he got his prosthetic limb so he could learn to walk again and was sent out into the world. But he had no money and no home to go to.  Eventually we got him into an alcohol rehab facility (he reluctantly agreed to go simply because he had no place else) and eventually into a half way house.  He now has a job that we assume he goes to and his own apartment.

But he’s back to drinking.

He refuses to attend AA because he says it’s too “churchy” and him being Agnostic, it doesn’t sit well with him.  I don’t even know if that’s true but I encourage him to push past those feelings…

And he’s back to drinking…

On our family vacation, he had only been able to get off work the second 1/2 of his shift which would make it too late to travel the 1.5 hrs away from his home to our location.  So, we compromised… we made arrangements to eat at his favorite restaurant for lunch the next day.  We could not get him to wake up by calls, text messages…  4 hours later he texts us that he overslept… set his phone for pm instead of am…  My heart was absolutely broken.  Disappointed beyond belief.  He would not admit he got drunk the nigh before, but did not deny it either.

I told him how disappointed I was.  I finally told him he needed to make a choice… alcohol in his life or family in his life.  I told him I hoped he picked family.  Since then, I’ve been trying to open a dialogue with him but all I’ve gotten so far is “I’ll get back with you”.  That’s why my family views me as enabling him…  they interpret my love for him, my reaching out to him, as an endorsement of his choices.  He does reach out to me when he’s in trouble… needing $50 to make the rent, etc.  How do I let go?  How do I say no?  Family is family… you don’t always like them but can’t stop loving them.  No idea where to go from here with him.  I just don’t know…

10 thoughts on “My Family Label – The Enabler”

  1. Family is only family by accident of birth. Darren is a grown man making his own choices. You owe him nothing. I know it’s hard not to care but if there is no payback, maybe you need to see what’s what. I have had relationships with people who I realize suddenly are not contributing. Life’s too short. He’s a big boy. See where I’m going with this?

  2. My oldest Sister passed many years ago. She was in the same boat as your brother minus the diabetes and amputation. But I know your struggle. We tried everything….my parents were raising her 2 children. Which meant we as a family were raising the kids. She would come home and sober up for a few months and out she would go again. She did rehab too and after coming home for a while she would always leave. As a family we decided to try a little tough love. She had to get sober before we would talk to her and we stopped giving her money. That is when she passed. She had gotten sick and didn’t want to call us…..
    Can you imagine that happening when you are trying this Tough Love stuff?
    I really don’t like that work enabler when you are just a sister trying to help.
    I was her SISTER. How do we treat our sisters? We love them…..we help them…..we are there for them when they need us. We should never NOT be there for them….we just have to set our boundaries like I am doing for her son now.
    I told him….I am here for you when you are ready to stop this. But I can’t give you money. I can go buy you food when you are hungry. Drive you to a job should you get one. Listen when you need to talk. And help you get into rehab when you are ready.
    And he finally decided he was ready… I sent him to California last week where he is getting checked into a place.

    You are going to do what you feel is right…..but just always let him know he has a family that loves him.
    Be his sister and listen to him when he needs to talk.
    He is running from something…..fighting something.

  3. This summer my DIL’s father passed from Alcoholism the girls are still morning his loss. It was so bad at times the police knew her and her sisters and where they lived; they would find him lying on the sidewalk, help him up and bring him to one of them. Who ever was closest would get a knock on the door. My DIL ended up taking care of his finances so he could not spend it on booze yet he still found away.

    1. That’s what he was like before the amputation. As of now, he is not that saturated with alcohol. Trying to find a way to keep him from getting back to that level that sounds like his idea.

  4. I, too, have been called an enabler. BS! I have to run my daughter to the doctor. I cannot wait to finish reading your post. In the meantime, I am sending you love. Be back.

  5. My heart breaks for each person touched by loss and by addiction. I despise the word enabler. I, too, have been branded with that label. Being a bit of a fighter, I bite back at that term. First of all, science has yet to catch up with addiction so until it does, we all do our best to help our fellow human beings through this challenge. Sometimes it does mean closing the door in order to preserve our own lives. Should we hate addiction? I do. Do I hate the person addicted? No.
    We each choose to love the way we love. If your heart tells you to be there for your brother, you do what you need to do. It takes a lot more strength to stand beside our loved ones than it does to walk away. I, too, have lost a sibling due to alcoholism. We do our best. We each have to live with our choices. There is no perfect, right way to help. I agree with Monica. We love them, no matter what. Shaming is NEVER effective. Addicts are already ashamed of themselves. We lift each other. Sending you hugs and compassion. I think you know what is right for you. Might differ from what is right for another family member. That is okay.

    1. I very much appreciate your words. Darren texted me this morning. He is switching to a straight night shift (3rd shift) but M-F so maybe he won’t be so secluded from family events any longer. He also said he is coming “home” to us for a visit. We have a long existing restaurant in town closing it’s doors for good at the end of the month. He wants to come eat there with us for a good-bye dinner to the establishment. Hopefully it’s not a good-bye to us. I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be his decision to push us away permanently, not mine. Fingers crossed for us all.

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