It would be a lot easier to write this article if I had no experience with being an enabler. I could just spout things I’ve read about, refer you to the latest articles, and send you off to a support group with a box of tissues. Let’s get real.
How healthy is it to give yourself completely to someone? Aren’t you tired of making excuses for their behavior or chemical dependency? Are you enjoying doing everything for him/her/them? Do you feel guilty if you don’t help? Where is your life? When is it time for you?
Once I realized that I was worthy of having a better life, I found the courage to put things into perspective and take action. I haven’t tried everything, but I’ve learned a few things along the way that might help you change.
I used to cringe every time I reflected on my past relationships. I could point to many times where I allowed my friends, lovers, parents, co-workers, and complete strangers to walk all over me. Their needs came first. They were more important than me. There were those who always needed my help, and I drowned in their needs. Over time, I forgot who I was and became everything they needed.
Take some time to look at your past and current relationships. This is not a time to beat yourself up over past actions. Instead, look at the facts. Write them down. Make the situations tangible. Were there times that you did things for someone that they could have done themselves? Did you think about their feelings before your own? Did you give into their actions thinking that things would eventually get better?
With this knowledge comes awareness. Now that you are aware of these instances, look for them again in your everyday interactions. Your reaction and new actions might surprise you!
2. You Are Not the Answer to Everything
As a people-pleaser and a self-proclaimed problem-solver, this was a hard one for me to tackle. Sometimes, I felt it was just easier for me to fix it and move on with life. It wasn’t until I met a wonderful man, who is now my fiancé, that I realized I was actually getting in the way of his growth. He lovingly asserted that he could handle things himself. Suddenly, I was set free. How scary is that? After years of being entangled with everyone’s life, I only had my own life left. The one life I didn’t want to deal with.
3. Reconnect to Yourself
I spent some time reconnecting to myself. It was exciting and exhilarating to rediscover long lost loves – like bluegrass music, meditation, gardening, and photography. Find out what you enjoy. Look for your long lost hobbies and get entrenched!
During this time, you might also need to talk to others like yourself who are recovering enablers. I did. I met with psychotherapists and hypnotherapists. Find the healthy solution for you today.
4. Get Busy with Your Own Life
I got involved with my local community, volunteered at events, picked up freelance jobs, and took weekends away by myself. I was so busy that when I finally reconnected with people that I didn’t have a lot of time to get involved with their lives. Of course, when there was an emergency or an event that I wanted to be a part of, I would be there for them. Otherwise, my life was my own.
5. Walk Away
There were relationships that were not healthy. I had friends that needed a lot more help than I could give, and I realized that they weren’t going to get it with me in the way. These people were using me as an excuse not to get professional help. So, sadly, I left their lives wishing them well. It was heartbreaking. It was not easy. It was necessary.
6. Enable Them
Instead of doing everything for everyone, I gave suggestions and ideas for them to implement. Eventually, people relied on me more for advice than actually doing something for them. It felt good to see someone else succeed on their own, just like I was succeeding on my own.