Since I decided to quit being manipulated by an alcoholic mother, two camps of people have emerged.
One camp thinks I am dead wrong, and that unconditional love is the only answer. I actually think this group feels I have more of a problem than my mother, especially since she is in her seventies and won't live a lot longer anyway. My mother is hurting over the distance I put between us, and they want her to stop hurting. So they tactfully try to preach to me about forgiveness and unconditional love, because seeing her hurt is what they most want to avoid.
They are the enablers, most of them--the ones who know my mom personally, or know of her. Or, they have no experience at all with addiction and are trying to get involved in something about which they're completely ignorant.
The addicted person is almost always a tyrant, and when he or she is upset, everyone else is upset too. The enablers want to make everything status quo again. They have lived so long in their "roles" that they don't know any other way to live. It is a sick, tangled web of dysfunction, all in the name of "unconditional love".
Another camp, those having experience with addicted people, believe that although distancing oneself is hard, it is the only answer. The more I begin to understand the psychology of addiction, the more tragic it seems to me. These enabling people perceive themselves as loving, nurturing, giving.
If by the grace of God they ever try to break away from the sick web, they find themselves accused, sometimes harshly, by the remaining enablers. They are told they are unloving, hard, cold, unforgiving. Guilt sets in. They question themselves. The accusations keep coming. It gets harder to be strong.
How many actually stay the course? How many get away, cleanly?
Even a clean getaway is painful, and will probably remain painful until the addicted person dies, and then some.
My husband learned that heroin is becoming a huge addiction problem in America. It frightens me, hearing this. I think we can safely say that most of society's problems can be traced, however far back, to someone's addiction and to the enablers who contributed to it.
Basic human decency falls apart in the face of addiction. It can be addiction to a substance, to power, to money, to the Internet, to sex. The only way to reverse this--outside of direct intervention by God--is to understand the psychology of addiction.
Addiction is not just between one person and the object of their desire. It always involves a web of people. For life cannot continue successfully for the isolated addicted person. They will have no food, no shelter, no job, and they would lose their children. They can't continue in their addiction, because their basic needs would scream too loudly.
Again, addiction never progresses in isolation. It can only progress if someone comes along, or is already there, who will cover for the person.
At first, covering for someone is basic self-preservation, and seems natural. It keeps embarrassment at a minimum. It keeps the lights on and the food coming. But as long as this continues, it gets deeper for both involved--for the addicted, and the enabler(s).
Educate your children. Hold them accountable for their actions. Check yourself. Don't take for granted that this tangled web will never involve you.
And God help us! (Only He can help.)
Because it hurts.