A Woman's Voice

Review ~ Putting the Spotlight On ~The Sights and Sounds of Enabling ~ August 11, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

I recently finished reading Diane Viere and Elaine Altman-Eller’s first e-booklet in the series Putting the Spotlight On. At first blush, I didn’t know for sure if this article applied to me or my life. Both of these women have had adult children with addictions. This e-booklet is written about the role they have played as enablers in their adult children’s lives.  Although, I do not have children addicted to either drugs or alcohol, when I read this article I soon realized that being an enabler does not necessarily have to do with serious addictions like these women have faced with their sons nor does it have to do only with our children.

Reading their words made me realize that we can enable numerous people as they engage in self-destructive behavior.  In reading the characteristics of what it means to be an enabler, I recognized that I have also had the habit of engaging in this type of behavior. For example, there have been people in my life that have been verbally, psychologically, and emotionally abusive toward me. Rather than set the proper boundaries at the time, I made excuses for their poor or negative behavior and tried to rationalize why they were behaving so badly. This is what enablers do.

According to The Sights and Sounds of Enablingthe first article in this series, there is a fine line between helping and enabling. When you choose to help others, you set healthy boundaries. When you choose to help others, you allow them to be responsible and accountable for their own lives and the decisions they make. When you choose to help others, you empower them. Enablers get caught up in the drama of what is going on and end up becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Diane and Elaine explain this very effectively in their well-written e-booklet. They discuss the process of letting go as;

* supporting, not fixing

*permitting another to face reality

*not taking responsibility for them

*admitting the outcome is out of your hands


According to this article, “Letting go removes my hands from the impossible and allows God to do the possible”. It goes on to further say that “enabling ties God’s hands from answering our prayers”.

I very much enjoyed reading the first article in this series on enabling. It stresses the need to realize that we can’t change others and that change may be very painful.  When we arrive at the ultimate need for change, it is so aptly put in this quote, “In other words, for each family member, the pain of staying the same must become greater than the pain of change before change will occur.” If there is one thing that really hit home for me, it is the above comment. I’ve been there, I know. The main thing that I discovered, is that, I could only change myself but I had to get to that very painful spot to decide I had no other choice. I think Diane and Elaine got there too.  How about you?

This is one great e-booklet and well worth reading even if you don’t have adult children with addictions. You might luck out and find something in it that applies to you in your life just like I did. I refer to it as reading between the lines.


(url for ebooklet is:  http://www.partnersinprayerforourprodigals.com/e-booklets.html)

In this first ebooklet of the Putting Spotlight On series, written by Diane Viere, Founder of Partners In Prayer For Our Prodigals, Host of The Prodigal Hope Network and Christian Counselor and Elaine Altman-Eller, Family Recovery Specialist you will discover the critical difference between helping and enabling, the traps of enabling, and the cycle of destruction that occurs until we stop enabling the addicts we love.

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Have you tried everything you can think of…to no avail?  Are you exhausted?  Do you feel helpless and hopeless; trapped by the knowledge that what you have been doing is not working?  Have you sacrificed your own well being with the sole desire of saving your addict?

Why isn’t it working?

The Sights and Sounds of Enabling puts the spotlight on the ineffectiveness and collateral damage caused by enabling. Discover why enabling never works and how you can stop enabling today.  Step out of the darkness of your hopelessness today; step into your strength—learn how to love your addict effectively and become a guiding light for their recovery.  
Diane Viere

Partner In Prayer for Our Prodigals


9 Responses to 'Review ~ Putting the Spotlight On ~The Sights and Sounds of Enabling ~ August 11, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte'

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  1. Hi Dolores!
    There is a conversation going on in my blog about having difficulties with adult children and I was just thinking about Diane yesterday, wondering what she might say. ( I don’t really get into this subject on my own blog, but it comes up.) This morning I found your article and my fav. part is this:

    “Letting go removes my hands from the impossible and allows God to do the possible”. It goes on to further say that “enabling ties God’s hands from answering our prayers”.

    Isn’t that the truth! And not just about prayers either, but even to think about our deepest wish for our loved ones and how enabling gets in the way of those deepest wishes.

    Thanks for writing about this. I have a few readers that could benefit from Diane’s work too! Hugs, Darlene

    • Hi Darlene,
      How wonderful for you to pop by. I appreciate it. I think I will head your way and leave the link to Diane’s article. It is a real eye-opener. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! 🙂

  2. Shanyn said,

    What a wonderful resource, and a great commentary blog about what you learned from it. I’m learning about how some people thrive on the drama and seek the enablers to keep it going, and how adverse I am becoming to it. It is exhausting that expectation. I’m looking forward to reading more! Bright blessings…

    • Thanks Shanyn…it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to learn from others and benefit from their experiences. Both Diane and Elaine have been there so they know exactly what they are talking about and have been very open about sharing the hardships they endured as mother’s of adult children with addictions. As in most cases, those living with a difficult situation are better able to guide and coach others to deal more effectiviely with similar trials tribulations. I toatally agree with you that some people love drama and thrive on creating it in their lives. To me, it is negative attention getting behavior that has much collateral damage. I’ve learned the hard way to resist being drawn in to this type cycle of self-destructive behavior, although it was no easy exercise. Bright blessings to you too!

  3. Most of my enabling came in the form of doing everything for anybody that asked and if you were close to me you didn’t even have to ask. I tried to fix everything and everybody that came near me. If I could fix you, I could feel good about myself and you would like me and be my friend. This is why I did so much approval seeking. Also if I could fix you, I didn’t have to look at my own issues. Many people in my life, initially did not like it when I quit enabling them to have no responsibility in their own lives.

    • Hi Patricia,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and leave such a thought-provoking comment. I know exactly what you mean about trying to ‘fix’ other people’s problems. I found that by trying to ‘fix’ others I wasn’t allowing them to be responsible and accountable for their own actions. If we step back and things don’t go right for these people as a result of their bad decision making, they can no longer blame anyone else . By taking on too much responsiblity for the actions of others, it actually leaves the door wide open to be hurt and attacked by the very individuals we have been trying to help. I very much agree with you. Those who try to ‘fix’ others usually have major issues that they need to address. When my life fell apart, it was a real eye-opener for me. I learned I had my own issues to deal with…big time.

    • Shanyn said,

      This is something I struggle with for some people in my life Patricia…and you are so right they don’t like it when we change from that unhealthy place and those unhealthy roles. It’s an adjustment for everyone!

  4. Diane Viere said,

    Shanyn, BRILLIANT observation! What is very difficult for families whose child or loved one is choosing a destructive lifestyle, is that they resist detaching from the drama…for it is the ONLY heart connection in most cases. We must become convinced…that we will NOT take part in any of the drama…or we may just enable our loved one to death.

    Dolores has made an excellent point, even in families without addiction, we all run into people who demand that we take responsibility for their problems. Whenever we justify their bad behavior with excuses and assume the position…we are their primary target! It’s when we set those healthy boundaries around ourselves (and they have a two-fold purpose–they keep harm from entering in…AND us from entering harm’s way!)…that we grow in our ability to not enable.

    • Shanyn said,

      Thank you Diane 🙂 How encouraging!

      I’ve discovered that the tie between enabling and drama is quite tight, and that some communities (such as animal rescue) can be full of enabling, drama and really strong attacks on boundaries. Much like some families, and I believe what you are illustrating can illuminate more than families but any relationship that can cause that type of imbalance.

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