Enabling, boundaries, recovery, rock bottom

What are the definitions of these terms? And is there really an addiction dictionary?

The universal definition of enabling means giving someone the authority to do something. It can be looked at as a good thing in a business situation, for example. In the case of addiction or mental illness, it’s often a label we use in judgement of ourselves or others. So in behavioral health, we think enabling means are we helping the sufferer continue in their disease process.

Drilled down further, how are we doing that? By not kicking someone out of the house? By not putting our foot down? (Like that’s ever worked.) By paying our loved one’s bills when we need to allow them to suffer consequences?

It can mean none of those, one of those, or all of those

None of these universally work for everyone. And while any one of these is the absolute worst thing for one person, it could be the turning point for another.

And what about the other words? Boundaries, rock bottom, recovery. How are all those defined?

There are a lot of articles here about rock bottom, the best of which was written here by Teresa McBean.

But here’s what I want you to know about all of them. Most of these buzz words have perceived definitions that we think they mean and many carry myths that can work against our goals for our loved ones.

In my case, I thought that if my son was taking suboxone after his first relapse, it was trading one drug for another. Honestly, I was not sure of that and my husband and I each consulted someone in the field who said the same. Looking back after his suicide, I think my son needed MAT, or medication assisted treatment. While I think this was probably the right thing for Charles, it might not be the right thing for someone else.

What we want is for our loved ones is for them to “get better”

And we even have a perceived notion of what recovery is but the truth is one person’s recovery doesn’t always look like another’s. So even that has no universal definition.

We have to figure out our own boundaries for the one we love, let them define what recovery is, stop depending on the magical, mythical rock bottom to be the catalyst for saving our loved ons and stop punishing ourselves for enabling when we don’t really have a clear cut definition of what that is.

Finding peace with or supporting the recovery of those we love means finding support and education for ourselves. Just like we would if our loved one was autistic or suffered from heart disease. Wouldn’t we learn everything we could?

So instead of wrestling with definitions, start defining your own strategies for living with the disease of addiction or mental illness your loved one suffers with. Decide how you are going to cope with it whether they go into recovery or not. I found that easiest to decide when I was around others who were suffering the illness of a loved one, too. So in my case a support group helped.

Our loved ones need to know we are there even if we have defined boundaries they don’t like. And the one thing that should always be constant is that they never doubt that you love them even if you don’t love what is happening to them.

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Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my youngest son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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