When a person who has an addiction goes into recovery and works the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous there is a term called "making amends." This is when a person realizes that their choices have caused other's harm. The idea is that they need to go to those people and apologize for their behaviors and take responsibility for what those behaviors damaged. The addict may have abused loved ones, stolen money, lied, and terminally ruined relationships. Sometimes, the addict has a hard time apologizing because they see themselves as a victim of circumstances resulting from their choices.
When we see ourselves through the lens of a victim, everything negative happening to us is not our fault. This makes it very difficult to apologize for something we don't feel responsible for. We will see an apology as admitting something we don't truly believe we did. This denial of the truth causes conflict that can result in anger. That anger results in attacking the person again and again to order to defend and maintain of our victim position. When we maintain that we are victims and that everyone else is to blame for the choices we make, we can make more poor choices and assume no responsibility for any consequences that might follow those choices. It's like the Ashton Kutcher & Mila Kunis’ Cheetos commercial where she has orange powder on her fingers and when Ashton asks her if she's been eating his Cheetos she says, "Wasn't me." Ashton shows all the evidence, even catching her on video, but she keeps denying and ultimately Ashton says, "Okay" and stops asking. This pattern of denying the truth, wanting all the power and refusing to take responsibility for one's actions has become all too common.
Unfortunately, consequences will happen and someone will have to pay. Poor choices always have consequences. If someone drinks or does drugs, personal consequences for their choice may result in weight gain, heart and liver disease, cancer, or death. Their addiction will limit their potential by interfering with their work and they may loose their job. Their family will suffer consequences because of the addicts denial and continuing to make poor choices, resulting in the addict becoming isolated, depressed, anxious, or homeless.
In the addiction community there is a term for someone who enables the victim to stay in that unmovable mindset: Enabler. The enabler wants to help the addict at all cost because they are tired of the consequences of the addict's choices. But, as long as the enabler suffers the consequences for the addict's behaviors, the addict has no motivation to change and won't change. Why would they want to take the pain and consequences for their choices when the enabler is so willing to do that for them? The addict can do whatever they want and the enabler pays the consequences. They will pay for treatment and housing the addict doesn't want. They will love the addict with empathy and compassion the addict doesn't want or appreciate. And the enabler will feel sad that nothing they do will change the addict's behaviors.
The consequences for one's choices must remain with the person who made the choice. Other's are not responsible for your choices. The problem must remain with the one who created the problem. Without consequences there is no motivation for change. Stop taking responsibility for another's choices. Refuse to enable them int their addiction. Yes, it's difficult because you care. Yes, if they would only change they wouldn't have to suffer anymore. Yes, you can offer them all the opportunities, throw money at them, and give them the best of your life, but if the only one changing is you, you have become part of the problem and nothing will change. Sometimes the only thing you can do is to walk away. Sometimes, when the addict has to suffer the consequences for their own choices they will choose sobriety. When they make amends for the pain they caused others it can bring healing to all involved.
"It's not a set back. It's a step back."
Erin "Our Town"