Dear Amy: I am an enabler. And it’s killing me. How can I stop?
My brother has been in and out of prison for the past 15 years.
I enabled him in prison by sending him money, and now he’s back and using me for money, food, rides, and anything else he can sucker out of me.
Why do I do it? Because I feel guilty that I have so much, and I don’t want to feel responsible for him being homeless or forcing him to steal again to support his gambling habit because I wouldn’t give him money.
I also enable my siblings (who have both disowned our criminal brother) because I do 90 percent of the care for our elderly mother, who needs supervision and assistance.
I do her shopping, medications, appointments, finances, and home repairs. They help out some, but I’ve joked that should I drop dead, they’d all be in trouble. They make no effort to learn how to do these tasks. Why should they? They have me to do them.
I’m exhausted…physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have no life caring for my mother (a task that I willingly do).
I need to block my brother on my cellphone. Why can’t I?
How do I break this vicious cycle?
— Desperate for a Way Out
Dear Desperate: Your addiction is taking a considerable toll on you.
I refer to enabling as an addiction because you realize you are doing it, you see the negative consequences, you are desperate to stop, and yet you believe that you are powerless to control your own behavior.
You need a lightbulb moment (or 10) to fully understand that your behavior is actually contributing to your brother’s. He is a criminal and a manipulator, and you are providing him with just enough of his “drug” (money) to keep him in his addiction. He has no hope of recovery as long as you continue. If it weren’t for you priming the pump, he might have hit the skids years ago and eventually found a way to get his life together.
And yes, he might NOT have gotten his life together.
Enabling at your level is actually a bid for control. Some of the same impulses that your brother experiences (the anxiety, the need to keep negative feelings at bay) are at play in your DNA, too. He has the advantage of not caring. But then, he doesn’t have to care about his actions, because you’re doing it for him.
You need to understand that your love is going to have to be enough.
This is textbook “codependency.” YOU deserve treatment. A counselor could support you as you flip the switch to light some of these lightbulbs.
The “bible” of co-dependency is “Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself,” by Melodie Beattie (1986, Hazelden).
Dear Amy: I have been on the internet dating scene for a while.
Sadly, it seems that most of the men I have dealt with appear to be juggling multiple women.
They have confused me with other women by addressing emails to the wrong person, they have promised me a lot and then dropped everything when something better comes along, etc.
It is a game for many men, while the women generally are serious about making a connection.
This is the truth from the front lines of dating.
Dear L: I assume that there are some sites that are more “lasting relationship” oriented than others.
This past year I attended three weddings — all brought about by internet matching.
Dear Amy: I liked your answer to “Concerned Friends.” This group of friends were worried because their friend, “Jack,” had never had a girlfriend.
You cited a number of reasons why this might be, including the idea that he “might not be interested in a romantic relationship of any kind.”
A few years ago, my grandson approached me.
He said, “Gramma, do you know what ‘asexual’ means?
I said, “Yes: You.”
He said, “Oh. You know!”
— Supportive Gramma
Dear Gramma: An estimated 1 percent of Americans identify as “asexual,” although that estimation seems low (to me), because — in our sex-infused culture — people don’t really talk about asexuality.
People who are asexual are often told that they “just haven’t met the right person,” but asexual people do not desire sexual contact with others.
This does not preclude having healthy relationships, romances, or any other emotional or physical human experience.
I congratulate you and your grandson for being so open with each other.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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