Sunday, January 26, 2014

CANDACE PLATTOR In the Vancouver Observer

Justin Bieber's sad enablers

Most of us knew it was only a matter of time.

Not only were we hearing story after story about Justin’s “antics”—a media description that only served to minimize the severity of his actions—but those very actions were becoming more and more bizarre. Before today’s arrest for driving under the influence and resisting arrest, he was pitching raw eggs at his neighbor’s house causing thousands of dollars worth of damage—not to mention a sizable stash of illegal drugs that were found in his home.

Do we have to wonder how this happened—or is it finally becoming clear that  enabling addicts only keeps the addiction going? How many more examples, public or private, do we need?

When we have addicted loved ones in our lives, we also have a choice to make—will we let them get away with really bad (and sometimes downright dangerous) behavior, or will we step in and make the boundaries clear? Do we care enough about the addicts we love to hold them accountable, or do we continue to be people-pleasers and yes-men, making excuses and turning our eyes away from what is really going on?

Whose denial causes the most damage—the addict’s or the enabler’s?

When loved ones enable, they are actually meeting their own needs, not the needs of the addict. People struggling with addiction may want to continue to be enabled—but what they actually need is for someone to love them enough to say, “That’s it, no more.” When loved ones enable, they are not acting in loving ways toward the addict.

People enable for all kinds of reasons—but the most common is that they fear any form of conflict so they dare not say “No” and risk the fallout that might ensue. This constitutes meeting their own needs, not the needs of their addicted loved ones.

And in Justin’s case—didn’t his entourage learn anything from what happened to Michael Jackson? MJ died as a direct result of enabling, as a direct result of people saying yes to him when no was the right answer all along. And of course, when money is involved, it’s often a game-changer. MJ’s people wouldn’t say no to him until it was too late—they didn’t seem to care enough to risk the anger and the fallout.

It seems that this is what’s happened with Justin too except—thankfully—no one has been physically hurt or killed as a result of allowing him to have far too much money and power—at least, not yet.
How could it happen that not one person in Justin’s entourage stepped in to stop his immature and irresponsible father from setting up a drag race at 4 o’clock in the morning, when Justin was clearly under the influence of mind-altering substances? Really, what is wrong with these people, how can they face themselves?

I’m not saying that Justin doesn’t have any responsibility here—of course he does. But unlike the ridiculous Rob Ford, Justin is still a youth at only 19. Even though I am definitely way past my teen years, I can still remember what I was like at 19—many of us can recall those days. Did I make positive, healthy choices for myself then? Not often—and I wouldn’t expect Justin to do so either, especially with far too much inappropriate influence and clout and not enough truly caring people around him.
Enabling keeps addictive behaviors going. Enabling feeds the needs of the people who enable, not the needs of the people who are behaving badly.

What if we all decided to grow a backbone and started speaking our truth to the addicts in our lives, to set healthy and appropriate boundaries with them, to love them enough to risk our own discomfort when they became angry with us? What if we respected ourselves enough to do the right thing and raise the accountability bar in those relationships?

Something magical just might happen.

Justin, my deep hope for you is that someone loves you enough to tell you the truth, despite the consequences that could occur. I know that Michael Jackson is someone you choose to emulate—but my hope for you is that the orange jumpsuit and handcuffs have been enough to wake you up, so that you don’t have to follow him into the grave.

1 comment:

  1. David Berner I for one, really appreciate your candid approach pertaining to addiction. Enabling is a growing phenomenon, and something I see daily. In my fifteen years of working in the field. I've never met an addict who said, "I got here alone." Most have a team of people only all too ready to 'help.' I work with families, helping them see what they're really trying to avoid when they enable. Many enablers know they are enabling. They want to avoid conflict, or they don't want the addict upset with them. They feel 'bad' when they say no. So instead they say yes, and for the moment, feel better. Enablers are not all together different than the addict. Addicts feel 'bad' when they don't use, so they phone the enabler who says yes. The addict gets their fix, and for moment feels better. Both addict and enabler have experienced instant gratification, trading 'right now' for long term misery. Both are self-centered behaviors. I'm not sure why we roll over and bury our heads in the sand, when it comes to talking about addiction. The conversations I dread most, are when family enable their addict, 'just this one time' and this one time, was one time too many. The addict died of an overdose on the enablers dime. Maybe we need to think about changing tactics when it comes to treating addiction. Perhaps it's the enablers who need intensive treatment, and the addict a shorter version. We've tried everything else. Why not give this a shot. After all, what's the worse that could happen?