Hi, I am Laura, and I am a recovering enabler.
How did I become one? Let me share with you how it all began for me.
First, I am an Empath.
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of an Empath is one who experiences the emotions of others.
This can be both good and bad. The positive aspect is that I can read people pretty easily. When I meet someone, I can tell fairly quickly if that is a person I want to spend time with or someone I should avoid. The negative aspect is that I also want to “fix” and “help” others.
Why is that a problem?
Because in the process of wanting to help someone (or everyone) else, I forget about taking care of myself and my own needs completely.
Next, I was raised in an Italian Catholic family.
To my fellow Italian Catholics, you get me already! For others, as an Italian Catholic, we are raised to take care of our family and to always be there for each other; that things are either good or bad, or right or wrong. For me, I took that to mean “I” was either good or bad, or right or wrong. So if I was not taking care of my family, I was bad and wrong.
That is how I ended up here. Let me explain.
My oldest daughter, who is now 30, started going down a bad path when she was about 16. So, me, the Italian Catholic Empath, went into mama bear mode. If you can envision an explosive going off in your mind, that became the daily encounter between my teenage daughter and myself. She wanted her independence and to do her thing, and I wanted to fix her and protect her at all costs.
My daughter was diagnosed with bi polar disorder, anxiety, and depression. She refused to be medicated and go to therapy. So she began to self medicate, and we know where that path can take people.
I became consumed with fixing her.
I called psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, doctors, the police department. At one point, I would tell anyone who would listen to me.
But my daughter had a mind of her own and her own path she wanted to take, and I had to let her go.
Although this was a very difficult decision for me to make, it was the best decision I made, not only for myself, but for her as well. This decision allowed her to finally step into her own power and realize she can take responsibility for her own life, and it also gave me the opportunity to focus on my life, my husband, and our life together.
Here are the steps I took to relinquish my need to enable my daughter.
- Recognize that we are two separate adults, living our own lives.This was difficult for me. I had become so consumed with taking care of her and rushing to save her, that I had lost myself. I started my own personal development journey that helped me to see that I was my own person, and needed to live my life. There were so many other areas of my life that I had neglected for so long. It was time for me to take care of myself. And she was now an adult and needed to do the same thing for her.
- Realize what was my responsibility, and in turn what was her responsibility. Although it took me a very long time, I finally realized what was truly my responsibility, and what was her responsibility. My greatest fear was that she would not take responsibility for things that were hers, but I also finally realized that if she didn’t, it was her issue to take care of, not mine.
- Accept that consequences are her greatest learning tool. At a workshop I attended by my mentor, Gabrielle Bernstein, I heard her answer a question by another mother who was in the same situation I was in. Gabby told her that by continuously rushing in to save her daughter, she was denying her of her own rock bottom. And how could she expect her to learn and grow and be the person she is meant to be if you don’t allow her to experience her true rock bottom. This message hit me so hard. All this time I thought I was helping, and I was really only causing her more pain.
- Cut the Cord. This phrase has spiritual meanings, as well as literal. I was holding on to both. As her mom, I believed I was helping my child and taking care of my responsibility to her. My Italian Catholic upbringing had me believing I had to take care of my family. But the best thing I could have done for her was cut the cord and allow her to experience her consequences and learn from them. This does not mean I don’t love her, but it does mean I am not responsible for the choices she makes. That is the point I was missing.
- Step into my own power. The best way that I could help my daughter is by stepping into my own power and living my life to the fullest. I need to be the example for her for what life can be. I need to show her that even though we make poor choices, or mistakes, or go down the wrong path, we can always choose again. And we can learn from those experiences, and grow from them, and become the best versions of ourselves!! THIS is the message I want for my children and grandchildren. This is what I commit to today!
I know that at this moment, you may feel very consumed and stuck in your current relationship. You may not think you have the strength to make these changes. Start small. Start to set boundaries. Honor yourself and your needs.
You will begin to see that as you take the steps necessary to protect yourself, they will begin to take their own steps. You can do this! And you will begin to see that not only is it necessary, it is so worth it!