​The greatest enemy of recovery – co-dependency and enabling

There is a common saying in the recovery circles, which states that less than 2% of addicts recover. Whether this is true statistics, is hard to determine. But I personally think that it is very close.


There is a common saying in the recovery circles, which states that less than 2% of addicts recover. Whether this is true statistics, is hard to determine. But I personally think that it is very close.


In my years of experience and around 100 persons I have counselled, I can probably only show four persons that I can call a success.

Why is this?


Because of chances and odds. Let me explain: when we do something properly and correctly the first time, then the possibility of success increase, as opposed to, doing something half measure, and failing over and over, which makes the odds of success more difficult and unlikely. By using the example of stopping smoking, when you try and fail over and over, you tend to become demoralized and later lose all faith that you will be able to overcome, and be fully rehabilitated.
Recovery should be a simple process of confessing to have a problem (otherwise called a personal rock bottom), followed by a proper program and environment where the person is removed from his or her situation, put into a milieu of recovery and change, set guidelines and structures and a personal commitment together with a new life with clearly set boundaries to protect the individual from temptation. This is not a guarantee, however it enhances the chances and odds considerably.


However what we observe time and again, is family and support, opting for a quick fix, co-dependence and enabling, weakness and giving up, before the process even started, and ultimate failure. Three or four attempts later, and all hope is lost for certain. Some people go into recovery up to 10 times. What are the odds now? What can anyone who is very good at what they are doing, do for this person now? What can they say that the person haven’t heard before.
For this reason the process of rehabilitation starts with the support, whomever they may be. A father, mother, a spouse, a friend, sponsor or even the children of older addicts. Those who wants to intervene, needs the proper tools to: 


! be strong when their addicted-dependent is weak.
! Make wise decisions when their dependent cannot.
! Do it right the first time, in order to succeed.


To this day I owe my mother my life. For when it came to putting me into a facility, for the first time in my mother’s life she was tough when I was hooked, strong when I was weak, making the right decisions (with the help of a strong support group), when I wasn’t able, and most of all - committed when I was not. But after a year of rehabilitation and another year in a halfway house and almost R180 000 later, I was able to stand while others was falling. Years later I was not even thinking about something I couldn’t live without. If she showed weakness when I was at my lowest, we would’ve both failed.
But what does it mean to be strong when your co-dependent-taker is weak? It means different things to different people and is much harder for some than others. But it is always extremely difficult. Sometimes it is putting your phone on silence, gritting your teeth and becoming like a gramophone record that got stuck: saying over and over: “this is your chance, go and get right” or “go back to rehab, I talk to you when you have finished your program”. However sometimes it must go to the extreme, and can only be done with a strong support system for you and your family, and serious intervention.
Buy the Boundaries book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, join a support group, look for the right facility, and do your homework first, draw a line and attack the issue head on. And then stick it out. Put your phone off. Do not bail out, cop out, rescue. 


If this seems harsh, imagine the harsh reality of overdoses, the harsh reality of jail and holding cells, the harsh reality and numerous times spent in facilities, ruined marriages, ruined finance, and ruined health. And ask yourself how many times you are willing and able to do this. Often times, the co-dependent giver and co-dependent taker debacle becomes a burden on entire families and co-worker relationships, and the enabler and their acquaintances ultimately becomes addicted to the drama, instead of rejecting it. This is not recovery and this is not rehabilitation.


About the author: Dalene Hattingh was a 10 year hard liquor and cat and marijuana drug addict. She reached her own first personal breaking point when she had to start selling her hard-earned house items for drugs. She then started to reach out for help on her own terms. Around this time, her mother set out on a yearlong mission to find information, join support groups, and wait for her daughter’s addiction to reach the, lost all-, and completely dependent state. Only then could she intervene. Various times her daughter ran away and relapsed, however she maintained her position that her daughter should return to rehab refusing any and all communication. There was finally a forced breaking point where the only choices was street, or rehab. She finally caved, returned to rehab and gave her co-operation. Wise to the fact that it’s not possible to return from rehabilitation directly back into society, her mother put her another 8 months into a halfway house where she joined support groups, kept diaries and cashbooks, and set out to find employment. She had invaluable mentors who assisted her during her long time in incarceration. Dalene is now 9 years clean and works full time at The Way Recovery in Waterkloof Ridge, a four star rated facility, working with addicts to find a solution to their problems.

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