Updated: Jul 15, 2019
What do I do when my Loved One Repeatedly Makes Unhealthy Choices:
Reviewing your Own Balance Pole in Coping with Unhealthy Behaviour
WARNING: TOUGH TOPICS AHEAD – Read with your own Self Care in Mind.
Enabling, or Just Helping the Best We Can?
As a practitioner with over twenty-five years coal face, hands on, client-based experience, based in Brisbane and in far North Queensland (Cairns), I have met with a broad range of family members affected by their Loved One’s unhealthy choices.
When we have a loved one firmly engaged in unhealthy behaviour, it can place our own sense of security and harmony in great jeopardy. And I have watched and listened to many family member’s experiencing a roller coaster of events and emotions as their loved one struggles with their own demons and tends to make choices that pose risk.
Harming of the Self
Unhealthy choices can come in the guise of any addiction – ie drugs, alcohol, over eating, unsafe prolific sex etc - however anti social behaviours that invite police and judicial attention and/or carve a pathway to general disruption can also create havoc.
Self harm, as another form of troubling behaviour, can actually involve a range of behaviours that pose risk to our well-being. That is, any action or behaviour that poses a health risk can be regarded as self harm. This may include but is not exhausted by such actions as over or under eating, unsafe sex, smoking tobacco or marijuana, taking illicit drugs, as well as instances of cutting, mutilating or harming of the body.
Practitioner Judith Shapland, based in Far North Queensland (FNQ), is both a practising and highly experienced therapist and a dual mental health service consumer and survivor of past childhood trauma.
Ms Shapland best describes self harm as ‘a short term form of release with long term consequences and risks for harm’.
Recalibrating Your ‘Balance Pole’ through Self Care
Helping someone stay unhealthy forms the basis of the traditional notion of ‘enabling’.
The word enabling is arguably also now widely associated with the notion of Tough Love whereby Loved Ones place strong and unyielding sanctions on undesirable behaviour. This can be seen as putting in very firm boundaries so as not to unwittingly HELP someone stay in harms way and continue to make unhealthy choices. It can also sadly divorce your Loved One from the very support they require to exact change.
CEO and founder of the Family Drug Support Australia - see https://www.fds.org.au/ - Tony Trimingham created an alternative approach for Loved Ones after he formed a family support association for addicts when he lost his own son to a heroin overdose.
Tony realised how parents and Loved Ones could be easily BLAMED for their family members unhealthy choices and thus Tony threw out the word enabling and more encouraged the review of the individuals response and own balance pole as a means of enticing balance back where Loved Ones feel fearful and destablised.
Boundaries may indeed form the basis of recalibrating your own balance pole regardless of the choices your Loved one may make however the very roots of this approach are in self care and working out what best suits your own situation & family.
Learning the Self Care Ropes
Self care may also come in many guises.
The choices are limitless in terms of devising your own version of your unique happy place and making decisions on behalf of yourself and your family and your Loved Ones you think are in the best interests of all.
Practising self care also acts as a means of taming the triggering of adrenalin and cortisol which can accompany fears and Life Disruption.
This way the brain can function unencumbered by the potentially debilitating and accumulative effects of long term adrenal drain (associated with the ‘fight, flight or freeze effect connected to when your family is sustained in phase of disruption).
Thoughts processes can start to become more clear and less clouded in emotion.
Hope can be reinstated.
The pathway to Acceptance can replace a myriad of valid but sometimes futile endeavours many families experience when their Loved One engages in unhealthy choices.
Suddenly, a way through can be glimpsed.