Willow has been enjoying a new game lately.
She carries one of her toys into the kitchen, places it in front of the refrigerator or stove and bats it under. She attempts to retrieve it but usually she only manages to push it further out of reach. Then she puts on her most convincing sad-face ("my favorite toy is stuck under the stove, can you pleeeeaaaasssseee get it out for me???") and patiently waits for me to come rescue her.
Of course, I can't resist her sad but sweet request. As I work on retrieving the toy, she works her sweetest charms and acts all lovey - purring loudly and gentling rubbing up against me as I work. When the toy emerges, the lovey stops and she quickly whacks it back under the stove and the sad-face resumes. And so the cycle continues, over and over again.
This game got me thinking about addiction and how people can unknowingly enable the addict. The addict's game is truly crazy, continually repeating a destructive behavior, each time hoping for a different outcome, and yet each time the end result is always the same. The enabler is the one who assists in the perpetuation of the crazy addictive cycle.
Each time I rescue Willow after she has whacked the toy under the stove, I further enable her behavior, and she promptly repeats the same behavior. She has me trained well and it is very difficult to resist her sad face as she gazes at the toy, stuck under the stove, too far to reach. Walking away from her in that moment would feel cruel and uncaring - after all it's her favorite toy. Yet how else will she learn that intentionally whacking the toy under the stove leads to the consequence of not having the toy again for a long period of time.
The challenge for the enabler is to not give in to the emotional manipulation of the addict and thus be willing to stand firm in truth even when it will cause the addict visible grief and displeasure.