One of my favorite pieces of literature in Al-Anon is entitled The Merry-Go-Round of Denial. Any kind of addiction can set up a Merry-Go-Round of blame and denial. I am going to relate some of what I found so helpful in this pamphlet. I am using the alcoholic as an example but probably the same could be true for the addict.
There are three types of people who ride the Merry-Go-Round with the alcoholic. One is the enabler who is impelled to rescue the alcoholic from the disease. The enabler, by trying to save the alcoholic, also is meeting a desperate need himself. What happens when the enabler steps in is that the alcoholic is denied the process of learning from mistakes. Instead, the alcoholic learns that someone will be there to come to the rescue. And the rescue attempts will continue as long as everyone stays on the merry go round.
The other individual on the Merry-Go-Round is the victim. This person is responsible for getting the work done, if the alcoholic is absent due to drinking or is half on and half off the job due to a hangover. The victim essentially tries to protect the alcoholic. And the victim can also become a real emotional victim who feels shame, disappointment and eventually rage over the behavior of the alcoholic. This is a role that I played for sure. I absorbed injustices, endured social embarrassments, accepted broken promises, and was broken in spirit. My reaction was to spew out hostility, anxiety and anger. And I was as sick as the alcoholic.
The provoker is another individual who usually lives with the alcoholic. This person is generally hurt and upset by the drinking. As a result the relationship with the alcoholic becomes one that is filled with bitterness, resentment, fear and hurt. The provoker tries to control and force changes. But the provocation only brings about anger and blame from the alcoholic. And here is another part of me that I could see.
Because of these behaviors by those around him, the alcoholic's dependency increases. Others have cleaned up the mess and suffered the consequences of the alcoholic's drinking. Why should the alcoholic change? Everything is done for her/him so why not continue to drink or drug?
Here's where this really ceases to be a Merry-Go-Round but more like a House of Horrors with a revolving door. The alcoholic denies that there is a problem. And begins to blame the family for nagging and creating problems. I know this one well too.
The real problem is that the alcoholic is well aware of the truth which he so strongly denies. He is aware of his drunkenness. He is aware of his failure. His guilt and remorse have become unbearable; he cannot tolerate criticism or advice from others.
Everyone in the family of the alcoholic vows not to repeat their insanity but they continue to do so. And the alcoholic will continue to drink unless the cycle is broken when those associated with the alcoholic decide to change.
Thus, the Enablers and the Victim must seek information, insight and understanding, if they plan to change their roles. The Enabler must make a decision that he is powerless over the alcoholic and let the alcoholic suffer the consequences of his drinking . By doing so, the Enabler allows the alcoholic the dignity to fail or succeed.
The Victim who is often a spouse becomes crushed, empty and nearly destroyed. By seeking help through therapy or Al-Anon, the spouse will change roles and not be the victim anymore. When that happens, it may get the attention of the alcoholic. If the non-alcoholic changes, this may make the alcoholic seek help. But there are no guarantees of that.
There is no easy way to change behaviors. Some find it more painful to change than to just keep things the way they are. I found that if I didn't change, I would be sinking so low that my life no longer mattered. I decided that I had to break that cycle of the downward spiral. Thankfully, my wife entered AA at the time that I went to Al-Anon. I think that we both realized that the life we had wasn't really living.
So if you are doing the same things over and over with nothing changing, it may be time to get off the Merry-Go-Round. When your heart and soul are tied up in another and you despair for your own sanity, it may be time to change what you are doing and try something different. This is the only life I have. I am not willing to give it up for the sickness of another. And once I reclaimed myself, things began to change for all around me. It is a big step to change old behaviors, but it may be your salvation.