An addict will do virtually anything to get his or her hands on drugs or alcohol. In fact, addiction is a relentless compulsion that causes many addicts to behave in ways they would not otherwise consider. This can include taking advantage of and manipulating their loved ones to help them continue their addiction. However, are you subconsciously enabling your loved one’s addiction?
It is common for family members to believe they are helping their addicted loved ones when, in reality, they are acting as enablers. Whether you are a parent, spouse, sibling, or friend of an addict, how can you tell if you are helping or enabling their addiction?
What is Enabling?
There is a very fine line between helping or enabling your loved one’s addiction. Sometimes, it can be hard to decipher between the two. In general, enabling is doing things for someone that they could and should be doing themselves. Enabling is often done with the intent of reducing feelings of guilt, anxiety, or hopelessness in someone else.
If you are enabling your loved one’s addiction by doing things like bailing them out of jail or lying to cover for their drug use, you may actually be making matters worse. This is because enabling doesn’t help the person learn how to deal with their problems, nor does it force them to take responsibility for their actions.
Some of the most common ways you may be enabling a loved addiction are:
- Providing them with money to support their habit
- Providing them with shelter
- Downplaying the severity of the problem
- Providing emotional support
- Lying on their behalf to shield them from consequences
- Rationalizing their behavior or making excuses for them
5 Common Signs of Enablement
- Ignoring the addict’s negative or potentially dangerous behavior. Addiction is a progressive disease, and if left untreated it will only get worse. By overlooking or rationalizing your loved one’s behaviors you are denying the severity of their addiction. If someone is struggling with addiction they need support to help them find treatment so they can begin recovery.
- Unable to express emotions or ignoring your loved one altogether. It can be hard to know how to correctly act when being around someone suffering from addiction. It can seem like walking on eggshells and never knowing the right or wrong thing to say. Rather than trying to understand and express these emotions, you may choose to avoid the situation or the person completely. This is enabling because not saying anything is allowing the addiction to continue.
- Making excuses for your loved one. If you find yourself making up excuses and covering for your loved one’s addiction, you may be an enabler. You can’t control their actions or behavior, but you can control how much of the responsibility that comes with those choices you take on. Making excuses for your loved one’s addiction is only allowing the behavior to continue. In reality, the only thing you are doing is giving a reason why it is happening.
- Putting the addict’s needs before your own. The people in your life hold value regardless of their relationship with you. Sometimes when we become so wrapped up in making sure our loved one’s needs are met, our own needs go unmet. It is important to take care of yourself and to remember what matters most is your health, happiness, and safety.
- Supporting the addict financially. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a loved one struggling with addiction is to cut them off financially. This can be very difficult because you will see them struggle. However, helping them with rent, gas, groceries, or any other financial responsibility is only making it easier for your loved one to continue spending money on drugs and alcohol.
How to Best Help Your Loved One
It is important to confront your loved one with an open heart and open mind. Anger and frustration or sadness and disappointment will only put more guilt on your loved one who is struggling with something so difficult. It is important to set boundaries while ensuring your loved one that you are there to help them get help.
Making tough choices is hard especially when you see the struggle firsthand. It is not an easy action to take, but it can be necessary for the safety and well-being of your loved one and your family as a whole. Sometimes you have to detach with love so that you can help guide them towards treatment.
If you need guidance or are unsure what the next step is contact the Harm Reduction Center in South Florida. Harm Reduction Center is a private healthcare facility that provides highly individualized service to clients, offering Integrated Medication-Assisted Treatment and all outpatient levels of care. We know how hard it is having to watch your loved one struggle with addiction and we are here to help you get them the treatment needed to turn their life back around.