How can you be sure that you are really helping your addicted loved one?
Are there ways that you can tell when you may be close to stepping over the line into enabling him or when you have already crossed it?
At times it can be difficult for those closest to someone who is struggling with an addiction to tell the difference between helping someone they love and enabling them. The first one has a positive connotation to it and is meant to give the recipient a “hand up,” while the latter doesn’t have that type of positive outcome at all. Instead, enabling only leads to the addicted person becoming more deeply held under the influence of his disease.
How to Tell if You’re Enabling Your Addicted Loved One
The following are signs that your or your family members’ behavior has crossed over into the territory of enabling someone’s addiction instead of helping.
Ignoring Your Addicted Loved One’s Negative or Dangerous Behavior
Some families don’t bring up the subject of their addicted loved one’s drug or alcohol use or his lack of reliability in attending family events. Other concerns may include missing a lot of time from work due to being hung over or recovering from drug use, as well as “disappearing” without being in touch with loved ones for several days.
The family members may decide to avoid bringing up the subject to avoid an angry confrontation. Some of them may even deny that a problem exists. Ignoring or avoiding the problem and hoping that this is something that will resolve itself on its own isn’t going to work. If someone has an addiction, it will get worse if the affected person doesn’t receive professional treatment.
Making Excuses for the Addict’s Behavior
When an addicted person is shielded from having to experience the consequences of actions, then he is being enabled. With family members or friends running interference like that, there isn’t any incentive for him to make any changes to his lifestyle.
He just continues to drink or consume his drug of choice. The addiction grows stronger and becomes harder to treat over time.
Blaming Other People or Situations for the Addiction
If you’re an enabler, you say things that express the idea that your loved one isn’t responsible for his addiction. It’s someone else’s fault:
- “He has an addictive personality.”
- “She’s had a hard life.”
- “If you truly understood what she has been through, then you’d know why she drinks.”
- “A lot of people who are under stress take pills. It goes with the job.”
- “We should be grateful that [name] works so hard to support all of us. He deserves to unwind at the end of the day with a drink.”
When you use techniques like discounting what’s happening in front of you or trying to make excuses for your addicted loved one’s behavior, then you’ve crossed the line into enabling. You’re not allowing him to live with the consequences of the choices he’s making.
Stepping in to Take Over the Addict’s Responsibilities
Some family members think they are helping when they take their addicted loved one’s children to school, call in sick for them when they are unable to go to work, or clean up the mess when they’ve vomited after drinking. Instead, these are all signs of enabling.
If you are stepping in to help someone with a substance abuse issue and you’re doing it so that you can feel better about yourself or your relationship with the person who is drinking or doing drugs, then it’s an indication that there may be some level of enabling going on.
Handing Over Cash
It’s very difficult to say, “No” to a family member who is claiming to have fallen on hard times and is asking for help. The first time it happens, you’re probably happy to help, as most people would be if they had the means to do so.
What if the requests for help kept right on coming? Do you continue to hand over cash, knowing that your loved one will probably use the money to buy drugs? If you step in and buy groceries or pay the rent or the utility bill directly, you could still be enabling. You aren’t allowing your addicted loved one to experience the consequences of his actions.
English Mountain Recovery’s Family Program Helps to Heal Unhealthy Patterns
Addiction has been described as a family disease. It has an impact on everyone it touches, not just the person who is drinking or using drugs. English Mountain’s family program provides support to our clients’ loved ones.
The goal of having family members participate is to help them improve their communication skills, learn how to set healthy boundaries for communication, and address any underlying anger or negativity. Several techniques, including lectures, group therapy, videos, and personal exercises are used to achieve this goal.