Have you ever heard that old saying, “If you love someone, let them go, if they come back, they are yours”? Now, do you have an addict in your life whom you love to the ends of the earth but just doesn’t seem to be able to stop using? Take a deep breath, it could be a teensy tiny bit your fault. Now don’t freak out, I don’t mean all of it. Just… maybe.. a little bit.
Hear me out, I am an addict, and I have recovered from the hopeless state of mind and body of active using. I have some solid sober time under my belt, and I am confident in the fact that I have been on both the addict side and the loved one side of using. I can tell you wholeheartedly that there is nothing harder than loving an addict and being unable to help. That being said, we will sure as hell try, even though it may just be harming them. Here are some classic signs of when we may just be enabling our addict.
Shelling Out Cash When They Need It
This is a huge one. Although they may beg and plead for the help, we are really only prolonging their using by enabling them financially. My mother used to tell me that she would give me money because she didn’t want me to resort to… “morally bankrupted motives”… in order to get high. However, if she had cut me off a long time before, I probably would have hit my bottom a lot sooner and been willing to get sober.
Bend Over Backwards to Cover for Them
If it seems like you are following around a toddler, cleaning up the toys they left behind, then you are enabling. Be it bailing them out of jail, calling their work and excusing their absence, making excuses to their friends and family why they behaved a certain way, etc., each time we do this, it is preventing them from taking responsibility for their actions.
Resenting our Addict
If we are constantly doing the cleaning up, chances are we are going to get resentful. We put so much time and effort into taking care of them that we forget to put our own needs first. We lose sleep, we lose peace of mind, and we say yes when we really want to say no. Our failed expectations, when we do so much and expect something in return, maybe like, for them to get their life together, will be our ruin.
The key word in our new fight to end enabling is to learn the value of the word NO. Here’s the deal, when it comes to addiction, many people don’t realize that it is often a family issue. Addicts are often surrounded by a group of or at least one codependent. A codependent is someone who relentlessly puts the needs of others before themselves. They do this for a variety of reasons: acceptance, validation, abandonment issues, you name it. The issue is that with the “endless love” we give out, we expect something in return, it could be conscious or subconscious, but when we are not given that return, we try harder and harder, further crumbling our self-esteem.
There are a lot of options for people who frequently enable their addicts to receive help on their own. First and foremost, it is common that they feel isolated and ashamed, that no one understands their problems and why they must help their loved one. However, there are thousands of groups of people out there who have been a part of a fellowship called Al-Anon.
Al-Anon was created by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. She started the program for loved ones of addicts and alcoholics so that these people could find a way out of their enabling, and could grow spiritually themselves. Al-Anon provides members with a network of people who are all in the same boat, and who could all probably use an understanding and compassionate ear.
Another alternative is to seek family counseling or therapy for yourself. By staying in our enabling ways, we are ensuring our addict that they will always have a safe place to continue their destruction. If we learn through therapy to break the cycle, our loved one will understand that we do not put up with their using behavior. Honestly, if my mother never finally reached her breaking point with me, I would have probably been using for a lot longer or would have been dead a long time ago.
None of this will be fun. It requires a good hard look at ourselves, our patterns, and our behaviors. It is going to require some real brutal honesty and a very strong backbone. However, if we want to really, truly help our addicted loved one, we have to stop enabling them. It clearly states in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that no matter how much our families may beg and plead, we will never be able to stop until we have become completely willing. Alcoholics must hit their bottom before they can start to climb back to the top.
Take it from a codependent alcoholic & addict (I know, I’m a mess) being cut off by my family was the greatest gift they ever gave me. It allowed me to hit my bottom, and since they did it with love, I was able to call them when I was ready and truly ask for help, not for money, not for a ride, but for help. Since that day, my family and I have a beautiful relationship like I could have never imagined. My mother is able to get an entire night of sleep, she has been able to repair her credit score and I, myself, have been able to help her get out of the financial debt that I put her in.
If you find that you might be enabling, the sooner you put an end to it, the sooner things will turn around.
Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction
If you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism or addiction and want to experience recovery in a thriving community with lots of people just like you, then call the professionals at Stout Street today at 866-722-7040. Our trained staff is standing by to take your call and help you in any way we can. We know how difficult of a decision this can be and we know what it takes to ensure you find your own person path in recovery. You no longer have to do it alone, so give us a call today and find the happy and sober life you’ve always dreamed of.