Are You Enabling an Addict?

There is no easy or right way to deal with an addict. It is difficult when it is a friend or coworker, but especially traumatic if this addict is a close loved one. Many people don’t even know their loved one is struggling with addiction usually until it is too late, and up until that point, many parents, siblings, and spouses will participate in enabling behaviors to try and help this person through their tough times.

Enabling can seem like the easy way out, and can often create the illusion that the person is actually helping their loved one, when in fact, enabling can often do far more damage than good when it comes to the recovery of an addicted person. Here is why.

The Value of Rock Bottom

As difficult as it may be to watch or be a witness to, addicts and alcoholics will be unable to make the  “to their core” decision to stop using drugs or alcohol until they have hit a hard and life-shaking bottom. It might not make any sense to people who do not struggle with addiction, but it rings true for just about each sober and active addict. The desire to fight will not be there until there is literally NO OTHER OPTION.

This is just the way it is with addiction. After a time, the addictive patterns of thinking and behaving begin to completely overthrow the person’s real thought processes, making it seem impossible to stop using because they begin to be completely reliant upon it. The troubling truth is, the only thing that brings addicts comfort is the same thing that is slowly killing them.

Signs of Enabling

It can often look different in each family, depending upon their personal situations, financial situations, and the possible presence of addiction in the family, however, nine times out of 10, there are certain behaviors and warning signs that can indicate a person is enabling an addict.

  • Loaning Your Loved One Money – this one is huge. Obviously, addiction is a very expensive habit. Giving in to your loved one when they ask to borrow money, repeatedly, without any honest indication to pay it back, will enable them to continue using with little consequence, and will be a heavy burden for your own life and financial security.
  • Making Excuses – this one can be tricky. Have you ever lied for your loved one or child, if they have been repeatedly late to work, skipping school, or calling in sick? Have you felt as though you were cleaning up the messes of your loved one, with often no thanks or sign of gratitude?
  • Being their Saver – this ties into the previous warning sign, but this can look like anything from:
  • Repeatedly picking them up while they are inebriated
  • Bailing them out of jail
  • Paying their bills or rent when they have spent all their money
  • Letting them move back into your home
  • Feeling the need to protect their feelings

Saving behaviors often makes the person doing them feel important, helpful, and vital to the individuals life. However, hiding your loved one from the real-world consequences of their actions can only encourage their drug use and prolong the process.

couple arguing

  • Denying the Problem – If you are a parent, spouse, sibling, or other family member, that chooses to ignore that the individual is even struggling with addiction, either in the hopes that it will go away, or because you are not sure of how to face the issue, this can cause the individual to feel alone and disregarded. It can be difficult to think about “feeding in” to their behaviors, but there is a stark line between indifference and compassion and anger, and it can be very helpful to speak with support groups or an interventionist on how best to be there for your loved one.
  • Isolating them from the world – It can be difficult to let your child or spouse fall deeper and deeper into addiction, and many people feel they should be doing everything in their power to save them. Whether it be:
  • Supporting them financially
  • Saving them every time they stumble
  • Deliberately holding them back from opportunities

This behavior inhibits the addict from fully experiencing life, and instead, hides them away from consequences, experiences or certain people, whether to try and prevent them from getting worse, or to try and stop them from ever experimenting with drugs in the first place. This list can vary depending on each family dynamic and the current lifestyle that the addict is leading, but the idea stands the same, and it ties into the saver role.

  • Getting emotionally invested in their behavior – It can be very difficult to not fall for the sob stories, or to scream back when they are angry at you. However, these scenarios often give the addict the excuse they are looking for to continue their behavior. Whether it be they sobbed for help, or they used a fight as a reason to run away and get high again. The trick is learning to listen with compassion and hold boundaries with love.
  • Not holding boundaries – For families, this behavior is often one deeply rooted in childhood. For relationships, it is often affected by how each individual was raised. Holding boundaries is the sign of a healthy and functioning individual. Many people who fail with boundaries often struggle with symptoms of codependency. Repeatedly stating boundaries and going back on them allows the addict to continue their own selfish behaviors, without guilt or consequence.
  • Blaming others – This can often be the case with addict children from divorced families. One parent can blame the other for their actions, ignoring the fact that the child continues to use regardless of the reason why. In relationships, it can be easy to blame the job, their upbringing, their previous romantic partner, etc. The fact is, an addict uses because they struggle with addiction. The reason why they have an addiction is useless to discuss until they are in a substance abuse treatment setting and getting sober.
  • Resenting them – This one can be pretty impossible not to do sometimes. Watching someone you love destroy their life and give no regard to the harm they are causing you will very often result in resentment. However, it is important to remember that underneath the drugs and alcohol, that person is still the person you know and love. Treating the individual with compassion and as much understanding as possible will help keep anger and resentment at bay, and cultivate opportunities for open communication.
  • Getting Drunk or High with Them – Many people who struggle with addiction are often raised in families where addiction has been prevalent. For parents who get drunk or high with their own children – the individual will usually not be able to get sober until after they have moved out, experienced their own life away from that parent, and have developed a desire for a new way of living.

Getting Help

Being sober and in recovery does not mean that everything is smooth sailing. There is no straight line to recovery, and it, like other diseases, can be extremely difficult to manage. However, by developing a plan of attack in regards to coping with cravings, you can set yourself up for success.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug abuse, you are not alone. Reach out to us right now. Our drug treatment center can help you today.