Many situations that involve a drug or alcohol addiction, a loved one is enabling the addiction. Before one can understand how they are enabling an addict, they must understand what it means. Enabling an addiction occurs when loved ones try to “help” an addict, when in actuality they are not helping at all. The enabler takes away any consequences from the addict’s behavior, these consequences are crucial because they may drive the addict to want to change. In other words an addict is able to get away with anything because there is always someone there to clean up their mess.
Who Enables an Addiction?
Many people assume that only a close family member or friend can enable an addiction. However, enabling an addiction cam be instigated by various individuals; such as, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even doctors or therapists.
Examples of Enabling an Addiction
An example of enabling an addiction would be the enabler calling in sick for the addict, when in reality the addict is too high or drunk to go to work.
Another example of enabling an addiction would be giving money to the addict to buy more drugs. Generally anytime someone is covering up for the addict by giving/loaning money, finishing work/chores, lying or making up excuses, or generally ignoring behaviors that should have some kind of repercussion, is enabling.
A Desire to Help
Unfortunately, many loved ones enable an addiction through their well intentioned desire to help the addict. More often than not, the addict is completely aware that the enabler will protect them from any consequences; by knowing this the addict not only takes complete advantage of the situation, but also lessens their desire to get treatment.
Enabling and Denial
Enabling behavior typically begins very slowly and gets worse over time. It may begin with the enabler keeping the addict’s abuse a secret from others; this is called denial. Denial plays a key in anyone’s addiction; it is also part of enabling.
The enabler may make various rationalizations, try to minimize the problem, or ignore it and hope that it goes away. This is unfortunate, because addiction does not work this way. Eventually the enabler will get caught in a never ending cycle.
Never Ending Cycle
The addict experiences minimal or no consequences from their abuse and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Because they have no consequences, not only can they continue to use, but they can increase their use. This means that the enabler will have to deal with even more chaos and problems. The increase in chaos is the perfect excuse for the addict to continue using.
Eventually the enabler may begin to feel fear or shame about the situation at hand. They begin to try their best to keep things together; while inside frustration and anger is building up. When this happens, these emotions can be overwhelming, and they refuse to continue making up excuses for the addict’s behavior. Because of the stress and other emotions involved it may be very negative and aggressive.
Are You Enabling?
Become Educated About A Drug Or Alcohol Addiction
Whenever anyone is trying to deal with addiction, they must learn as much as possible about it. There are various support groups that can be very useful as well as talking with therapists and counselors.
Stop Providing Financial Support
Giving an addict money to buy more drugs or alcohol is one of the top ways that an enabler supports an addiction. Many addicts are very good at manipulation, and when it comes to getting more of their substance of choice, they can be very creative for reasons why they need money. No matter what the addict may say they need the money for, once they receive it, it will be used to buy drugs or alcohol almost every time.
Allow the Addict to Experience Consequences
Supporting an addict by giving them a place to stay, feeding them, and generally taking care of them is enabling. It may seem kind to pay for their rent, car, groceries, or legal matters, but it is only helping the addict to avoid the consequences of their actions.
Don’t Take Responsibility for the Addict’s Disease
No one is ever responsible for a person’s addiction, but the addict. Oftentimes, when a loved one tries to confront an addict about their addiction, they will blame their behavior on something that the loved one did or did not do, or on past events. They do this because they know it makes the loved one feel guilty.
Don’t Handle Their Life Crisis
If an addict encounters a life crisis, they might be motivated to get treatment for their addiction, but only if someone else does not handle the situation for them. A life crisis can be anything from loosing employment to getting arrested; in general these events or situations will change the person’s life. This will also be one of the hardest times for an enabler not to help.
Many times an addict gets help because of a life crisis they cannot handle with an addiction; this can make them realise that they have a problem. Whenever a person suffering from an addiction is being protected from some kind of life crisis, the enabler may literally be doing no more than preventing the person from getting treatment and entering recovery.
Don’t Pity Them
The enabler must stop basing their decisions around feeling sorry for the addict. This is so important because oftentimes, a person with an addiction will use their feelings of pity to their advantage.
Anyone who is trying to stop enabling and move forward to getting help for someone should consider a possible intervention. Interventions are known to help get addicts into a rehab for treatment. If an intervention is not possible there is always therapy or counseling.