Having a loved one who is an addict can put you into a very difficult situation. When you care for a person, your first instinct is to provide whatever they want and keep them feeling happy and comfortable. Unfortunately, this can end up being very problematic when the person you care for is an addict. Try to keep an addict happy can lead you to make it easier for them to abuse a substance. This is called enabling, and it is not healthy for either you or your loved one who struggles with addiction.
Of course the simplest method of enabling is just providing an addict with the substance they abuse or giving them the money to get the substance. However, a lot of enabling behavior is so subtle that people may not realize they are doing it. Enabling occurs whenever you are keeping someone with an addiction problem from actually dealing with the consequences of their actions. This an take the form of lying for the addict to authorities, fixing problems the addict encounters due to their behavior, keeping secrets for the addict, or taking care of all daily responsibilities while the addict is under the influence.
Now that you know a little bit about what enabling is and why it can be a problem, you can begin to stop the enabling process. It can be very tough to avoid enabling an addict, but you need to remind yourself that this will ultimately be best for them and you in the long run. Fortunately, there are a few effective methods that families and friends of addicts can use to halt enabling.
Tips for Stopping Enabling
Explain to the addict that you will no longer be enabling their behavior. It is important to set up limits and stick to these limits. The most basic limits that you should talk about are limits about providing money or drugs for the addict. Tell them that you will no longer be providing them with the means to further their addiction. This can be very difficult, so you may need to cut off the addict’s access to joint bank accounts or lock away valuables the addict could steal.
Ignoring an addiction can be a way of enabling them, so you need to be upfront and address the situation. Stopping enabling behaviors will rely on your ability to take a good, hard look at your relationship with the addict. Carefully consider how your relationship has changed since the person developed a substance abuse problem, and look at how these changes have affected you. It can be helpful to include the addict in this process by having some open conversations with them while they are sober. Avoid getting mad and yelling at the addict, but be honest and frank about your situation.
In addition to being honest with yourself and the addict, it is also a good idea to begin being honest with others. Enablers frequently work with the addict to hide the person’s addiction. This type of enabling mostly involves making excuses for the addict to their family, work, or school whenever the addict misses important events. It also includes trying to cover up the addict’s behaviors to law enforcement officials or medical professionals.
Another form of enabling that you will need to stop is the types of enabling that makes it easy for an addict to ignore daily responsibilities. You may need to stop doing all the laundry, cooking all the meals, and cleaning the entire home in a shared environment. It might be normal to care for a partner or family member, but doing all the necessary tasks for an addict just makes it easier for them to abuse substances.
Keep in mind that your own behavior with drugs or alcohol could end up accidentally enabling the addict. Many people hope that if they can monitor responsible alcohol usage around an addict, the addict will eventually follow their example. There is also a temptation to celebrate or relax with the addict in times when the addict is using a special occasion to justify their usage, but you should never use substances around an addict.
Many people who struggle with addictions end up in situations with unpleasant consequences. This can include punishments at school, disciplinary hearings at work, arrests, and jail time. Your first instinct might be to rush to the addict’s aid whenever these happen. However, you may need to step back and let an addict experience these consequences. Continuing to do schoolwork for an addict, bail them out, provide character witnesses for them, or help find lawyers will just make the addict think that they continue to behave badly.
Helping an Addict to Seek Treatment
One of the most important things you can do when you stop enabling an addict is encourage them to seek help for their addiction. When you ignore or excuse an addict’s behavior, you are subtly telling them that it is okay for them to continue their addiction. It can be tough, but it is important to directly confront the addict and discuss their behavior with them. Addiction is a disease of the brain that most people cannot overcome on their own, so you need to encourage them to seek help from professionals.
When you stop enabling an addict, they may respond with arguments, hurtful accusations, or attempts at guilting you. Try to avoid getting distracted by all of these manipulative techniques. Instead, stay calm and emphasize that you still love the person and want them to seek treatment for their addiction.
Most addicts will refuse the possibility of treatment at first, but you should remain firm and continue to remind the addict that treatment is the only way to actually deal with the addiction. In time, addicts who have the encouragement and motivation to seek treatment can get the help they need. At DreamCenter for Recovery, our state of the art treatment and dedicated counselors can provide valuable assistance. Call us at 877-978-3148 to get started on the road to recovery.