Stop Actions That Allow The Behavior To Continue
Are you working and paying some of the bills that the alcoholic would be paying if they hadn’t lost their job or missed time from work due to drinking? Or are you providing food and shelter for this person?
If so, you could be enabling. You are providing them with a “safety net” that allows them to lose or skip their job with no real consequences.
The Dangers Of Enabling Addiction
Heres a basic example of just allowing a person using drugs to live with you. Typically, every dollar a person with an addiction can get their hands on goes to buying drugs. When you allow an addicted person to live with you rent-free, you are essentially giving that person $500 or more a month to buy drugs with. The U.S. had over 70,000 overdose deaths in 2017. You could be giving them the extra dollars they need to overdose and possibly die.
Start Encouraging Rehab Drug Treatment
Your family needs to address the importance of drug treatment. You may turn to a facility, like Peace Valley Recovery, to discuss an intervention or treatment program that could help your loved one. When the time is right, talking to your loved one about how their drug dependence has affected your lives will encourage them to take the right step toward rehab treatment.
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Understand That You Cannot Fix Them
Many enablers believe that they can somehow fix their loved one, but the reality is that you only have control over yourself. The addict is the only one responsible for their actions. You can, however, guide them towards treatment. This can happen by simply talking to the person you are concerned about, or in more serious cases, organising an intervention.
Helping Vs Enabling Behaviors
You enable addiction when you do something to empower the addict in their behaviors. Denial by ignoring the facts and protecting your loved one from the damage they have caused is allowing them to continue in these behaviors and preventing them from recognizing the full issue. Help, on the other hand, is acknowledging the complexity of the problem, addictive behaviors, and their consequences. Pointing your loved one to professional resources and learning more to support them through recovery are constructive ways to help without enabling addiction.
Before you can learn how to stop enabling an addict, you should be familiar with the signs of enabling an addict. Recognizing these signs within yourself and other loved ones can help you change your supportive behavior for the better.
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Why Enabling Is A Problem
When a sick person gets better, or a drug addict or alcoholic goes into treatment enabling behavior prevents the person from living a normal life. They become dependent on the enabler and at the same time, they resent their dependency.
If the dysfunctional person is actively gambling, drinking, doing drugs, dropping out of school or what ever the dysfunction is, and enabler may call in sick for them, drive them to appointments etc. and this prevents the person from having to deal with the consequences of their behavior. In other words enabling allows the dysfunctional person to stay dysfunctional.
Remember: There Is A Difference Between Self
People who love addicts often put themselves second. If you are one of these people then it is important that you learn to distinguish between self-care and selfishness. Self-care simply means that you are looking after your own health and wellbeing it does not mean that you are being selfish. If you fail to prioritise your own mental and physical health while focusing on someone else, your wellbeing will begin to suffer.
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When You Stop Being An Enabler
Many times when an enabling system is removed, the fear will force a person with an alcohol use problem to seek help, but there are no guarantees. This can be extremely difficult to accept.
Take some time to learn more about enabling and the family disease of alcoholism, attend an Al-Anon meeting in your area. It may also be helpful to learn more about the resources and information available for families affected by alcoholism.
Attending Al-Anon in person will help you feel more empowered as you stop enabling, and less alone in the process. Unfortunately, none of us can control what another will do.
Yet we do have the power to set boundaries and respect our own lives. Consider 10 things to stop doing if you love an alcoholic that can help you take back your own life whether or not your alcoholic gives up drinking.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Why Do People Enable Alcoholics/addicts
Enablers may think they are helping, but they are causing more damage. People enable others for a number of reasons. Here are a few:
- Enablers may be in denial that their loved one is addicted.
- Enablers may justify their loved ones addiction by minimizing the causes or effects.
- Enablers may be afraid of the anger or retaliation that may come from saying no.
- Even if its subconscious, enablers like to be in control. Enabling is a means of controlling others.
- Enablers may truly think they are actually helping because they dont realize they are enabling.
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Ive Stopped Enabling Now What
The month of February, Vertava Health has focused on enabling addiction, and why it is the number one cause of death in addiction. Weve given examples of helping a loved one versus enabling a loved one in this infographic, and shared articles with points of view from the addiction enabler and the person struggling with addiction Weve equipped you with the information you need to know to stop enabling and start helping. This is our final post for February. Read on.
Congratulations. I heard you were strong enough and brave enough to stop enabling your drug addicted loved one. Now that youve shifted your behaviors and are making a positive change for both you and your loved one, you probably have some questions on what to do now. Thats why weve come up with a list of some of the most asked questions we hear from people who have made the courageous decision to stop enabling.
Hearing this advice isnt simple but following it can be even more difficult.
There is absolutely nothing easy about stopping enabling behavior. When you stop enabling your loved ones drug or alcohol addiction, youre sure to receive pushback. Youre likely to experience some retaliation. Youll worry about the outcome. Youll fear something tragic could happen to your loved one without your help or interference. While he or she will face consequences, you will, too.
1. Ive stopped enabling, do I confront my loved one about their addiction?
When you confront your loved one:
Stop Scolding Or Arguing With The Addict
It may seem like the only way to get through to the addict is to continue hammering home the point until they accept your advice. The thing is, its wasted effort. The addict likely knows they have a problem and ultimately they must make the decision to cease or continue their behavior. Plus, if the only consequences of their actions are a verbal talking to.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Enabling Behavior
Sometimes, family members know they are enabling an addict, but they are unable to stop. They may be afraid that the addict will become angry with them and retaliate, or they may think that enabling the addict will shield other family members from the consequences of their behavior. But in many cases, enabling is a result of denial. Family and friends just dont want to believe that their loved one is an addict.
Admitting the problem and facing it head on can be terrifying. Family members may fear how the addiction reflects on them, or how acknowledging that the person is an addict will force them to make difficult choices they dont think they can make.
These enabling behaviors and the fears that they stem from them are some of the reasons why family therapy is so crucial in addiction recovery. An experienced therapist can help family members recognize codependent and enabling behavior, understand why it happens, and figure out ways to prevent it from occurring in the future.
Some of the most common ways that family members enable loved ones with drug addiction are:
- Cover up about the addicts behavior.
- Make excuses for their behavior.
- Bail the addict out of jail, or pay their legal fees.
- Blame other people or circumstances for their behavior.
- Recognize the problem, but attribute it to something other than drug or alcohol addiction.
Reasons Why People Enable
People become an enabler due to two reasons, one being guilt and the other one being fear. Of course there are other reasons, but these in particular seem to be most common. Enablers will feel guilt because they may feel responsible for their loved ones addiction. Its not so much that the enabler is the primary cause of the addiction but one of the many contributing components to the addicts addiction. The enabler will then think that they owe it to the addict to give support to them any way they see fit. However, what some enablers may not know, is that addiction is an amalgamation of many things. Quite honestly, the reason why their loved one is an addict probably has nothing to do with the enabler even if they feel that way.
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Enjoy Healthy Activities Together
It is very difficult to establish a new sober lifestyle, they may be feeling a little down about having to give up certain relationships and activities in their new sobriety. You can help by spending time with them, which makes it easier for them to have a sober lifestyle. Offer to go for a run or invite them to watch a movie together. Or simply go out to lunch, each of these moments can be meaningful to their recovery.
Codependency Keeps The Addict Sick
The issue of enabling is a symptom of a bigger issue: codependency. Codependency is the term used to describe the highly dependent relationship between two people. The hallmark of codependency is when the actions of one person enable, support, or perpetuate the destructive, irresponsible behavior of the other.
At first, codependency masquerades as being helpful. No one wants to see their loved one in pain. Your actions are intended to help your loved one to avoid hurting themselves or others. This could be something like allowing your adult child to live in your home as they try to stop using substances. Maybe you cover for your inebriated spouse when their employer calls.
Codependency sets in as these behaviors shift from being a one-off or occasional thing into being the norm. The addict develops the expectation that you will cover for or save them whenever they get into a bad situation, and you step up to the plate every time.
You might think youre helping them by keeping them from falling on their face. The truth is youre only enabling their behavior and exacerbating the issue. They have no reason to stop doing what theyre doing because they know you will step in to take care of the problem every time something goes wrong.
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You Are Helping Them Financially
Paying an addicts bills or loaning them money may help your loved one get out of a bad situation in the short term, but it will only make the source of their financial trouble worse in the long run. Be honest with yourself about why they need money from you in the first placethey spend too much on drugs or booze, or they cant hold down a job because they are never sober, or theyre having to pay for property damage they caused while intoxicated. If you take away the money trouble, you take away the evidence of how addiction is ruining your loved ones finances.
Loving An Addict Without Enabling Them
The debate about the difference between enabling an addict and helping an addict has gone on for as long as, if not longer than, the drug crisis has been an issue. As more and more people require drug and alcohol rehabilitation, support groups have become a popular tool to help families come together and support each other through dealing with a loved ones addiction and inspiring hope that recovery is possible. These groups also stress the importance of not enabling your addicted loved one.
Many of these support groups believe the largest barrier to getting an individual willing to accept any type of drug or alcohol rehabilitation help is when families enable them to continue using or drinking without consequence.
Put simply, the word enabling refers to any behavior a family, friend, or co-worker might do that allows an addict or alcoholic to continue drinking or using drugs.
The opposite of enabling is helping.
By helping, it means that any form of support that would prevent an addicted individual from seeking help is immediately stopped.
Stopping this enabling behavior is often difficult for a lot of families because it may feel as though it violates every parental instinct a person has. Its actually quite the contrary. If an addict or alcoholic believes that their behavior has no consequences and no matter what, the family will give them a safety net, undying support, and a warm bed, often theres no real urgency to try to get help.
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Addiction And Relationships: Problems For The Spouse
Estimates suggest that one in three people have a close family member who abuses or has an addiction to alcohol. Oftentimes, these family members are also someones husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, and in these cases it may seem harder to just let them figure it out because your lives are inextricably intertwined especially if there are kids involved.
If kids are involved, it is important to assess the risk of having them live in the same house as an alcoholic or addict. If your spouse is aggressive, abusive or in any way a danger to your children it is important to remove yourself and your children from the situation either by going to stay with friends or family, or asking your spouse to do so instead. Besides the trauma that children can experience being around a parent that is in the depths of addiction, it is common for children of alcoholics and addicts to grow up with distinct characteristics that are not always conducive to a healthy and happy life, and to become addicts themselves as they grow older.
Avoid Supporting The Addiction Financially
This is also a form of enabling and rears its head in different ways.
When a drug-addicted family member asks you for money, has you pay their bills, or even lives in your home rent-free, this may be enabling their addiction.
Your loved one may give many reasons why they are asking you for money, but unfortunately, all paths likely lead to supporting the drug abuse financially.
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The Six Family Roles In Addiction
Active addiction not only affects the person using drugs or alcohol, but it also affects their entire family. Individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol tend to be erratic and unpredictable, leaving their confused family members to pick up the pieces. Addiction pushes family members to their breaking points and forces each person to conform in one way or another.
You may have heard of the six dysfunctional family roles in addiction before. As family members adapt to the unpredictable nature of their loved ones addiction, each individual copes in their own way. These coping skills usually fit into one of six different categories or roles within the family. Each role enables the individual with the problem in some way, either directly or indirectly.
Not all families have one person who fills each role. Sometimes one member fills multiple roles and other times some roles are left unfilled. Recognizing these general descriptions and behavior patterns is one part of how to help an addict without enabling.
Icipate In Family Therapy With The Addict
Family therapy can be a wonderful way to address the way substance abuse affects an entire family. It can address underlying issues in the family dynamic and help the addict discuss their feelings in a safe environment. It can also be a successful way to help them separate the disease and the actions it causes from their own personality and sense of self.
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To Enable Recovery You Must Stop Enabling Addiction
Quite often, denial is cultivated through enabling relationships. To effectively break the power denial has over an addict or alcoholic, you must stop shielding them from the reality of their addiction. The antidote to denial is acceptance.
For someone with a chemical dependency to become willing to get treatment for their problem, they have to first accept the fact that they need help. This usually only happens through a process of painful confrontation with their own consequences.
When it comes to interacting with someone who has a substance abuse problem, you want to enable and empower recovery not addiction. As long as you are protecting someone with a substance abuse problem from the reality of their circumstances, you will never force them to come to terms with it. They will never get help. They will never get well. And, their addiction might kill them.
We know you sincerely want the person you care about to recover from the disease of addiction. To bring this to fruition, its time to be strong.