When you or a family member are involved in addiction recovery, you may hear the term “enabling” used often in the treatment setting.
If you have a drug addict in your life, then chances are you have enabled them in some way. But what does it mean to be an enabler and, more importantly, how do you stop being one to the addict in your life?
Here’s what you need to know about enabling drug addiction and how you can put a stop to these behaviors once and for all, better allowing you to help the addict in your life make a full recovery.
Enabling: What Is It?
Enabling may seem as if it’s a fairly straightforward concept, but the reality is that it’s very complicated. So complicated, in fact, that you may be doing it without realizing that you are. You may think you’re supporting someone in your life that you care about when in reality you’re enabling them.
Enabling is when you behave in a way that keeps someone from experiencing consequences for their behaviors.
It can often involve behaviors such as downplaying the severity of their choices, protecting them, or shielding them from harm.
Some examples of ways that people enable addicts include:
- Keeping secrets that the addict has asked to you to in order to keep the peace or avoid problems;
- Blaming those around the addict for their behaviors rather than blaming the addict themselves;
- Repeatedly coming to the rescue of the addict legally or financially;
- Blaming external influences or situations for the behavior of the addict;
- Attempting to control the behavior of the addict;
- Taking care of the addict;
- Ignoring serious, negative behaviors that the addict displays; and
- Putting the needs of the addict above others in your life.
These are just a few examples, but it is a productive exercise to think about some of the ways you may be enabling addicts in your life.
Why Does Enabling Happen?
Enabling, even though it is a destructive behavior for everyone involved, almost often comes from a place of love.
Addicts are typically people in your life that you love and care for, so you want to make things better for them and are willing to do what it takes to make that happen. The problem is that love is not a cure for addiction. Anyone struggling with addiction in their lives must be held accountable for the choices they make and how it impacts their lives – and the lives of loved ones. No one else can do that for them, no matter how much you believe or wish you could.
Another reason people often enable addicts is out of fear.
You might worry that something bad will happen to them if you don’t do things for the addict. For example, giving an addict a place to live is often safer for them than letting them be homeless, but it’s also enabling them to continue their drug abuse and often does more harm than good.
Too often, addicts exploit the fear-driven generosity of others as a part of their disease of addiction. They will continue to exploit the resources provided by those around them in order to continue their drug abuse.
Pain is another motivator of enabling – or more accurately, helping the addict to avoid pain.
Many people who enable are worried that leaving an addict to their own devices will only bring pain that will make addiction worse. While this may be true, shielding an addict from pain can backfire and often does since they often learn very quickly who they can manipulate and how to get the things they want. This won’t help them to change their behaviors and likely will only allow them to keep using.
How To Stop Enabling
The sad truth about enabling is that can quickly become a destructive habit — just as drug addiction can be.
You can become addicted to the addiction of your loved one, sacrificing many things about yourself in the process, including your own mental health.
Often, enabling an addict only leaves the enabler feeling lonely and resentful of the situation. However, there are things you can do to fight back against enabling and stop the behavior.
Learn more about addiction – It helps you objectively to learn more about addiction and educate yourself. Part of learning about addiction is learning the myths surrounding it and how you can get real help for your loved one. However, it’s also vital to realize that nothing you do can make the difference, as getting healthy and overcoming addiction is only something at the end of the day that can be done by the addict.
Get healthy support – There are many support groups out there for those who have loved ones struggling with addiction. Getting to know people just like you can help you to gain perspective and provide you with the support you need to stop enabling behavior. Seek out meetings like this in your area or ask the professionals at Moonlight Mountain Recovery for some resources.
Go to therapy – You may want to explore therapy or counseling for yourself. This can help you to gain insight into why you are making the choices you are and the ways in which you may be enabling a loved one in their battle with addiction.
Talk to the addict – Boundaries are important with addicts, but you also have to be willing to enforce them. As hard as it is, you need to convey your expectations to the addict in your life and share your concerns. Talk about how you feel and remain firm and honest. Remember, your feelings and emotions are valid, and you shouldn’t have to feel as if you should minimize them or conceal how you feel. Keep any conversation you have focused on your feelings but be careful not to attack or accuse, since they won’t help aid in a productive conversation.
Don’t make excuses – Declare the days of making excuses for the addict in your life to cover up their behavior and choices over. You cannot fix the problems of the addict in your life by helping them to avoid consequences for their actions. It is not your job to be their babysitter, so you must stop making excuses for them.
Establish clear financial boundaries – If you’ve been enabling the addict in your life financially, then that needs to stop. Set financial boundaries and stick to them. You may want to start by making promises to yourself that you’ll no longer bail them out of jail, pay legal fees, pay their rent or other bills, or give them money while they’re actively using.
Get them into treatment – The single most effective thing you can do is offer your loved one treatment. They may not be ready to admit they have a problem, so be prepared for that. But you never know until you ask. If they’re unwilling to seek help, then remember to stick firmly to your own boundaries.
Enabling is complicated. But if you have someone in your life that can benefit from addiction recovery in Boise, then reach out to Moonlight Mountain Recovery to get the help you both need today.