Enabling an addict is something that most family members and friends do, without even realizing it. Dealing with a loved one’s addiction is never easy. You yourself may be a recovering addict or dealing with your child’s or partner’s addiction. Addiction is often a family disease, and it sends a ripple effect that impacts everyone it touches.
Logically, most of us know how to deal with addiction, however, logic pales in the face of fear, concern, love and other emotions. It isn’t as easy as it sounds to address the addiction of a loved one, and often our best efforts seem to not only not help, but often to make things worse.
The addicted person usually operates from a place of deep denial. This is part of an elaborate defense mechanism that helps protect the disease. In addition to denial there is also a lot of justification, rationalization, blaming and other strategies that are unconsciously used to help keep the person firmly rooted in their addiction. Denial works both ways, however, and family members and loved ones are not immune to it.
What Is Enabling?
Enabling is common to one degree or another. Sometimes it happens when a family member doesn’t understand the severity of the problem. Other times, it is a result of codependency. In extreme cases, the loved one has some deep-seated issues that drive them to help the addicted person stay sick. This is often fear-based. Many cases are more mild though. If you are starting to find yourself in this situation, it is usually because you are afraid of what might happen if you let go and stop helping your family member or spouse. You may be afraid to take a stand because you don’t want them to leave, don’t want to permanently damage the relationship or don’t want them to get in trouble. This is all understandable, but oftentimes, it’s facing consequences that finally helps the addicted person to admit their problem and become willing to do something about it.
The Signs You Should Watch Out For
- Ignoring the Problem: This is common, especially in the beginning. You may feel that the problem will go away on its own, or be in disbelief that the situation is happening. While this may be a common reaction to an unfamiliar situation, it’s important to realize that the sooner the issue is confronted, the better. Get it out in the open. Addiction rarely just disappears on its own.
- Lying Or Covering Up For The Addict: This is a huge problem. When you lie to protect the addict you are only helping the addiction. As much as you don’t want to see your loved one go to jail or lose their job, sometimes those consequences are a catalyst for change. You are not responsible for keeping their life together.
- Trying To Control Their Behavior: While this seems like a good thing to do, it’s not. You can set limits and boundaries. You can keep yourself safe, but you can’t control or intimidate them into staying sober, that will often just add fuel to the fire. You also can’t allow them to guilt you into helping them.
- You Are Becoming Progressively Resentful: This is often the result of enabling an addict. If you are setting firm boundaries, then you will be less likely to become resentful. Resentment will not help your loved one get sober, it will only add to the damage.
What You Should Do
First, be nice to yourself. If you think you are permitting negative behaviors for your addicted loved one, you certainly aren’t alone. It happens. At some point, we all enable someone in their behavior in one form or another. It becomes a problem though when it is perpetuating the addiction and also preventing you from taking good care of yourself. There are a few things you can do to stop this behavior from becoming a bigger problem.
- Get Some Support: This can come from friends or family, but really the best support comes from others who are where you are at, or have been there. Al-Anon meetings are one route to take. There you can talk, listen, get support and get suggestions from people who understand.
- Get Outside Help: This may come in the form of counseling, or perhaps by attending CODA meetings. These meetings can be tremendously helpful.
- Don’t Buy Into Guilt And Shame: This is a common pitfall. The addicted person may use any number of guilt-inducing tricks to get you to help them or put up with their stuff. It is a survival skill on their part, and they can be masters of making you feel horrible about everything you have ever done, and they know how to push your buttons. Don’t take this personally, they are simply trying to get their needs met, and their primary need is to continue feeding their addiction. You don’t need to do it. Remind yourself that by helping them, you are making their problem worse.
Get Help For Addiction At Wayside House
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. Our program was created by women, for women. We understand the unique needs and challenges that are faced by women who are addicted. We provide treatment, support and safety while you heal and recover. Learn more about our program by calling 800-655-0817 today.