If you’ve had a friend or a loved one who suffered alcoholism or addiction, you may have been guilty of enabling the addiction without even knowing it. Enabling drug addiction is a dangerous proposition as it delays proper addiction treatment, often with deadly consequences. Addicts are experts at covering their addiction or making excuses. Often times, their addiction compels them to manipulate those around them in any way possible by playing on your sympathies or kind heart. They become predatory, doing whatever it takes to feed their addiction. Loved ones who try to help through love and kindness often find themselves unwilling participants in a game of deception and disappointments.
The Difference Between Enabling vs. Helping an Addiction
The truth is that while friends or loved ones might be trying to help, they’re actually making the addiction worse.
When we refer to enabling, we’re really talking about doing things that the person could conceivably do themselves if they were not so wrapped up in their addiction. In contrast, you’d be helping the person suffering from addiction if you stopped shielding them from the consequences of their actions. Recovery is only possible after the enabling stops and the person comes to the harsh realization that they are out of options.
Any action you take that delays your loved one from seeking help for their addiction is enabling. This includes granting them more time to choose recovery on their own, helping them get out of trouble with the law, at work, or intervening to save relationships damaged by addiction.
The only action you should be taking is getting the person into recovery.
At some point, you will come to the realization that you’ve been enabling drug addiction through your actions or inaction. By this time, many of your friends or other family members have probably told you dozens of times that you are indeed enabling addiction rather than helping to stop it.
Eventually, you need to know how to talk to your loved one about their addiction. While wrapped up in their addiction, your loved one is no longer the same person you knew. The addiction controls them like a puppet and during this period, relationships become damaged. There will be time to repair these relationships through addiction therapy services after they have gone through the recovery process. While you can’t change a person while they’re consumed by addiction, you can change your behaviors and reactions.
How to Stop Being an Enabler
Stop Doing Anything that Allows the Addiction to Continue
Anything you do that helps the addict avoid consequences is considered enabling. Are you letting them live with you without paying their way? Are you allowing them to disappear for hours or days? Are you allowing them to come home while they’re high? If so, you’re enabling. The safety net you provide allows the addict to continue his addiction without consequence.
Here’s an example: If your loved one has lost their driver’s license, providing a ride to AA meetings or a job interview is ok. Giving them a ride to a party is not ok. Researching rehab treatment or AA meetings for your loved one is something they should be doing for themself.
Stop Intervening or Rescuing Them
If you’re making excuses for your loved one’s employer, school, girlfriend, or friends, you’re enabling. If you’re bailing them out of jail or paying their fines, you’re enabling. Individuals suffering from addiction must experience the consequences of their behavior if there’s any hope of them submitting to recovery.
The simple truth of the matter is that loved ones who shield addicts from consequences are enabling addiction. There’s no gray area here and in fact, we often see patients that have been wrapped up in addiction for more than a decade because those around him were enabling the addiction. You’re doing your loved one no favors by shielding them — quite the opposite. Given that one overdose can be fatal, if you truly love the person, you should start doing everything possible to get them into recovery.
Do Not Provide Financial Assistance
This one seems obvious, but too many loved ones are taken in by pleas for help. If you give or loan money to a loved one suffering from addiction, they will spend it on drugs or alcohol. Those who are consumed by addiction will con, lie, cheat, or in some cases, steal, to feed their addiction. This is the addiction’s power of control over your loved one. They are still the same person you love but they are fighting a chronic illness.
Don’t Engage in Arguments
You can’t rationalize with an irrational person. Arguing with your loved one gives them the opportunity to fight you on your reaction. They will try to flip the blame back to you and claim outrageous things. Arguing is useless and accomplishes nothing than furthering the divide between you.
Set Boundaries and Stick to Them
Once you’ve reached your breaking point, you have to stick to the boundary you set. This boundary is a drawn line that can’t be changed. If you’ve threatened to leave or to throw your loved one out and yet they don’t seek treatment, it’s time to act. Do exactly what you said you were going to do. If you don’t, you have no other hold in what you say.
At this point, if your loved one knows they’re free to continue to use, they will step up efforts to cover and conceal addiction through more lying and even more desperate measures. This may include stealing from others when they can’t get money from you. If caught, legal troubles could be serious, all because you didn’t stick to your boundaries.
When You Stop Being an Enabler
Anyone dealing with a loved one suffering from addiction should immediately take steps to learn about and stop enabling.
Once you’ve stopped enabling, there’s a brief period during which your loved one might go through denial. They may continue to use until their next major consequence, which may be an overdose or an arrest.
For each person with a substance use disorder, their own personal breaking point varies. Sometimes, the fear of being without a loved one is enough to get them into recovery. In other cases, facing a long prison term might be the tipping point. For others, actually doing hard time in jail might be their tipping point. The journey of addiction and recovery is based on the individual. No one can force another person to get help if the person doesn’t want help.
Once they’ve accepted that they need recovery, there are many treatment options.
Finding Help at Renaissance Recovery
Renaissance Recovery provides addiction treatment and therapy programs in sunny California. Your loved one will receive individualized care every step of the way. Specialized programs include:
- Alcohol addiction treatment
- Heroin addiction treatment
- Opiate addiction treatment
- Opioid addiction treatment
- Benzo addiction treatment
- Meth addiction treatment