How To Support An Addict (Without Enabling Them)
It is incredibly painful to watch someone that you love go through addiction. It can be a debilitating experience, especially if you end up enabling their addiction. Sometimes it can be difficult to see a loved one suffering from addiction and all you want to do is make them happy. Enablers are willing to do just about anything to not lose the addict. In some cases, this even means supporting their behaviors and substance abuse. Those who are enablers think they are helping, but in reality they are actually causing many more issues. For those of you who have a loved one who is addicted and are worried that you could be an enabler, this article is for you. This is to explain enabling and it’s behaviors, reasons why people enable, the dangers of enabling and how to help an addict without enabling. If you want your loved one to get help, please call 385-327-7418 and speak with a treatment specialist today.
Jump to Sections
Click on the section you would like to read.
What Is Enabling and Enabling Behaviors
An enabler is someone who allows another person to continue their self-destructive behavior sometimes even helping them do so. This can come about in a variety of ways. Enablers may let an addict borrow their money for their drug use, an enabler may let an addict stay with them even if they are still using, and an enabler may tell the addict what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. What makes matters worse is that this is great news to an addict; they are able to have someone in their life who doesn’t “mind” their substance addiction. This draws them even closer to the enabler to the point where they begin to take advantage of them. Eventually there is a point where an enabler can’t deal with it anymore. However, instead of trying to change the situation, they continue what they were doing. As you can see already, this is not how to support an addict.
Here are some of the behaviors an enabler will exhibit.
- An enabler will be in denial. They may say that their loved one isn’t an addict at all, since he may be being responsible, such as working at a job.
- An enabler may abuse substances with the addict. In this case it allows them to limit the addict’s intake and keep an eye on them. An example of this is going out to a bar with an alcoholic.
- An enabler will justify the addicted person’s abuse. They may see that an addict is having trouble in their daily life, for example they may have a lot of stress at work so it’s okay if they have a few drinks.
- An enabler will protect an addicted person’s image from others. They will dismiss negative criticism from others directed at the addict’s behavior.
- An enabler will take over the responsibility of the addicted person. An addict may be too intoxicated or high to do what they were supposed to do, for example cleaning the home. So instead the enabler will do the work that the addicted person was supposed to do.
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. It’s not so much that the enabler is the primary cause of the addiction but one of the many contributing components to the addict’s 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.
Fear is the other reason, but more specifically it is the fear of confronting the addict. The last thing an enabler wants is conflict between them and the addict. So instead of creating conflict, they will put the addicted person’s needs before their own. It’s like walking on eggshells constantly, since you don’t want to upset the addict further sending into an even deeper addiction. This can be exhausting for the enabler, and ultimately they will start to feel resentment for their actions and the actions of the addict. In fact, the addict themselves may feel like they are doing nothing wrong, they may say “well, so and so doesn’t have a problem with my behavior” to others. Then the addict will depend on the enabler even for emotional support. It should be stated that wanting to avoid conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing, on the other side there is also a problem with those who create conflicts out of everything. It is important an enabler finds the balance between these two extremes. Supporting an addict and trying to help them recover really encompasses this sort of balance.
The Dangers of Enabling
Enabling actually does more harm than good for the addict. One of the more obvious ways is that enabling keeps the person in active addiction, meaning they continue their drug use mainly through the support of the enabler. Thus the addict will never really see that they are causing harm to others or to themselves. Enabling will only allow the addict to develop an even further tolerance to their drugs which eventually lead them to making their drug abuse even more of a habit. Another reason why enabling is destructive is because you are taking away the addict’s resilience. When someone is an enabler to an addict, they end up doing everything that the addict should be doing themselves. For example, giving them money when they haven’t earned it nor have a job of their own. You may clean up after their own mess, or you may allow them to lounge around all day not helping out around the house if they are living with you. They revert to being a child again, developing those characteristics, making it even harder for them to get their lives in order.
The enabler is just at fault themselves because they are really just meeting their own needs. It is difficult for an enabler to understand this because they may believe they are helping. But deep down inside they are just trying to keep the peace with them and the addict. An enabler only cares for the wants of the addict and not the needs of the addict. Caring extends beyond from just meeting the wants of a person, caring is also being brutally honest with a person and telling them that they really need to stop their destructive behavior. Of course this should be done using compassion and in an appropriate setting. In the next section, you will learn the ways to help an addicted person without enabling them.
How Not to Enable
Not being an enabler is one of the best things you can do for an addict. Here are some methods on how to support an addict without enabling. First, you need to get over your comfortability and be okay with being uncomfortable. Being okay with uncomfortability will allow you to speak more freely on the addict’s situation. You will be able to tell them exactly what they need to hear, and explain to them that their behavior is unacceptable. When you don’t have that fear of making the relationship between you and the addict uncomfortable, it will allow you to set boundaries that you think are reasonable. The point isn’t to make it extremely difficult for the addict to follow these boundaries. The point is to make it manageable and that it will be beneficial for them to do. It is all about self-respect for you and respect for the addicted person as well.
No growth can happen if a person remains in their comfort zone. Not only will the addict grow but also you will grow, it’s a learning experience for both parties. As mentioned before, compassion is key. You need to make the addict realize that the reason you are doing this is because you love them. You need to tell them that you want to help them with their addiction and that they need to get help before it is too late. Sometimes it can be difficult, because confronting anyone with addiction can create a hostile environment. The key is to remain calm and to logically explain the behaviors they have been displaying that are ruining their life and the lives of others. Ideally, all of this should be done as soon as possible. It will be more difficult to start setting boundaries if you have been enabling an addict for a prolonged period, however it can still be done. These are just some of the important ways to help an addicted person without enabling them.
No Shame in Getting Help
Learning ways on how to help an addict is always the best thing a loved one can do. Sometimes those ways can be difficult for a loved one to actually put into practice. How to support an addict without enabling is really the initial starting point for a loved one. You should want the best for your loved one, and enabling is never what’s best for them. It is important to know that the end goal for an addict to get better is with treatment. There is only so much you can do for them. It will be vital that you support them while they are going through treatment. Make sure you encourage them and never make them feel ashamed for getting help. There is never any shame in getting help. If you have set many boundaries that has put a strain on your relationship with the addict, try to reach back out to them as they are going through treatment. Make an effort to spend more time with them, and ask them how their treatment is going. If you have a loved one yourself who is going through an addiction, please call us at 385-327-7418 and learn what more you can do to get them into treatment.
Find Help Now with
Better Help Addiction Care
Your road to addiction treatment recovery starts Here. 24/7 Treatment Monitoring.