Perhaps you know and love someone who struggles with substance use. You want to show them unconditional support and do everything in your power to stop addiction in its tracks, but there’s a fine line between showing that you care and enabling negative behavior.
Enabling an addict occurs when a person protects someone who abuses drugs from experiencing the full repercussions of their damaging behavior. Enabling addiction is usually done in an effort to decrease addiction and not knowing the right ways to intervene. Parents, siblings, spouses, children and friends can all be enablers.
If you’re worried that your endless efforts have actually done more harm than good, here’s what you need to know on how to stop enabling an addict.
Understanding what it means to enable
While it’s a common thought that you’re only enabling an addict if you’re offering drugs or alcohol, it’s not as clear-cut as that. When a loved one offers support through emotional, physical or financial means, addiction is more sustainable because the consequences are bearable.
For example, you may feel a loyalty to your children and a duty to care for them at all costs. If your child is struggling with addiction and you lend him money hoping to make things easier, unfortunately, the security of that money makes addiction more comfortable. Your child may be less inclined to quit substance use due to the strong sense of financial protection.
How to help an addict without enabling
If you or someone you know may be enabling an addict, here are a few questions to help you determine the extent of the problem. The more questions that can be answered “yes,” the more likely that enabling is happening, and the worse it is.
Do you continue to bail them out of jail?
Are you repeatedly “rescuing” them from some sort of situation?
Do you take responsibility for the majority of their care?
Do you take responsibility for simple tasks that most adults do independently?
Do you excuse their behavior instead of holding them accountable for their actions?
Do you offer money without knowing what it’s spent on?
Do you offer money for basic necessities, like food, clothing and housing?
Do you write off the behavior as a phase?
Do you make more and more exceptions for negative behavior?
Do you often say that you’ll give them one more chance?
Do you condone dangerous behaviors?
Do you give in to helping because it prevents issues in the future?
Do you offer help to avoid the current conflict?
Do you avoid conflict in the hope that it will keep them from using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism?
Do you find yourself minimizing or justifying harmful actions?
Do you try to shield them from emotional pain?
It’s important to show your loved one that you care during this time, but it’s also key to know the ways your own actions contribute to drug use.
How to love an addict without enabling
If you think you may have inadvertently enabled an addiction, here are ways you can change your own habits and behaviors to make a real difference in stopping an addiction.
Attend therapy or counseling
If you’re one of the people closest to someone who is struggling with an addiction, it’s likely that it’s taken an emotional toll on you, too. Outside help is one of the surest ways to analyze your own behavior and get support for the difficulty of having a loved one suffer from a substance use disorder. You can work one-on-one to find meaningful ways to intervene without wearing yourself out.
Focus on a few changes at a time
Addressing and changing your own enabling behaviors will be a slow process. It will be difficult for both you and your loved one to handle a sudden shift in your pattern of interaction, so making slow, intentional changes is the name of the game. Focus on the area of most concern, such as offering rides or housing assistance, and scale back.
Be clear and consistent
When you set limits on what you’re willing to do to help a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse, it’s important to be clear and to stick to what you say you’ll do. Times will get hard and it will feel strange to let your loved one suffer, but it will make a big impact in the long run. Feeling uncomfortable with addiction is what causes most people to seek professional treatment.
Remind your loved one of your support
It can feel like pulling back in some areas sends the message that you don’t care and you’re leaving your loved one stranded. It’s important for you to have your own team of support when things get rocky. Your companions can help you get through tough days and remind you why it’s important to stick to your limits. You shouldn’t have to carry this burden alone.
Get your loved one set up with professional care
While a single person can have a huge impact on someone’s recovery journey, it’s crucial that you remember healing is never the responsibility of one person. It takes a team of care providers to make sobriety a reality.
The best tip for how to help an addict without enabling is to get your loved one connected to professional care at Freedom Detox. A variety of treatment options can meet your loved one right where he or she is at. Reach out to Freedom Detox today to start making changes.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as medical advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a doctor-patient relationship.