Enabling is a slippery slope on the road to recovery. We know that enabling can come from a place of love, so stopping it can be intimidating. But what is the difference between “helping” and “enabling”?
What is an Enabler?
An enabler is somebody whose behavior allows or supports another person’s destructive behaviors. These can be behaviors that hurt or have the potential to hurt you, the person with an addiction, and/or others around them.
It’s important to realize that addiction is a mental health issue and that people with substance use disorders become physically and mentally dependent on substances. Even if they might have the best intentions, breaking addictive habits takes professional treatment. Family therapy especially allows families to participate in the recovery process and gain skills to truly help rather than enable.
5 Signs That You Are Enabling Addiction
It’s primarily a case-to-case issue, but there are certain signs of enabling addiction. Keep in mind that these are natural responses, and if you do them, that doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person. However, it may mean that you inadvertently enable addiction and can benefit from changing your behavior.
1. Excusing Their Behavior
Even if you dislike someone’s behavior, you may choose not to confront them for any number of reasons.
You might avoid the issue because you don’t want to admit that there’s a problem or find it hard to accept. You might even be afraid of what your friend or family member will say or do if they challenge the behavior.
For example, say that your loved one struggles with alcohol abuse. Although they deny drinking, you find a receipt from the liquor store in their pocket. Instead of gently confronting them, you ignore it.
2. Financing Their Addiction
Money management is a whole different beast in the realm of addiction. If your loved one spends money recklessly, impulsively, or on things that might cause harm, regularly giving money to them can enable this behavior. If you always bail your loved one out of financial difficulty, they won’t have the opportunity to learn how to manage their money or learn from the consequences of doing so poorly. Instead of helping them toward independence, it can lead them to become even more dependent on you.
3. Protecting Them from Negative Effects
When concerned about the real consequences of a friend or family member’s actions, it’s natural to want to protect them from that backlash. It’s tempting to want to shield your loved ones from judgment by making excuses for them or even taking their consequences upon yourself. But the more you shoulder the negative repercussions of their actions, the fewer reasons they have to change their behavior.
4. Taking On A Great Personal Cost
If you’re helping out a loved one by doing things for them that they don’t want to do, you might be enabling them. This can look as simple as doing their laundry, running all of their errands, or more significant responsibilities like constant childcare. If your help enables your loved one to continue a problematic pattern of behavior without having to change their ways, you may be enabling them.
5. Avoiding the Tough Conversations
When a loved one is suffering from the disease of addiction, it can be tempting to turn a blind eye to the issue. It’s often frightening when you realize that there’s a problem. But it’s essential to bring up serious issues like drug addiction when you notice them.
If you tend to find arguments or conflicts difficult, this can be particularly challenging. However, glossing over issues (for example, if your loved one keeps taking money from your wallet when your back is turned) can only lengthen the road to effective treatment.
Healthy Ways to Help Your Loved One
It takes bravery to stand up to a loved one–especially one who has such power to hurt you. But it helps to remember that enabling addicts does not help them in the end. Here are some steps to help you to stop enabling the addict in your life.
1. Allow Them to Clean Up Their Own Messes
As much as you want to protect your loved one from pain, facing consequences can lead to some of the most valuable growth. When you take a step back from cleaning up their messes for them, you move from enabling to constructive behavior.
2. Find the Balance in Your Helpful Efforts
We know that it can often feel like there are no easy solutions when trying to help a loved one overcome drug or alcohol addiction. In some situations, you may wonder if your good intentions end up causing more harm than good.
This brings to mind the earlier example of funding your loved one’s addiction: As heart-wrenching as it could be to see them in a place of need, will financing their addiction help to continue their dependence? Through therapy, you can learn how to better help your loved one overcome drug or alcohol addiction. Sobriety Solution’s outpatient rehab program equips families to better support their loved one through the recovery process.
3. Get Back Autonomy
Don’t let someone struggling with addiction put you in dangerous situations if at all possible. Understandably, you want to support your loved one; however, it’s essential that you set healthy boundaries so that you can also make it through the process. This can be difficult to do amid things, so we encourage you to take advantage of our counseling services to help examine your personal boundaries in the context of addiction.
4. Invest in Your Own Schedule
Loving someone with an addiction can turn your life upside down. We know it can be tempting to help them at every turn; however, that might stretch out the path of recovery. One way to help yourself is to follow through with your own plans, even if your loved one refuses to participate. Take comfort in the fact that although addiction significantly impacts your loved one’s life, you have complete control over your own actions.
5. Learn How to Set Healthy Boundaries
“No” is hard for someone struggling with addiction to hear. If they aren’t ready to change, addicts use their manipulation skills to keep the addiction going. The enabled person may resort to guilt-tripping, raging, lying, or blaming, among other things, all to keep access to their drug of choice. As difficult as it may seem to establish boundaries with our loved ones, setting healthy boundaries is one of the steps to helping a family heal from addiction. Be confident that every time you can hold your ground, you are creating space for your loved one to move forward in recovery.
Setting healthy boundaries does not mean that you love or support your loved one any less. In fact, by taking care of yourself, you’re helping your loved one receive sustainable support. Participating in your loved one’s recovery is one of several steps families can take to start the healing process. One aspect of Sobriety Solution’s family support program is helping families gain the tools and insight to better help their loved one. Sobriety Solution’s family support programming includes:
– Helping families to establish healthy boundaries with their loved one
– Participating in family and individual therapy sessions
– Wraparound services including Case Management
– Continuous support
– Staging intervention services if required
“What I’ve noticed over the years is that enabling (most of the time) comes from a place of love and fear. Loved ones are willing to bail someone out or even lend money because a person is in need or sick, which can actually exacerbate the issues with further use.
Many people with substance misuse issues will use whatever means they can to meet their needs, even if it is dishonest and manipulative. Establishing realistic and healthy boundaries is important, as is going to support groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon to talk with others about what has and has not worked. Enabling–again, which is done out of fear and love–can actually keep someone sick and in the cycle of addiction. Establishing and keeping boundaries is essential when trying to get a loved one help.”
Steve Kushner, MS, LPCChief Clinical Officer, Sobriety Solutions
Additionally, other resources and support groups are available to help families heal from addiction. Sobriety Solution’s outreach and clinical team can provide families with additional resources. In addition, our family support program aids families in gaining a better understanding of addiction, continuum of care, and relapse prevention.
Reach Out For Help Today
Are you looking for treatment options for your loved one? Our team is available 24/7 to help those suffering from addiction to find long-term recovery. For more information about our programs, visit our website or call us today at (833)- 347-1653.