The word “enabling” has both positive and negative connotations. On the one hand, you might give someone the tools or confidence needed to enable them to find a new job. When it comes to addiction, however, to enable is harmful. In that case, enabling someone really means teaching them that it’s okay to be irresponsible or that their actions have no consequences. Enabling behavior might include:
- Protecting the addict from the negative consequences of their addiction
- Making excuses for them, such as calling into their work or school and claiming illness
- Blaming other people for the addict’s behavior (For example, “If my husband’s boss wasn’t so difficult, he wouldn’t feel the need to come home and drink.”)
- Blaming the problems that arise from addiction on something external, such as confusing isolation with shyness
- Giving money to the addict, even if you know they’re going to spend it on drugs
- Taking care of things the addict should be able to do for themselves, such as chores
- Making threats or warning of punishments with no follow through
- Going along with the addict’s wishes out of fear
- Putting the addict’s needs above your own
A 2012 study found that out of the more than 23 million people who needed treatment for a substance abuse problem the previous year, only 2.5 million of them received treatment and 19.5 million of them reported that they saw no need to seek help. This is why it’s so important for friends and family members to not let addicts live on in denial. Some of the things you can do to break the cycle of enabling are:
- Let them clean up their own messes, not just metaphorically but physically. If they come home drunk and vomit all over the floor, make them responsible for cleaning it up.
- Remember to put yourself first. You can’t help someone else if your own life is falling apart.
- Clearly, state consequences of bad behavior and follow through on them
- Ask yourself, are you really helping this person by allowing them to carry on abusing drugs or alcohol? Is avoid conflict worth the long-term dangers?
If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, there are groups out there for the friends and family members of addicts. Al-Anon is for people close to alcoholics and teaches that they will never be able to recover if they are also protected from the consequences of their actions. Similarly, Nar-Anon is for those dealing with drug addiction in people close to them. Dual Recovery Anonymous is a support group for dual-diagnosis addicts as well as their family members, spouses, and friends. Adult Children of Alcoholics focuses on the idea that having an addict as a parent can negatively impact a child well into adulthood.
If you or a loved one need help to quit drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949-438-4504).