There’s nothing more difficult than watching someone you love struggle with addiction. As a family member or friend, you want to do everything in your power to help them through such a difficult part of life. Yet, in the world of addiction, there’s a fine line between helping and enabling. In some cases, your actions may end up doing more harm than good.
Here’s what you need to know about helping versus enabling a loved one. Knowing the difference can prevent a toxic dynamic from forming. It can also prevent you and others from enabling self-destructive behaviors.
What Is Enabling?
There’s a very fine line between enabling and helping. In the addiction world, enabling is when you provide help to someone who should and could have handled the situation on their own.
According to experts, enabling is commonly defined as removing the natural consequences to the individual struggling with addiction of his or her behavior. In other words, it’s providing help when the person being helped could and should handle the task alone.
Someone who enables often denies or ignores all of the facts in order to protect their loved one. By denying the signs of addiction, it’s easier to tell yourself that everything will be fine and that the status quo is acceptable.
Signs That You’re Being an Enabler
So, how do you know if you’re helping or enabling your loved ones? There are plenty of tell-tale signs. A few of the most common enabling behaviors include:
- Showing resentment toward your loved one
- Ignoring odd behavior
- Blaming others for the addict’s actions
- Not expressing your emotions
Some of the simplest actions enable an addict to continue with their lifestyle choices. Making excuses for missing work, paying their bills, and avoiding the hard discussion of substance abuse all allow your loved one to continue on the addiction cycle.
As an enabler, you’ll find that your life is impacted by your loved one’s addiction as well. You’ll start to feel stressed, tired, and weighed down with worry and fear.
The Harmful Effects of Enabling Addiction
When you enable someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it gives you a sense of relief that they’re happy and getting what they need. However, more often than not, enabling does more harm than good.
While your actions may be done with the best intentions, an addicted person needs to understand the true consequences of their actions before admitting that they need help. So, while bailing your loved one out of jail means they aren’t stuck in a cell in a strange location, it enables them because then they won’t get to see the severity and danger of their actions.
The more you enable someone who is addicted, the less likely they are to experience a rock-bottom experience. Enabling also keeps someone who is addicted from taking responsibility. It creates a co-dependent relationship. When your loved one no longer feels responsible for their actions, their addiction continues.
By continuing the cycle, someone who is addicted is more likely to experience physical, mental, emotional, and psychological harm. This further hampers recovery and makes their addiction even more dangerous. It also delays getting addiction treatment.
How to Stop Enabling Addiction
It’s extremely difficult to stop enabling someone you love. This is because when you stop enabling them, it will have a huge impact on you and your loved one. Your loved one may feel abandoned and helpless. They may continue to spiral out of control and sink deeper into addiction.
While there are endless scary things that may happen, the alternative is always worse. Enabling someone who is addicted only offers temporary relief from short-term pain—enabling actions often lead to long-term harmful behaviors.
By refusing to continue to enable your loved one’s addiction, you may save them from years of dangerous actions. You may even save their life.
The best way to understand enabling behaviors and to stop them is to talk with an experienced counselor or psychologist at a local drug addiction treatment center. You may also want to attend Al Anon meetings, which will put you in the same room as others who have had a similar experience.
The Benefits of Recovery Treatment Programs
Drug abuse and addiction not only impact your loved one but the whole family unit as well. Addiction causes fear and worry and makes life unbearable at times. When you stop enabling addiction, there’s a greater chance that your loved one will be willing to enter a recovery treatment program.
Instead of enabling your loved one, the better option is to help them achieve recovery and sobriety. While there is a lot of uncertainty that comes with moving past a life of addiction, your loved one will greatly benefit from entering a recovery treatment program.
At Dedicato Treatment Center, we offer several treatment programs to give your loved one the help, support, and care they need. Often, the first step in recovery is undergoing a clinically managed sub-acute detox. Our detox program is facilitated by AASM-accredited addictionologists.
We also offer residential and intensive outpatient programs to help your loved one continue their journey. Our team uses holistic treatment programs that address the physical, mental, and emotional effects of addiction.
At Dedicato, we’re dedicated to helping people regain control of their lives and opening a new, healthier chapter. Our treatment center is located in the tranquil foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. This is the perfect backdrop for healing and rediscovering one’s true self.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, we’re here to help. Call the team at Dedicato today at 626-921-0113 for a consultation.