When a loved one is addicted to alcohol or drugs, it can be difficult to just turn your back on them. More than anything, you want them to recover and get the help they need, but sometimes, the best intentions can actually worsen the problem.
Accountability is the most important aspect of recovery, and enabling bad behavior will never help someone take that step toward responsibility and ownership of their substance abuse. Learning the difference between helping vs. enabling can finally help your loved one get the treatment they need to become sober.
You can’t turn off your love for someone, and you don’t have to. However, if you truly want to make a difference, you must learn how to help an addict without enabling.
What does enabling mean?
Enabling is inadvertently encouraging or facilitating a person’s substance abuse. Parents and friends of loved ones always have good intentions when they agree to help them, but some of their best efforts can worsen a problem rather than pose a solution.
Many people often find themselves being an enabler without even realizing it. If you notice that your loved one’s addiction hasn’t improved or has only gotten worse since you started helping them, it can be beneficial to step back and assess your own actions to determine whether or not you’re enabling bad behavior unintentionally.
Helping vs. Enabling
When you help someone overcome addiction, you offer emotional support and encouragement that helps them take control over their recovery. Researching addiction treatment programs, gathering information on rehabs and offering transport to and from support groups are all excellent forms of help.
Enabling, on the other hand, allows a person with an addiction avoids the consequences of their actions. As an enabler, your intention is never to hurt your loved one or make their problem worse. Time after time, you offer assistance because you hope it will encourage them to get better.
Unfortunately, some of the common forms of help people offer addicts only allow them to continue abusing substances more easily. Although it isn’t easy to step back, there are several ways you can learn how to help an addict without enabling. They must learn the necessary emotional regulation skills to manage their behaviors.
Use Your Money Wisely
If your loved one asks you for money, there’s a good chance it’s been used to buy drugs. You are not a bad person if you stop helping your loved one pay their rent, cover their bills or even buy them food. Taking care of them to such a degree only hinders them from taking responsibility for their actions.
Rather than offering to give them money for all these services, offer to pay for rehab instead.
Do Not Lie or Make Excuses for Them
Many addicts will ask loved ones to cover for them when they get in trouble at work or do something wrong. Lying for an addict and making excuses to justify their addiction will only hurt them in the long-turn. Temporary relief or gratitude pales in comparison to a life free of drugs.
Bailing Them Out
You may not be able to fathom allowing your loved one to sit in jail or get evicted, but if you are always there for them to fall back on, they will never realize the true extent of their addiction. Some people have to hit rock bottom before they are willing to stop abusing drugs.
Sometimes, the most helpful thing you can do is allow someone to fail and learn from their mistakes.
Don’t Try to Be Their Savior
Codependency isn’t uncommon in addiction relationships. You may gain a sense of pride or accomplishment when your loved one comes to you for help or like feeling needed. If this is the case, you need to address the issues within yourself. Enabling an addict only hurts them more in the end, and both people suffer as substance abuse continues to spiral out of control.
What does enabling mean for your loved one?
Everyone’s situation is different. While no addiction story is the same, every person with a substance abuse problem needs help, and every enabler needs a wake-up call. Don’t wait until it’s too late to stop making excuses. Help your loved one by researching rehab, encouraging treatment and even attending meetings together.