Let’s face it, they didn’t offer “how do I deal with my loved one who struggles with addiction” as an elective in high school. In order to help your loved one transcend their substance use disorder, it requires families to do the opposite of what is natural. Intuitively the impulse is to rescue our loved one when they are in trouble. To do otherwise would feel as if we are turning our backs on them. Unfortunately, not allowing your loved one to feel the weight of their consequences due to their substance abuse will keep them in the addiction. This is known as enabling.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has identified 7 common mistakes made by family members.
1) Making excuses
Making excuses for someone with an addiction denies the reality of the problem, and is a sure sign of enabling is denial or avoidance. If you’re an enabler, you choose not to confront the addict because you fear conflict. Instead, you may find yourself making excuses for the addict’s behavior and convince yourself that the problem will just go away on its own.
2) Giving them money
As an enabler, you probably give your loved one money that they will ultimately end up using to buy drugs. You might even pay their bills, buy groceries, or otherwise enable them financially. While it can be hard to see a loved one’s electricity get shut off because he or she spent the money on drugs, paying the bill is enabling and diminishes the ramifications of the person’s actions.
3) Taking over their responsibilities
Taking over the responsibilities that your loved one has neglected due to addiction is a sign of enabling. Some examples include cleaning the house, picking children up from school, or otherwise handling their affairs
4) Telling lies to cover up their behavior
Lying to cover up an addict’s behavior is another sign of enabling. They need to be held responsible for their actions. Covering up mistakes and wrong-doings enables them to continue to make the same poor choices. Accountability is far more helpful in the long run.
5) Bailing them out of sticky situations
Helping someone out of a predicament caused by drug use only enables them to continue making poor decisions. Whether it’s bailing them out of jail, buying personal items back from the pawn shop, or lying to employers and loved ones, bailing them out takes away the negative consequences of addiction.
6) Codependent behavior
Codependent behavior is almost always present to some degree in an enabler. You may get personal gratification from helping the addict. For example, you may feel that you’re doing a good deed or feel a sense of pride from making a sacrifice, or you might feel a sense of control out of the situation or enjoy the feeling of being needed.
7) Putting their needs before your own
If you’re helping an addict appropriately, you will set clear boundaries and remain assertive. It’s possible to be supportive without neglecting your own needs. Helping someone should never be a threat to your own well-being, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself first.
If you or your family member needs help, please contact Untethered Recovery at 720-953-8040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tackett, Brittany. (2016). NIDA. Are you helping or enabling?
7 ways to spot the difference. Retrieved from https://drugabuse.com/blog/are-you-helping-or-enabling/