Very few diseases are as insidious and destructive as addiction is. People who struggle with addiction are experiencing a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain that impacts their behaviors, emotions, mental wellness, and physical health. The more that a person abuses one or more mind-altering substances, the more that his or her brain rewires itself. Unfortunately, this rewiring does not produce any positive effects, rather the opposite. As the abuse continues, everything that a person touches can be negatively impacted, including friends, family, and loved ones.
Watching someone experience addiction is deeply disturbing and emotionally rattling, as that person can quickly go from a familiar presence to a complete stranger. Many people who are connected to someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol find themselves putting distance between themselves and that person in an effort to preserve their own wellbeing. They might limit how much they call or hang out with that person or stop socializing with them entirely. Other people might remain in that person’s life, going through the motions of this disease and experiencing their own troubles as a result of a loved one’s use. And then there are individuals who end up enabling their addicted loved ones. While some people do not even realize they are an enabler, others do but continue to engage in the behavior for personal reasons.
There is no doubt about it — addiction is a family disease. And oftentimes in families with someone who is actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, there exists an enabler. Unfortunately, when a person is enabling an addict or alcoholic, the situation only gets worse. In fact, enabling often serves as fuel to the fire.
What is Enabling?
Enabling occurs when a person is doing things for someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol that he or she should be doing for him or herself. A person who is enabling someone else might also do things to support the user’s continued use, such as giving them money for gas but knowing full well that it will be used for drugs or alcohol.
Anyone can become an enabler. It does not take a certain type of person to enable an addict or alcoholic, just someone who feels it necessary to continue to do things for that individual that he or she should be doing on his or her own. A good example of a common type of enabler is a parent who has a child who is addicted to drugs. The parent, who is used to caring for their child anyway, may become fearful that if they do not provide their child with money that he or she will begin stealing or prostituting themselves in order to make money to buy drugs.
Despite setting ground rules and boundaries, a parent might continue to allow their child to live at home while using because they do not want them to be homeless. All of these reasons are more than understandable, especially considering that most view the other option as being to watch their loved one die. However, it doesn’t quite work like that, rather the opposite instead.
Enabling behaviors include the following:
- Being dishonest to others about the individual’s use as a means of covering up what is really going on
- Protecting a user from experiencing consequences of their use
- Placing blame on people, things, or situations for the person’s use (e.g. “His boss makes him work so hard, I don’t blame him for drinking!”)
- Putting the user’s needs before one’s own
- Sacrificing one’s own physical and mental health to support the behaviors of the user
- Containing one’s emotions rather than discussing them
- Refusing to pay attention to the dangerous and/or negative behaviors that the user exhibits
There is absolutely no shame in realizing that you are enabling your addicted loved one. Work towards establishing healthy boundaries that keep you from continuing to fuel his or her addiction through your own behaviors.
How Can I Stop Enabling My Loved One?
Ending your enabling behaviors can be much more difficult than you might think. Those behaviors can come from your own psychological and emotional challenges. However, this does not mean that it cannot be done. In fact, there are several ways that you can stop enabling your loved one, including the following:
- Get help for yourself by contacting a therapist or other mental health professional
- Learn to “detach with love”
- Find healthy ways to manage feelings of anxiety
- Set boundaries with your addicted loved one and stick to them
- Stop making excuses for your addicted loved one’s behaviors
- Allow your loved one to experience repercussions of his or her use without attempting to step in before they occur
When someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it feels like you are unable to do anything right. By learning what enabling looks like, you can begin to take yourself out of the constant chaos of active addiction.
Being addicted to drugs is tough, speak up now and get the support you need and deserve. Contact Divine Detox today.