Enabling and Addiction: The Dangers of Enabling an Addict

Spirituality and RecoveryEnabling and addiction often go hand in hand. Enabling an addict is something that most family members and friends do without even realizing it. Dealing with another’s addiction is never easy. Often times, family members and friends do not know how to treat a loved one’s addiction. The tendency is to want to rescue the struggling individual, to help them recognize the dangers of their substance use. Unfortunately, rescuing behaviors often make the situation worse. We hear the term thrown around a lot, but what exactly is enabling? Enabling involves a variety of behaviors that suggests someone implicitly accepts the substance abuse and allows it to continue with relatively few problems. Enabling an addict can be very dangerous for both the drug user and the loved one. Enabling discourages addicts from addressing their problem with professional help, which often leads to situations that cause mental, physical, and psychological harm.

Enabling Signs to Be Aware Of

Ignoring the Problem

This can involve anything from overlooking the problem and consequences to denying that a problem even exists in the first place. This is quite common, especially in the early stages of a loved one’s addiction. A loved one may be in disbelief that their loved one is using, or may hope that the problem will eventually resolve itself. While this is a common reaction, it’s important to recognize that the sooner the substance use is confronted, the better the outcomes.

Prioritizing the Addict’s Needs Before Your Own

While it’s human nature to want to help a struggling loved one, enabling behaviors take this too far. With enabling, the addict’s needs are taken care of first, while the loved one’s needs are neglected. Self-care is critical for the recoveries of both the addict and the loved one. Addiction is a family disease, and it affects everyone involved.

Lying to Hide the Addict’s Behavior

An enabler will lie to keep the peace and to present a controlled exterior. Unfortunately, lying is a form of a denying that the problem even exists. This is a huge issue. Lying or covering up for an addict only fuels their addiction. As much as you don’t want to see your loved one go to jail or lose their job because of their addiction, often these negative consequences are catalysts for change. It’s important for the loved one to remember that they are not in charge of keeping their addict’s life together.

Blaming People or Situations Other than the Addict

The enabler might accuse other people or blame situations for the loved one’s addiction in order to protect the addict from the consequences of their drug abuse. Once again, this is a form of denial and in the end, one that only hurts the addict.

Resenting the Addict

The result of enabling behaviors is that the enabler will often feel angry, hurt, and betrayed. They may act on these feelings by resenting the addict, while continuing to enable their substance abuse. Unfortunately, resenting the addict will not help them get sober; instead, it will only add to the damage of the addiction.

What You Should Do

It is very possible to break the cycle of enabling. If you think you are enabling an addict, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s very common and natural to want to help your loved one. At some point, we all enable someone’s behavior in some way. Enabling becomes a problem when it perpetuates someone’s addiction and prevents loved ones from taking good care of themselves. There are a few things an enabler can do to stop this harmful behavior:

Seek Support

Support can come from family and friends, but it’s best to seek help from others who understand what you are going through. A great option is to start attending Al-Anon meetings. In these meetings, you can listen, share, and receive support from people who truly understand the journey of recovering from a loved one’s addiction.

Get Outside Help

It may be a good idea to seek help from a professional therapist who understands addiction and codependency. You could also trying attending a CODA meeting and see if that helps as well.

Prioritize Self-Care

You may have neglected yourself while caring and enabling your addicted loved one. Now it is time for you to take care of yourself and focus on your recovery.

Don’t Buy into Guilt and Shame

Your loved one may try any number of guilt-inducing tricks to manipulate you into helping them out. It is a method of survival on their part, but you do not have to buy into it. Try to not take this personally and remind yourself that “helping” them is only fueling their addiction.

Get Help for Addiction at Recreate

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Recreate Life Counseling can help. We know what it takes to recover from addiction because we have been there ourselves. We offer a variety of programs and services to help you recover from addiction and recreate your life.