Enabling is when an individual does anything, either directly or indirectly, that helps the person with addiction continue to use drugs or alcohol. This is often done in the interest of avoiding pain or awkwardness with the addicted loved one without an understanding of the consequences. However, enabling is a habit and like most habits, it can be broken.
Examples of Enabling
There are many behaviors that an individual might not even consider as enabling, but they still contribute to the continuation of addiction.
- Giving money to the person with an addiction so they can pay their bills despite money being funneled into drug purchases
- Providing food or shelter to an addicted loved one who has been evicted from their residence for failing to pay bills while purchasing drugs
- Making excuses on behalf of that person to excuse their bad behavior and shield them from taking responsibility for continued substance abuse
- Cleaning up the messes or covering for a person who is allowing addiction to cause problems in his or her life
All of these are examples of enabling an addict because the person with addiction is not facing the consequences of their harmful behavior, and they are free to continue spending their money on drugs or alcohol, instead of actually taking responsibility. So how can one stop enabling?
Don’t Fear the Outcome
The key to ending enabling behavior is for the individual to stop fearing the outcome. If the individual keeps enabling the person with addiction because they are afraid that the person will get in trouble, or get arrested, or lose their job, then that is only perpetuating the problem. Letting the person deal with the consequences of their actions, while painful to consider, is the best way to start stopping enabling. Without consequences, the addict has trouble coming to terms with his or her problem.
If you’re guilty of enabling an addicted loved one, you should start by establishing clear boundaries for your relationship with others who are prone to substance abuse. Let the person know that they are still cared for, but that the answer to all future requests for help will be no. This can be very difficult when we are concerned for the welfare and safety of a loved one but is often the only thing that will shake him or her from the trance of refusing to admit that there is a problem to address.
Not Jeopardizing Your Own Wellbeing
Often people who are struggling with addiction are unaware of the dangers they can cause to others around them. It is important for the enabler to remember that any consequences of drug abuse should fall on the person using them, and not anyone else. If that means being firm and saying no, then so be it. You shouldn’t offer yourself up as a solution either. The person with addiction must be allowed to face the consequences of their actions.
Not Conceding to Threats
People who are in the throes of addiction use manipulation techniques to control their enablers. But when enablers stop facilitating those addictions, the person may become enraged, perhaps making threats in an attempt to regain control. Never concede to a threat. Instead, stand firm on your decisions, taking action as necessary. It is not the individual’s responsibility to solve another person’s problems, accommodate their needs, or assume their responsibilities no matter how much it hurts.
It’s never easy to stop enabling behavior. There is sure to be pushback from the person or some degree of retaliation. There may be short-term pain and difficulty, but it is nothing compared to the anguish and misery a long-term addiction can cause. After all, the person with an addiction will come to face the consequences of alcoholism or substance abuse at some point; enabling will only postpone that time, potentially making it worse.
Our programs at LEAD Recovery Center have one common goal: autonomy. Through life coaching, adventure therapy, and proven clinical treatment methods, we help our clients transition from treatment to recovery living. For more information on our programs, call us today at 1-800-380-0012.