It goes without saying that addiction comes with consequences. However, the results of substance abuse are often subtle at first, before developing into the more well-known addiction symptoms and side effects. Drugs cost money, reduce productivity, and create disarray in one’s life. General disorderliness and chaos tend to follow in the wake of drug abuse. Addiction often causes its victim to neglect responsibilities, break promises, and procrastinate. Someone struggling with addiction may soon fail to carry their own weight and the need to continue gratifying the urge for continued substance abuse often drives a person to do the easiest and quickest thing for more. Typically, this translates into one of two alternatives, or both.
First, they may resort to theft and violence in order to attain more drugs or, second, they may be enabled to compensate for their lack of productivity by a friend or family member. In the second case, the enabler fills in the holes in the addicts life by carrying their weight for them. The enabler will take on some or all of the addict’s responsibilities, provide for them the things they may be lacking, remind them of things they need to get done, pick up after them, and generally make it easy to continue getting away with irresponsible behavior due to a continued infatuation with gratifying the addiction. In these situations, otherwise well-meaning family members and friends end up enabling the addiction to persist and get worse.
Enabling Behavior is Natural
In defense of the enabler, all of the above is usually done out of genuine care and concern for the well being and stability of a loved one’s life. However, when the loved one is sick with an addiction, this only serves to fan the flames. The illness will not go away while it is continually swept under the rug. Picking up the broken pieces of your addict’s life as they proceed to break it will not solve anything and fulfilling their responsibilities only prolongs the inevitable. Doing this is only acceptable as part of a solution, but not a solution in and of itself. It may be necessary at times to carry some of the addicted loved one’s responsibilities as one arranges for them to get help. The addict should be aware of this and understand that he or she will be resuming these responsibilities once they are well. In other words, helping them should be conditional upon their own willingness and effort to help themselves. Otherwise, no one is doing anyone any favors.
Being an enabler separates the addict from the consequences of his or her actions and perpetuates the cycle of self destruction, making the sum total of the damage to his or her life even greater. If you or someone you know is enabling an addict or alcoholic, please seek the counsel of a treatment professional who has experience dealing with the intricacies of the co-dependencies that characterize the relationships between addicts and their enablers.
A professional can help set healthy boundaries for the relationship. The enabler and the addicted loved one must know where the limitations are for what each will do for the other and what each must do for him/herself. Personal responsibility has to be central to the relationship. Providing help for the addict is only acceptable as long as the addicted family member simultaneously attempts to help himself. When this is not the case, the result is an unhealthy co-dependence which leaves the addict in danger of not being to able to care for himself in the absence of his enabler.
For advice and information on helping a loved one deal with and recover from addiction, or how to stop enabling an addicted loved one, contact the help line at LEAD Treatment Center by dialing(800) 380-0012.