When your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, watching them struggle with the enormity of it can be extremely distressing. You might go through a wide range of emotions, feeling sad one day and being angry the next. This is all normal for the loved ones of an addict or alcoholic. But unfortunately, this disease is one that can turn someone you love into a shell of their former self. Bearing witness to that can not only cause you great hurt, but it can also cause you to interact with your loved one much differently than you may have before.
It is common to watch an addicted loved one regularly cancel plans, neglect responsibilities, lack in communication, and create chaos within the family. This is one of the reasons why addiction is considered a family disease, as everyone who is connected to the addict or alcoholic becomes affected. One of the most common ways addiction impacts an onlooking loved one is by producing the dangerous cycle of enabling.
What is Enabling?
Enabling is the act of doing things that allow an addict or alcoholic to keep using. There is typically at least one enabler within each family unit who finds themselves stuck in a pattern of behaving in a manner that actually supports their loved one’s addiction rather than stops it. And, in most cases, those who wind up enabling an addict or alcoholic never intended on doing so. In fact, they might not even know that they are doing it. But, when enabling is occurring and it is not stopped, it can have deadly, destructive consequences for all involved.
Am I An Enabler?
No one ever wants to be an enabler to something as painful as addiction, but it happens all too often. Usually, it occurs because someone wants to try to help their loved one or is attempting to control the situation. While enabling is a normal reaction to addiction, it is certainly one that does nothing to improve anyone’s wellbeing.
If you are enabling your loved one, you might be engaging in the following behaviors:
- Making excuses for your loved one
- Covering up for your loved one so they do not suffer the repercussions of their behaviors
- Taking care of your loved one’s responsibilities that they have neglected due to their substance abuse
- Denying the severity of your loved one’s problem/refusing to accept their behaviors as addiction
- Ignoring your own wants and needs in order to support the wants and needs of your loved one
- Providing your loved one with the things they need to survive and/or or luxuries that they would not be able to obtain for themselves due to their addiction
More specifically, you may be enabling your loved one if you are doing everyday things for them such as cooking their meals, going to the grocery store for them, giving them money, driving them places, and so on.
Types of Enabling
Being an enabler is not something that anyone wants to admit. It’s not something that some people even know they are doing. However, enabling tends to start off slowly before getting completely out of control. Your enabling behaviors are likely fueled by one or more reasons, such as the following:
It is common to fall into enabling ways out of fear for what your addicted loved one might do or say to you. You may worry that if you do not give them a place to stay, they won’t want to see you any longer. You may fear that if you do not keep funding their addiction, they will retaliate against you. In many cases, addicts and alcoholics make threats like these, which only feeds into the fear you are already feeling.
A loved one may say or do things that make you feel like you are responsible for why they are hooked on drugs or alcohol. They may even outwardly blame you for the situation they are in. When it feels like the guilt is all on your shoulders, it can seem like an easy solution to give in and do what your loved one wants you to do for them so that you can “redeem” yourself in their eyes.
Those who operate under a more positive perspective tend to find themselves holding out a great deal of hope for their loved ones with addiction. But if you are always convincing yourself that your loved one is about to make significant progress in getting sober, you are more likely to engage in enabling behaviors because you think the use will stop soon. Unfortunately, addiction is not something that someone can just turn off with the flip of a switch. Continuing to engage in enabling an addict even when you think they are about to get sober is still just as detrimental to their wellbeing as enabling them at the height of their addiction.
Addicts and alcoholics can find themselves playing the victim quite often. In many respects, they have been victimized, which is why they are seeking relief through mind-altering substances. But when they utilize their victimization in an effort to manipulate others into giving them what they want, then it becomes problematic. You might find yourself in a similar situation and feel obligated to do things to help reduce the pain that your loved one is feeling.
No matter what the reason is behind your enabling behaviors, know that many people can relate to what you are going through. The most important thing that you can do for yourself and your addicted loved one is to stop enabling at all costs. Continuing to do so will only cause you further distress and strengthen your loved one’s addiction.
Do You Need Help? Call Us Right Now.
If you are experiencing enabling behavior and need help, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for it. Living with an active addict or alcoholic in your life is extremely upsetting. You do not need to go through it alone.
If you and/or your loved one are ready to get the help you deserve, call us right now.