So, you love someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs – now what?
Have you found yourself making excuses for them, cleaning up their messes, covering for them when their boss or creditors call, doing basic things for them that they should be able to do for themselves?
Do you feel angry or resentful every time they engage in their substance abuse behavior? Do you try to yell, manipulate, mother, manage, or somehow otherwise control their addiction? Do you count drinks and try to get them to stop after two or three but to no avail?
Do you flush pills down the toilet? Are you neglecting yourself and possibly your children due to your obsession with the addict? Are you completely exhausted and frustrated when nothing changes for the better?
Take a deep breath and read on – there is a solution.
Enabling is the process whereby a well-meaning and concerned person in an addict’s life tries to buffer the effects of the addict’s behavior to prevent them from fully experiencing the consequences.
Simply put, the enabler is creating a way for the addict to continue irresponsible behavior. This can manifest in a variety of ways in trying to cover up the addiction through seemingly harmless activities such as washing their clothes paying particular attention to stain removal of any evidence of the habit (such as vomit from over-drinking, etc.) so that no one outside the home will be able to find out there is a problem.
It can involve lying to a boss or other authority figure such as the police to save the addict from losing their job or getting arrested.
Enabling can also show up in more insidious ways such as the proverbial “walking on eggshells” around the addict – avoiding them or modifying one’s behavior in an attempt to prevent the addict from having an excuse to pick up that first drink, take a pill, or shoot up.
Enabling or not can ultimately be the difference between life or death of the addict and possibly the enabler. It is a dangerous part of addiction as no addict can genuinely continue to engage long-term in their habits without at least one (often multiple) facilitator.
Part of addiction is the lying and manipulating of others in which the addict engages to make it possible to continue using. But what loved ones are often not even aware of is that their behavior becomes sick as well. They too will begin to engage in similar acts, often unconsciously, in an attempt to make everything ok.
Unfortunately, the consequences can be devastating for both the addict and the enabler. When an addict is enabled, it allows them to spiral deeper and deeper into the addiction, which can eventually lead to dire circumstances including loss of health, incarceration, or even death.
Also, and often overlooked as much of the focus is usually on the addict, is that the enabler can also suffer loss of health, incarceration, job loss, or even death as well.
And unfortunately, it is all too common that the facilitator has no idea that they are causing the situation to become worse and that they also need treatment.
The line between helping and supporting versus enabling can often become blurred when one is too close to the situation. This is where getting outside help can be critical in both your own and the addict’s recovery.
Addiction recovery centers always have treatment programs and group therapy sessions for the loved ones affected by the disease of addiction.
Whether the addict is your child, spouse, sibling, parent, other family member, boss, coworker, or a close friend, you have likely been affected by their disease.
The first step is to give yourself credit for being willing to read this article to get more information. The second step is to reach out for support at an addiction recovery center, through a trained addiction therapist, or 12 step groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.
Let’s face it; you’re exhausted and out of ideas. Everything you’ve tried so far isn’t working; in fact, the problem seems to be getting worse.
If you knew how to fix the problem yourself, wouldn’t you have succeeded in doing it by now?
The truth is, going it alone is not only the hard way, you’ve already proven to yourself it doesn’t work.
If you had control over your loved one’s addiction, with all the effort, time, and energy you’ve been putting into managing the situation, things would show evidence of improvement.
And we’re not just talking about the honeymoon phases that can so often be part of the addiction cycle when the addict might be sober for a brief period. Even these periods can be wrought with problems because the cause of the addiction hasn’t been treated and neither have you.
How common it is for a sober period to be more cause for loved ones to walk on eggshells around the addict for fear they might start using again. There is never any peace in it. And eventually, no matter how perfect you may behave around the addict, they will start using again.
It’s not your fault, you can’t control it, and you can’t fix it. A trained therapist and support group can help you accept this truth and guide you to your recovery; which is ironically the addict’s best chance at redemption too.
Yes, focusing on changing your behavior from that of enabler to one of recovery, may have positive effects on the addict.
There have been many situations where the addict becomes interested in recovery options as well once there is a dramatic change in loved one’s behavior and the enabling stops.
But be forewarned, this may not look pretty initially. The addict may become angry and act out when you no longer do things for them that they should be able to do for themselves.
Remember, this is a significant change in the status quo and will take everyone time to adjust. It is also possible the addict’s behavior may become so unacceptable that it will become necessary to ask them to leave your home, or in the case of a minor child, give them the choice to leave or go to a treatment center as their only options.
They may hate you and make it abundantly clear to you, and when it is someone you love, this can often be difficult to bear. This is why support is so critical for you to have during the process of stopping the enabling behavior.
It is not simple, but it is essential for you to be able to create healthy boundaries with the addict and enforce them for yourself.
Also, a word of caution, that seeking recovery for yourself doesn’t guarantee a change in the addict or force them into facing their addictions. This can be an excruciating part of recovery, to watch your loved one continue to spiral downward and feel utterly helpless while waiting on the sidelines.
The critical thing to remember here, and again why a support network is so vital, is that now the addict can’t take you down the drain with them. Addiction is such a powerful and insidious disease that it can wipe out the addict and their loved ones if no one is in recovery.
Often those who find themselves wandering into an addiction support group out of desperation, admit they have come to find out how to help or cure the addict.
What they find upon listening to other members share during the meeting, is that they are powerless over the disease of addiction. You didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction. I’ll repeat that: you did not cause your loved one’s addiction. You can’t control addiction, and you can’t cure addiction.
These are commonly known as “the three C’s.” This isn’t your fault. But you can get off the merry-go-round of chaos, denial, and self-neglect that you’ve been on and start to learn how to take care of yourself whether or not the addict is using.
What you won’t find in a healthy support group is advice-giving, judgment, criticism, blaming, shaming, or gossip. What you will see in recovery is a haven where you can trust that what you hear and what you share will be kept in confidence.
You will find other people just like you, with the same or similar challenges addiction creates with loved ones, which can be a considerable relief discovering that you’re not the only one and you’re not alone anymore.
You will be presented with a host of tools to help you learn and practice recovery behavior like setting healthy boundaries, not enabling (also known as “detaching”), and putting the focus on your self-care and life.
Common tools can include sharing at group meetings, learning to pause instead of reacting, writing exercises, outreach calls, working with a sponsor or therapist through a step-by-step recovery program, reading literature that center around addiction recovery, and the like.
You may also find yourself surprised at how much you’ve let yourself go physically, emotionally, and even spiritually when you see how much damage the enabling has caused to your health and well-being. This is an essential awareness because when left unchecked, you could become chronically ill or worse due to your neglect.
I know, I know, it sounds cliché and cheesy, but it’s true. Love is the answer to healing addiction.
But enabling isn’t love. Love begins with self-love; taking excellent care of yourself and your children if you have them.
In recovery, you will learn that when you put yourself first, you are better able to help those around you overall. It may seem counterintuitive, but it works.
Think about a time when you were overly hungry, angry, lonely, or tired and how little tolerance you probably had for even the simplest of things.
If you’re taking good care of yourself and addressing your needs as they arise (eating, sleeping, exercising, pampering, emotional release, and spirituality), you are better equipped to respond to everyday life as it is happening.
It is essential to understand that self-love includes reprogramming your mind to think loving thoughts toward yourself. Often a loved one’s addiction can cause you to develop critical, judgmental, blaming, or shaming thoughts toward yourself. Self-love practices catch these thoughts and reframe them in a healthy way.
Another miracle of your recovery is that you will also be able to develop a love and compassion for the addict once you work through very understandable anger, resentment, grief, and other emotions that come with watching a loved one engage in self-destructing behaviors.
It may seem impossible to you now, and you will come to find out that one day, you experience a very visceral attitude shift.
Then you will notice your relationships, not just with the addict, but with everyone in your life, have begun to shift in a positive direction. No one else around you may have changed, and they may never change. But because you have turned, life gets easier to accept the way it is.
The people in your life become more able to accept the way they are. You may find yourself reprioritizing how much time you spend with certain toxic personalities, or possibly choosing not to be around them at all.
This processing is sometimes referred to as “detaching with love” whereby you can genuinely accept a person, place, or situation as it is, and lovingly excuse yourself from them without resentment or expectation, simply as an act of self-care.
And the serenity and peace that comes from that is priceless.
You can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
If there is ANY chance you are currently enabling an ADDICT, please watch this.
“The truth can be painful, and I am not trying to hurt anyone. But with the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, we can no longer sugar coat these things… It’s literally a matter of life and death. ”
Here are two great downloads that will help yo uunderstand and deal with the issue of enabling in an addictive relationship.