Enabling an Addict
There is a fine line between helping someone who has a substance use disorder and enabling an addict, or their behaviors; one is a courageous and life changing kindness that involves meeting them halfway to be of assistance in tough times and the other is destructive for all parties. Enabling is the intention to offer help that perpetuates rather than solves a problem and entails turning a blind eye, taking on responsibilities and making excuses for behaviors and actions that negatively affect them and those around them.
Helping generally involves coming to someone’s aid to offer assistance in the form of goods or services. Helping and giving go hand in hand, all relationships require a balance of give and take, however, helping a loved one can easily evolve from an act of compassion into a vicious cycle of codependency, manipulation and deceit, especially when substance abuse or even co-occurring problems are a factor.
There are many reasons why a loved one might enable or condone dangerous or illegal behavior and actions, often times loved ones believe the only way they can help is to try to take control. A loved one might condone substance use to:
- Prevent the loved one from experiencing discomfort such as during withdrawals
- Prevent the loved one from doing something immoral, dangerous or illegal to obtain money, drugs or alcohol
- Prevent the loved one from leaving or disappearing and harming themselves or others
- Attempt to have some control over the frequency and dosage etc of substance use
- Attempt to stay in the comfort zone, avoid drama, arguments or the escalation of negative behavior or actions
- Look out for their own safety in fear of persecution for being an accessory and harboring illicit activity
However, neither the addict nor the loved ones are in control and often times these small acts of kindness have the opposite effect and make matters worse.You must consider if your actions will cause short-term or long-term problems, yes you have good intentions, but it is not your role to be a caretaker. The more you take on, the more the addict will grow accustomed to being taken care of, leaving you feeling lied to, underappreciated and taken advantage of. If you are trying to help a loved one who is suffering from substance abuse and addiction, remember to:
- Let the addict make their mistakes, accept those mistakes, move on and clean up their own mess
- Set limits and follow through with the plan to change, get help and get healthy even if the addict will not participate
- Resist the urge to compromise or give into pressure, manipulation and even threats or attacks from the addict
- Do not make excuses or cover up the addict’s behavior
You can only help someone who wants to help themselves, they have to meet you halfway otherwise your efforts will be taken advantage of. Instead of comforting, financing and otherwise supporting their lifestyle, addicts need to be confronted with tough love to recognize, understand and break the cycle of addiction. Regardless of the discomfort you or the addict may feel, the decision to get sober and get healthy are the right decisions to make.
The best thing you can do is for someone who uses or is addicted to a substance or substances is to get them into a professional medical detox and treatment program. You, friends and family are not professionally equipped to deal with any single or combination of co-occurring problems and sometimes love is not the best medicine.