The very idea that you may be enabling a loved-one’s addiction is undoubtedly disturbing. This unconscious act runs contrary to your goal of helping your loved-one achieve his or her recovery goals.
The act of enabling a loved one’s addiction is almost always accidental. How you enable a loved one’s addiction is almost always manifested in how you act and what you say. The result of your actions and words is to stall your loved one’s recovery and so it’s essential for you to recognise enabling words and actions so you may avoid them at all costs.
When your loved one attends a drug and alcohol rehab clinic, family therapists will help you realise what it is you may be doing that’s serving to enable a loved one’s addiction. You will also be armed with effective strategies that act to support your loved one’s recovery.
The act of supporting a loved-one through addiction is particularly difficult when that loved one happens to be your son or daughter.
When your son or daughter is a child, the role you play as caregiver is well-defined. However, as your children become young adults, your role as a caregiver becomes much more difficult to define in black and white terms.
For instance, when is it appropriate to ‘let go’ and allow your son or daughter to make decisions independently? Is it still acceptable for you to punish your ageing children for ‘their own good’?
These questions become much tougher to answer when your son or daughter is addicted to drugs. Addiction to drugs is truly a ‘life and death’ scenario and one that’s seldom resolved with ease.
In fact, bearing witness to your loved one’s addiction is probably the hardest thing you will ever do. At times, it’s likely you will feel powerless to solve this nightmare, no matter how hard you really try.
It’s also possible that your actions could be causing more harm than good, particularly if your actions are preventing your loved one from solving the problem in his or her own unique way.
How may I be enabling my loved one’s addiction?
1. Funding your loved one’s addiction
Perhaps the most obvious manner in which you could be enabling a loved one’s addiction is by acting as an open cheque book. If your loved one continuous to request money and those requests are granted, it’s likely you are funding his or her drug habit. If your loved-one continuously asks for ’emergency’ or ‘bailout’ cash, first enquire what the money is for. If the money is for rent or food, offer to pay directly.
Also, make enquiries as to why your loved one is not able to pay for these basic living essentials his or herself. There is a good chance the money that’s earmarked for rent and food is being diverted to pay for an expensive drug habit.
2. Making excuses for a loved one
A loved-one may neglect important responsibilities such as work or school as a result of a drug habit. Do you find yourself making excuses to minimise the impact of your loved-one neglecting his or her responsibilities? If yes, then it’s undoubtedly your actions and words are enabling your loved one’s addiction.
3. Do you put up with disrespectful behaviour?
If you are willing to endure disrespectful and bad behaviour, then you are sending out a message that your goodwill is to be exploited.
Unfortunately, drug addicts are renowned for exploiting loved-ones who allow themselves to be treated in this manner. We are not asking you to lack all compassion but know that by toughening your approach, you are also preventing behaviour that’s serving to enable your loved one’s addiction.
You may feel your ‘softy softy’ approach is preventing your loved-one from suffering. However, this approach is likely prolonging your loved one’s addiction and thus actually serving to create suffering rather than extinguishing it.
4. Engaging in ‘this will be the last time I help’ thinking
Does your loved-one ask for help when it is obvious the need for this help arose because of his or her addiction?
If you find yourself accepting this call for help, you are by definition enabling your loved one’s addiction. You may reason that ‘this is the last time I will help you in this way’. However, how many times have you really said this to a loved one, only to go against this promise in the near future?
How may I stop enabling my loved one’s addiction?
A key characteristic of enabling is that the help you are offering would be entirely unneeded if your loved-one was not addicted to drugs. Because of this, the fact that you are enabling a loved one’s addiction is often obvious to everybody but yourself. As the old saying goes ‘love is blind’.
Below, we list a number of tips that will help you avoid enabling your loved one’s addiction:
- Do not drink alcohol or use drugs yourself: these seem obvious, but you would truly be surprised to learn the number of people who fail to lead by example when it comes to drug and alcohol use. Instead, set boundaries and ensure you stick to these boundaries
- Refuse to provide financial support when it is requested: this includes a request to pay for food or housing. If your loved one is in work, then it’s likely money set aside for essentials is being diverted to fund a drug habit. By covering the cost of housing and food, you are indirectly funding your loved one’s addiction
- Refuse to apologise or to make excuses for your loved one’s actions: if your loved-one misses school or work or acts in an anti-social and unreasonable manner, refuse to offer up excuses or apologise to those who are negatively affected as a result. Instead, allow your loved-one to take full ownership of his or her actions
- Don’t prevent your loved one from seeking out professional help: this is perhaps an obvious exception where you are permitted to provide financial support. Assisting your loved one in seeking out treatment is quite the opposite to enabling his or her addiction
To locate a drug or alcohol rehab clinic in your local area, reach out to our free helpline today on 0800 088 66 86. We assist you in locating a comprehensive treatment plan for your loved one that includes an element of family therapy. When you are enabling a loved one’s addiction, you are participating in it too. Refuse to continue to play this deadly game by reaching out for professional help today.
Keith stopped using drugs and drinking alcohol more than 10 years ago. He now spends a lot of time writing and editing content for this website. His mission is to assist people who are also looking to embrace addiction recovery. Keith believes a key way to accomplish this goal is through his writing.