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Why and How to Stop Enabling Your Loved One’s Addiction

They Won’t Get Help if Addiction Is Comfortable

When you love someone, you try to help them and support them in any way you can. You want what’s best for them. However, if you were actually hurting them instead of helping them, then you’d stop, right? When it comes to addiction, it’s not so easy to tell the difference. Are your efforts to help actually just enabling them to continue their addiction?

Let’s take a closer look at how addiction and enabling work, and what you should do instead.A man sits talking to a distraught woman at the kitchen table.

What Is Enabling?

Broadly speaking, enabling is whenever you shield your loved one from the consequences of their addiction. You do this to ease their suffering, to help maintain the appearance that nothing’s wrong, and other similar reasons.

In a healthy relationship, it’s common to do favors for each other and help each other out when we’re in need. When your spouse, child, or other family member is going through a rough time, you might take some responsibilities off their hands to lighten their burden. When they have a lot of work, you might handle dinner, or laundry, or taking the kids to practice, etc. It’s temporary though, and when times are tough for you they’ll return the favor. This is normal.

However, enabling is different. This is when you feel that you have no choice but to consistently take on more and more unreasonable responsibilities to protect your loved one from consequences. You no longer feel you have free will in the arrangement, and instead your sense of obligation drags you from one favor to the next. After all, if you don’t take care of your loved one, who will?

Some examples of enabling behavior include:

  • Helping them cover up their addictions with lies
  • Washing vomit and other fluids off their clothes
  • Picking them up when they call inebriated in the middle of the night
  • Bringing them inside when they pass out in the yard
  • Bailing them out as soon as they get arrested
  • Doing all their household chores
  • Taking it upon yourself to make sure they don’t miss work
  • Constantly giving them money

When you start putting their immediate needs before their long-term needs or your own needs, you’ve become an enabler.

Why Does Someone Living with an Addiction Need to Hit Rock Bottom?

This seems fine though, right? After all, all you’re doing is helping. What’s the harm if you’re willing to make sacrifices to support them? The problem is that enabling behavior doesn’t actually help your loved one. Instead, it extends how long they may take to get help.

When someone has an addiction, it dominates their thoughts and motivations. Appeasing the addiction is their number one priority, above family, career, etc. Everything else can be compromised or manipulated if that’s what it takes. That’s why it may seem like your loved one isn’t themselves anymore—or why they seem like they’re taking advantage of you and don’t care about anything.

In many of these cases, they won’t be able to rally the motivation to get help and fight the addiction until the consequences of not doing so outweigh the consequences they feel from not satisfying a craving. That happens when they hit what they feel is “rock bottom.” This could mean different things for different people, including:

  • Getting fired
  • Getting arrested
  • The end of a relationship
  • Losing their car
  • Getting evicted
  • Passing out somewhere

By protecting them from consequences, you’re making their addiction more comfortable. By making it more comfortable, you’re making it easier for them to stay in denial about the impact the addiction is having on their life. As a result, they’ll have to go further and lower to hit rock bottom before they get help.

How Not to Enable

To help your loved one, you have to stop enabling them. Here are some strategies to accomplish that:

  • Get help. Get in touch with peer support groups like AA and speak with others who know a lot about addiction. You may even want to attend a few meetings to hear how others deal with these challenges.
  • Limit one-on-one interaction. People with addictions often lie, pressure, and manipulate to maintain their addiction. Have another family member around so they don’t corner you and get you to cave to their demands.
  • Reevaluate your financial relationship. If you support them, or have joint financial accounts, switch to individual accounts they can’t access. Set hard limits to how much financial support you’re willing to provide.
  • Let police do what they need to. If your loved one might get arrested for stealing money or drugs, public intoxication, driving under the influence, or buying illegal drugs, let it happen. Better for them to spend a night in jail, hit rock bottom, and get help, rather than avoid jail but continue their addiction to the end.
  • Stop covering for them. Don’t make up excuses or lies to cover up their addiction. Don’t call in sick for them when they’re going to miss work. Don’t make efforts to hide their behavior or lifestyle from friends or neighbors.

Start making these changes, and it’ll be harder for your loved one to maintain their addiction as part of a seemingly normal and healthy lifestyle. We know this is hard, though. You want to just help them in the moment. Just know that there are others who’ve gone through the same experiences and come out on top. If you’re looking for advice on how to deal with your loved one’s addiction, contact New Directions Addiction Recovery Services (NDARS) at (779) 220-0336. We’ve been there, and we’re always happy to help you and your loved one change course and take life in “new directions”.

 

New Directions Addiction Recovery Services
93 E Berkshire Dr, Unit G
Crystal Lake, IL 60014
(779) 220-0336

New Directions Addiction Recovery Services

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