5 Simple Ways to Stop Enabling an Addict
Author: Justin Mckibben
Addiction impacts everyone, not just the addict. Anyone who is a family member, friend, co-worker or loved one of someone addicted to drugs and/or alcohol can definitely attest to that. Not only does it put great strain on those around the addict emotionally and probably financially, but it also drastically alters their perception of their relationship with the addict, and often times with everyone else.
Loved ones go through a lot with the addict in their life, and sometimes this relationship reaches such an intense level of unhealthy norms that it becomes based on co-dependence and enabling. Sometimes enabling is a selfish strategy loved ones use and don’t even know it.
One working definition of the term ‘enabling’ is removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior. The enabler, not the addict, is the one who suffers the effects of the addict’s behavior.
This enabling pattern frequently starts with wanting to help the loved one, but after a while it becomes a complicated and irrational relationship with no healthy boundaries set on either side.
Examples of enabling include:
- Giving money to an addict
- Lying to the addict’s employer to ‘cover’ for them being absent
- Fulfilling the addict’s commitments to others
- Paying bills for the addict
- Bailing them out of jail
Looking at this list some people probably insist they would never go to such extremes to help the addict in their life, but the reality is a lot of those same people end up enabling the addict to some extent or another, even doing the things they said they would never do.
Enabling can be very dangerous for everyone involved and often does no justice for anyone. These are 5 simple ways someone can begin healing and stop enabling the addict in their life.
- Be Honest
Honesty is indeed the best policy. It isn’t uncommon for the enabler to resort to manipulation tactics just like the addict. The enabler will also use things to coerce the addict into changing like:
Instead, use honesty. It’s OK to be assertive (very different from aggressive) when confronting an addict to get help, and honesty is a much healthier way of supporting them.
- Stop the Guilt
A lot of times the enabler will feel responsible for their addict loved on, but it is important to realize an addict needs to become responsible for their actions and choices. Preventing them from hitting bottom is just prolonging the pain on both individuals, because sometimes it’s what the addict needs in order to get help and start the process of recovery.
At the same time constantly trying to cause an addicted loved one guilt and nagging them will only give them more of an excuse to keep abusing drugs and resent the loved one who tries to help them. Holding someone responsible is important, but beating them down is not the best way to inspire change.
- Say ‘No’
Maintaining some level of healthy boundaries with an addict is vital to giving up enabling. Making them stand on their own two feet is an essential part of discontinuing the enabling cycle, and the first way to start doing that is by learning to say ‘no’ to them.
It can often feel like the most difficult thing in the world, but in order to stop enabling an addict, loved ones will have to get really comfortable with the word ‘no’, and it might actually save their loved ones life.
- Feel Your Feelings
One part of this process may seem selfish and against all instinct, but for those with an addict loved one it can be critical to start putting their own wants and needs first again and stop letting the emotions of the addict control how they are going to feel.
Families and friends have to come to terms with the idea that their responsibility first and foremost, before any assumed responsibility to look after the addict, is to care for themselves.
- Check out support groups
One way of breaking this bad habit can be to learn from others who have a friend or family member who is an addict. There are support groups such as:
In these fellowships and support groups someone can go to learn about enabling and how to stop enabling from people who have been there and done that, getting experience from people already aware of how an addict will control the lives of those around them. These groups offer free meetings filled with peers who understand the mind of an addict.
Enabling puts the healthy and sanity of everyone involved in harm’s way, and while it may feel like being supportive, it is actually the opposite. Enabling holds and addict back, and it destroys the relationship.
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