How to Stop Enabling a Drug Addict
As an enabler myself, it was a rude awakening when I realized that my “helping” was actually hurting someone that I loved. That was never my intent.
It is possible to still love and support the addict while stopping the enabling behavior. Try to point the addict in the right direction to obtain the help they need. An intervention may be possible, but even then, there is no guarantee that the addict will accept the help.
That is why it is so important that you set healthy boundaries and take good care of yourself.
Enabling vs. Helping an Addict
Drug addiction, in any form, is a complex disease that not only affects the user but their friends and family as well. It is important to understand that there is a difference between enabling and helping an addict. Although it may appear as a very fine line at times, crossing the line from helping to enabling can be devastating for all involved.
Helping = assisting the addict with something that they are truly unable of doing themselves.
Enabling = assisting the addict with something that they are truly capable of doing and, by all means, should be doing themselves.
Enablers Mean Well
Enabling begins in small ways as we show that we love and care about someone. We don’t mind helping where we can. Of course, we like to do nice things for people. And most of us genuinely do not want to see a loved one suffer.
Yet, in the case of dealing with an addict, our kindness and helpfulness can easily turn into enabling.
For example, let’s say the addict was up late last night using their drug of choice. They didn’t get to sleep until 4 a.m. and their alarm is going off at 7:30 a.m. for them to go to work. By constantly trying to wake them up so they are not late for work, we are enabling them to avoid the consequences of their actions.
Rescuing an Addict
Enabling often becomes a habitual day-to-day routine that allows the addict to continue their unacceptable behavior.
Just like the addict is in denial about their disease, the enabler tends to deny how bad things are getting. When the addict is rescued, they begin to rely on their enablers more and more, which in turn, allows them to continue the addiction.
As the enabler’s efforts to rescue the addict become more and more ineffective, deeper problems continue to develop and everything becomes intensified. This vicious cycle can become extremely painful for the enabler when frustration and anger start to build.
The enabler may stop taking care of themselves. Their main focus is on fixing the addict and all the problems this craziness has caused. They become a “firefighter” constantly putting out fires. An array of exaggerated feelings such as sadness, loneliness, anger, rage, fear, depression, hopelessness and mistrust are bound to surface. And things may become so painful for the enabler that they shut down physically and emotionally.
Warning Signs Of Enabling behavior
- Do you rationalize the addict’s irrational behavior?
- Do you make excuses for the addict?
- Do you loan money to the addict over and over again?
- Are you surprised when they use the money to get their next fix?
- Do you end up finishing projects that the addict never completed?
- Do you pay their bills?
- Have you bailed them out of jail?
- Have you paid their legal fees?
- Have you ever called in sick to school or work for them?
- Have you cleaned up their messes?
- Have you believed their lies?
- Do you blame yourself in part for the addict’s behavior?
- Have you lied for the addict?
- Have you covered up for them to avoid embarrassment?
- Do you think that you can fix the addict?
- Do you give them one more chance ~ time after time?
- Do you threaten to leave but then never do?
- Do you threaten to kick the addict out but don’t follow through?
PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EXHIBIT ALL OF THESE BEHAVIORS TO BE AN ENABLER. USE YOUR JUDGEMENT KNOWING THAT ANSWERING YES TO JUST A FEW OF THESE WARNING SIGNS MAY BE CAUSE FOR YOU TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE NEED TO STOP ENABLING.
Breaking The Toxic Cycle
IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO ENABLERS: Enabling behaviors can be stopped and YOUR healing can take place even if the addict refuses to seek help.
When you begin to identify enabling behaviors, you can then start to make changes. This will take time and effort, and an understanding that enabling will not simply disappear overnight.
As you stop enabling and making excuses for the addict, they will begin to truly experience the consequences of their addiction. You must stay strong as the addict will likely become angry. In addition, you may have a difficult time watching the addict struggle.
You are not responsible for their addiction! You cannot fix them! They must get to a point where they want to change and help themselves!
In the meantime, you must take care of yourself by taking the steps to change your enabling behavior.
Build A Support System
As an enabler working on changing your behavior, it is important to create a support system:
- Private Counseling
- A Spiritual Advisor
- 12-Step Meetings
- A Sponsor
- Supportive Family & Friends
Specific Actions To Stop Enabling Behavior
- Do not lie for the addict.
- Do not make excuses for the addict.
- Do not loan them money.
- Do not be their alarm clock.
- Do not bail them out of jail.
- Do not pay their bills.
- Do not be afraid to file a police report for theft, violence, etc.
- Do not be afraid to obtain a restraining order if necessary.
- Do not clean up their messes or destruction.
- Do not remain in arguments.
- Do not make ultimatums if you are not 100% confident that you will stick with it.
Wishing you the best during this difficult time. Take care of yourself!
This is Sharyn's Slant
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2012 Sharon Smith