When you have a parent, sibling, or loved one who is battling addiction, it’s justifiable that you would want to do everything in your power to help them towards recovery and sobriety. However, if you find yourself trying to offer a helping hand, you know that it is no easy feat since help can sometimes manifest itself as enabling. Enabling, as a textbook definition, gives a person the authority to do something. While enabling can be a positive thing in certain cases — such as enabling a person to seek inner peace — when it is used in relation to substance abuse, it often prevents adults struggling with addiction from taking responsibility for their actions and working towards sobriety.
By understanding the difference between helping and enabling, you can better help your loved one fight their alcohol or drug addiction and achieve a healthier life.
Signs You’re Enabling Your Loved One
You Ignore Their Questionable Behavior
There are several recognizable signs that a person is struggling with substance abuse, such as:
Missing family and work obligations
Changes in energy levels
Drastic weight change
Sudden financial troubles
If you recognize these symptoms and choose to ignore them, rather than speak to your loved one about any struggles they may be facing, you are allowing them to continue abusing drugs and alcohol.
You Convince Yourself There Isn’t a Problem
There are several frustrations that come with having a loved one struggling with substance abuse. For example, that person could be putting themselves into dangerous situations in an effort to feed their addiction.
However, by accepting the problem and having an “it is what it is” attitude towards their addiction, you are only enabling their disease. To actually help your loved one, you have to accept that they have a disease and urge them to receive treatment.
You Blame Everything Except the Person
While an individual’s actions can be influenced by their substance abuse, they are not their disease and are still responsible for their own choices and behaviors. By blaming other people or situations for causing a person’s behavior, you excuse their actions and further allow them to abuse substances.
For example, you make the excuse that someone only drinks because their spouse upsets them, or an adult uses opioids because they are stressed at work.
You Prioritize Their Addiction Over Your Own Needs
It is completely fair to be concerned about your loved one’s well-being when they struggle with substance abuse. However, when you begin prioritizing their needs and addiction over your own physical, emotional, and mental health, you are not doing that person any favors.
In fact, you may be enabling their addiction by confirming in their minds that they will also have you there to pick them up when they are down — so to speak. While you may have the best of intentions, you need to put yourself first, not their addiction, in order to best help them towards recovery.
You Lie to Cover Their Addiction
Excusing a person’s absence at family functions, making excuses for their changed appearance, and lying about their sudden financial troubles are all actions that only further enable a person’s addiction. You may lie for them in order to protect them from judgment or inquisitive questions from friends and family or simply to avoid having to break any otherwise calm status quo in your life.
However, the only true way to help your loved one is by being honest about their disease and addressing it with them (and possibly others).
You Give Them Money
Sure, you may have had to loan small amounts of money to friends or family over the years to help them through financially-difficult times, but continuously giving money to an adult struggling with substance addiction can only worsen their problem.
When giving money to someone who has an addiction, they might not be so forthcoming about how they are using it. By providing them with back-up cash flow, you are enabling them to continue abusing substances.
You Fear Them
In some cases, a person who is struggling with substance abuse can exhibit behaviors, perform actions, or keep company that makes you fearful of them. Because of this, you may do whatever they ask in an effort to not provoke them and keep yourself safe.
While it can be challenging to do, by not standing up to them and refusing to indulge their request, you won’t be enabling their addiction. You may even inadvertently cause them to see how much their addiction has come to affect those around them.
You Resent Them
When a person struggles with substance abuse, their behavior and actions may cause you so much stress, worry, and fear that you come to resent them for using substances in the first place or not seeking professional help.
If this happens, you will be less inclined to help that person seek treatment for their substance addiction and will allow their disease to further continue.
How to Help Instead of Enable
Leave Things as They Are
Did your loved one make a mess of things while intoxicated? Did they get evicted from their apartment because they were delinquent on their rent? While it may be tempting to help them out, leave things as they are. This essentially forces the person to take responsibility for their actions done while under the influence.
Avoid Entering Into Questionable Situations
If, in the past, a loved one’s addiction has caused you to enter into some questionable, or even unsafe, situations, do your best to avoid them now, when possible. This could mean refusing to allow them to have certain company over at your home or not allowing them to be in your home at all if they’re drunk or high.
Help Them Seek Treatment
It can be difficult for an adult struggling with addiction to accept that they need help, much less seek treatment on their own. Do research together and help your loved one find an addiction treatment program that best fits their needs.
Look to Silver Ridge for Professional Addiction Treatment
When your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, turn to the expert addiction recovery team at Silver Ridge. We understand the challenges of this stage of life, and our program is specifically built to serve the mid-life adult in a meaningful and individualized way.
Our program focuses on the well-being of the whole person by providing a safe place free from the pain of addiction through the encouragement of personal exploration and therapeutic practices.
Contact us today to get the help your loved one needs to achieve sobriety.