Are You Helping or Enabling an Addict

If you have a loved one or a friend who is struggling with addiction, your first instinct is to do all you can to help them.  The tricky part is not to cross the thin line between helping and enabling. Of course, it’s not wrong to offer assistance when you can, but you don’t want to contribute to the problem rather than solving it. So, how do you know when you are helping or enabling an addict?   Let’s take a look at some of the signs that you might be enabling your loved one to continue their addiction.

7 Ways to Know if You are Helping or Enabling an Addict

You have good intentions when you start offering support to your addicted friend or loved one. The last thing you want is for him or her to go without food or shelter.  And, you may believe that you can talk to them and show unconditional love and that will be enough to bring them around to stop using. Unfortunately, these things don’t usually work with most addicts, and in many cases, they take advantage of having their basic needs without putting forth any effort themselves.  This gives them the freedom to spend all their time getting high and seeking more drugs.

To help you determine whether you are helping or enabling an addict, take a look at the following examples.

Are you…

Making excuses for their behavior?

Have you found yourself saying things like, “He’s just going through a phase.  It will pass.”  Or, you avoid confronting the person and hope the problem will eventually go away.  The truth is, addiction doesn’t go away on its own. If you are waiting for that to happen, then you are enabling the condition to continue.

If you fear confrontation, the solution is to plan an intervention.  In this way, you won’t be alone when you try to get the individual to seek treatment.  A professional interventionist can help you plan the meeting and oversee the proceedings to make sure things don’t get out of hand.  With this type of approach, you can confront your addicted loved one respectfully and helpfully about their behavior.

Giving the person money?

It’s easy to be manipulated by an addicted person.  They are masters at getting their way and will lie to you without hesitation.  If you’ve been manipulated into giving the addict money to pay a bill or buy groceries, most likely, they will buy drugs instead.  On the other hand, if you pay the bills instead of doling out cash, you are still enabling their behavior.  This is an excellent example of knowing whether you are helping or enabling an addict.

Taking care of their responsibilities?

Have you found yourself cleaning house for your addicted loved one?  Or, are you picking up their kids from school, or feeding the pets, or any taking care of other routine tasks?  This is also an example of enabling. If the person doesn’t have any responsibilities, he or she has no reason not to get high.

Lying to others to cover up the addict’s behavior?

When you lie to others about your loved one’s addiction, this is another form of enabling.  Of course, you want to avoid having your loved one judged or criticized by others. But, the lies you’ve told are keeping your loved one from accepting responsibility and accountability for their behavior.

Bailing them out when they get in trouble?

Have you bailed your loved one out of jail?  Or, bought back items they pawned? Do you make excuses to the school or workplace for their absences?  When you do this, you are removing the chance that he or she suffers any adverse consequences of their behavior.  It will be challenging to see your loved one sit in jail or get fired, but these repercussions might be the prompt they need to seek treatment finally.

Becoming codependent?

It’s likely that you derive some personal gratification from helping your addicted loved one.  You may believe you’re doing a good deed. Or, maybe you feel a sense of pride for making these sacrifices. It’s also possible that you feel like you have some measure of control over your loved one’s behavior. This is known as codependent behavior, and it is usually present in an enabler. You can attend support groups to address the codependency and learn how to support your loved one without being an enabler.

Ignoring your own needs?

There are many ways you have ignored your own needs to support your addicted loved one.  But, you may not realize what has happened because you’re too involved in the situation. Take a close look at the things you do daily and be honest with yourself.  Have you lost sleep, missed meals, stopped going out for fun, given up hobbies, or neglected daily chores? Those behaviors are enabling the person to control you and allows them to continue their addiction.  If you want to help an addict, you need to set clear boundaries and be assertive. You should not need to put your own well-being in jeopardy.

When an addict is enabled, he or she is unlikely to want to change.  But, if they are allowed to experience the consequences of their behavior, reality can be a good motivator.  If you are still not sure if you are helping or enabling an addict in your life, contact us today.


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