In recovery circles there’s a phrase that defines enabling, “If the addict in your home is happy with you, then you’re enabling them.’ It’s true! In fact, most families enable their loved suffering addiction with kid-gloves in the beginning. The problem becomes when it’s two years later, they’re not working or going to school, they have borrowed a lot of money, and they have sunk further into addiction. However, the one thing that is certain is that substance use disorder will not get better on its own.
So, you remain in the cycle of doing and giving and become full of resentment and anger. But where do you go from here? How do you support your loved one without enabling?
What Is Enabling?
It may seem like a simple notion but enabling can be complex. You are probably doing it without recognizing it. After all, it can be tricky to discern the fine line between supporting and enabling. That said, the boundary line is an important one, and it’s crucial that you understand it.
Enabling happens when your actions block someone from experiencing the truth or consequences of their behaviors. It also means protecting or softening the gravity of your loved one’s destructive choices.
Enabling examples include:
- Keeping secrets to maintain peaceful household.
- Getting them out of financial or legal problems.
- Victimizing your loved one.
- Allowing your loved to cross boundaries without consequences.
- Becoming cook, cleaning person and bank.
- Denying the substance abuse to others.
- Choosing the addict’s needs above anyone else’s needs.
- Assigning blame to other for the addict’s behavior.
How to Stop Enabling
Enabling, like substance use disorder, can become its own dangerous addiction. Loved ones can become co-dependent to their loved one’s addiction. They typically forego their own health and wellbeing to constantly save their family member. However, it’s a one-sided deal. Therefore, the enabling family member tends to feel resentful, isolated, and cynical. However, there is hope and you can take immediate steps that will change the dynamics. First, join a local Al-Anon group to get advice and support from others that have overcome EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE EXPERIENCING. It’s like putting the oxygen mask on yourself first to help others an airplane. It is a safety guideline for handling loss of cabin pressure on every airline flight. This 12-step support group is designed to help you re-prioritize yourself and teach you to create and enforce boundaries for the addict. The second thing you can do is to participate in family addiction therapy. Here, the family and therapist mutually agree on the terms of the household, which the whole family enforces.
Not to oversimplify, but if the addict refuses to get help or do what is agreed upon, then they can live somewhere else. The Al-Anon group or therapist will guide and support you to hold the line. Family members in Al-Anon are not shocked or swayed by their family member’s manipulation. They don’t pull their hair out or stay up all night worrying. They put themselves first and manage these situations more objectively. They detach with LOVE!
About BriteLife Recovery
BriteLife Recovery is a national provider of addiction treatment for adult men and women. With a focus on total health and wellness, BriteLife offers individualized substance use disorder programs that are centered on client choice and collaboration. The company operates luxury treatment centers in Hanover, PA and Hilton Head, SC.
About the Author
Matthew Koenig is the principal of Last Call Marketing, which devotes their efforts to Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Website Design and SEO, primarily in healthcare and tourism concerns. Mr. Koenig is based out of South Florida. His sober date is June 10, 2013.