No one likes to see someone they love struggle. It is a natural tendency to want to help and protect them. However, when it comes to addiction, what you perceive as “help” may actually be enabling the person to continue their drinking or drug use. You may have the best of intentions, but things don’t always work out as you had hoped.
By enabling someone, you are shielding them from feeling the full effects of their actions. The support they receive may keep them from realizing how serious their addiction is, or how it is affecting themselves and those around them.
Common Signs of Enabling Behavior
Enabling addiction is something you may not even realize you are doing. You may think that you’re doing what’s best or providing beneficial help. Here are a few signs of enabling:
- Downplaying the severity of their drinking or drug use.
- Making excuses for their actions, behaviors, whereabouts, or broken promises.
- Blaming others for a loved one’s actions, behaviors, or substance use.
- Providing money to help with rent, utilities, legal fees, cell phone, car payments, or other necessities. (This money often goes toward substance use, not what you intended it for.)
- Cleaning up after them, both figuratively and literally.
- Helping someone to avoid the full consequences of their actions.
These actions often allow the person to continue doing what they’re doing with little interference. They know that someone will be there to bail them out of a tough spot or come up with an excuse for their behavior. Not acknowledging the severity of the problem may lead them to believe it’s not as bad as it is either.
Individuals struggling with addiction have a plethora of excuses for their actions and behavior. They can put up a very convincing argument that they’re going to get help or stop using or use the money for X, Y, or Z, but that rarely happens. Or, if they do stop, it’s only for a short time because they haven’t received the professional treatment they need to achieve long-term recovery.
If you want to truly assist, the best thing you can do is recognize that they have a problem and help them get into a reputable treatment program such as Crossroads. This means stopping any enabling behaviors and focusing on letting them know that you are serious about supporting them in treatment and recovery. It is a difficult position to be in, but you are not alone. Crossroads provides support programs for families, and there are other resources available as well. Realize that in the end, doing everything you can to save their life and create a brighter future is worth it.
Crossroads offers residential treatment for women and outpatient treatment for women and men. These services are tailored to each client’s individual needs and build a strong foundation and support system for lasting recovery. Families also receive guidance and training in how they can better support their loved one’s recovery as well as their own healing and well-being. Recovery takes time, but it is possible, and it is worth it.Do you have a family member struggling to overcome addiction? Find out how Crossroads can help.