If you’ve had a friend or a loved one who suffered alcoholism or addiction, you may have been guilt of enabling the addiction without even knowing it. Enabling drug addiction is a dangerous proposition as it delays treatment, often with deadly consequences.
Addicts are experts at covering their addiction or making excuses. Often times, their addiction compels them to manipulate those around them in any way possible by playing on your sympathies or kind heart. They become predatory, doing whatever it takes to feed their addiction. Loved ones who try to help through love and kindness often find themselves unwilling participants in a game of deception and disappointments.
Enabling Drug Addiction vs Helping
The truth is that while friends or loved ones might be trying to help, they’re actually making the addiction worse.
When we refer to enabling, we’re really talking about doing things that help an addict could conceivably do themselves if they were not so wrapped up in their addiction.
In contrast, you’d be helping the addict if you stopped shielding him from the consequences of his actions. Recovery is only possible after the enabling stops and the addict comes to the harsh realization that he is out of options.
At some point, you will come to the realization that you’ve been enabling drug addiction through your actions or inaction. By this time, many of your friends or other family members have probably told you dozens of times that you are indeed enabling drug addiction rather than helping to stop it. Eventually, you need to know how to talk to your loved one about their addiction.
While wrapped in their addiction, your loved on is no longer the same person you knew. The addiction controls him like a puppet and during this period, relationships become damaged. There will be time to repair these relationships after he has gone through the recovery process.
While you can’t change a person while they’re consumed by addiction, you can change your behaviors and reactions.
Stop Doing Anything That Allows the Addict to Continue Their Addiction
Anything you do that helps the addict avoid consequences is considered enabling. Are you letting them live with you without paying their way? Are you allowing them to disappear for hours or days? Are you allowing them to come home while they’re high? If so, you’re enabling. The safety net you provide allows the addict to continue his addiction without consequence.
Here’s an example: If your loved one has lost his driver’s license, providing a ride to AA meetings or a job interview is ok. Giving him a ride to a party is not ok. Researching rehab treatment or AA meetings for him is something he should be doing for himself.
Stop Intervening or Rescuing Him
If you’re making excuses to his employer, school, girlfriend or friends, you’re enabling. If you’re bailing him out of jail or paying his fines, you’re enabling. Addicts must experience the consequences of their behavior if there’s any hope of them submitting to recovery. The simple truth of the matter is that loved ones who shield addicts from consequences are enabling drug addiction. There’s no gray area here and in fact, we often see patients that have been wrapped up in addiction for more than a decade because those around him were enabling the addiction. You’re doing your loved one no favors by shielding them — quite the opposite. Given that one overdose can be fatal, if you truly loved the person, you’d be doing everything possible to get him into recovery.
Do Not Provide Financial Assistance
This one seems obvious, but too many loved ones are taken in by pleas for help. If you give or loan money to an addict, you might as well give him the drugs. Addicts who are consumed by addiction will con, lie, cheat or in some cases, steal, to feed their addiction. This is the addiction’s power of control over your loved one. Addiction is an evil demon inside your loved one’s body, hitching a ride in a human vessel. This demon cares about no one but feeding his own addiction. Your loved one is trapped inside this addiction who now controls him.
Don’t Engage in Arguments
You can’t rationalize with an irrational person. Arguing with an addict gives the addict the opportunity to fight you on your reaction. He will always try to flip the blame back to you. Arguing is useless and accomplishes nothing.
Set Boundaries and Stick to Them
Once you’ve reached your breaking point, you have to stick to the boundary you set. This boundary is a line drawn in the sand. If you’ve threatened to leave or to throw him out and yet he doesn’t seek treatment, it’s time to act. Do exactly what you said you were going to do. If you don’t, you have no other weapons in your arsenal. At this point, the addict knows he’s free to continue to use, but he will step up his efforts to cover and conceal his addiction through more lying and even more desperate measures. This may include stealing from others when he knows he can’t get money from you. If caught, his legal troubles could be serious, all because you didn’t stick to your boundaries.
When You Stop Being an Enabler
Once you’ve stopped enabling, there’s a brief period during which the addict might go through denial. They many continue to use until their next major consequence, which may be an overdose or an arrest. For each addict, their own personal breaking point varies. Sometimes, the fear of being without a loved one is enough to get them into recovery. In other cases, facing a long prison term might be the tipping point. For others, actually doing hard time in jail might be their tipping point.
The journey of an addict is based on the individual. No one can force another person to get help if the person doesn’t want help.
Once they’ve accepted that they need recovery, there are many options. Recovery usually starts with Rehab. From there, patients usually continue treatment with either intensive outpatient treatment or regular outpatient treatment.
Virtually no one is full rehabilitated after a short stint in rehab. Many addicts have been wrapped up in their addiction for many, many years. A month or two at a rehab facility is not enough time to get to the underlying causes of addiction. Sober living is a mindset that can only be developed with a careful, multi-faceted treatment plan.
If You or Someone You Know Needs Help:
In many cases, treatment is covered by personal insurance, state insurance or through other programs. Contact us so we can check what coverage is available to you.