For a moment, see if this situation sounds familiar to you, at all. To make a point, let’s say you have an adult friend with a grown child (between the ages of 21 and 26), who is independent and living away from their home. Although the situation seemed happy at first, once the grown child moved out of the house, circumstances started to take an instant downward spiral into a cesspool of confusion. Now, the grown child has started spending money frivolously and frequently, behavior that is atypical of this individual. At some point, the child wastes some valuable rent money on a new car, and she has no way to pay her bills whatsoever. So, what does your friend do? Obviously, she does what she thinks is best and pays the rent for her child. After all, a parent has to be there for a child always, right?
In short, the answer to this question is “no.”
Whether you have actually lived through this scenario, known someone who has, or are completely new to this unfortunate series of events, you have just witnessed (or read about) a perfect example of an act we like to call “enabling.”
On the surface, you can understand why a parent, spouse, or friend would show such unadulterated dedication to their loved one. Letting go of a beloved part of your family is like cutting off one of your own limbs, especially if you have shared a wonderful relationship for decades. So, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to leave them out in the cold and let them fall?
Simply put, yes, you should let them fight their battles, but do not completely abandon them.
So how can you tell if you are an enabler, a person who works too hard to make sure everyone is happy even if that causes more harm than good? Even more importantly, what can you do to stop this behavior and help the one you love, particularly if that person suffers from drug addiction or alcoholism?
Let’s take a closer look at this situation and find out more.
What Is an Enabler?
Also defined as “empowering,” enabling takes place when a person either tolerates self-destructive or overly aggressive behavior or attempts to cover it up to pretend like nothing bad is happening. At some point in our lives, each of us has known an enabler. We have either heard about or met a person who helps pay a drug addict’s bills or hides their cigarette butts in the trash.
“It could never be me,” you might say. “I could never condone terrible behavior like that.”
According to intervention specialist Jeffrey Juergens, this is not always the case. Sometimes, as he points out, overwhelming love and devotion to someone in your family or private circle can lead you to do drastic, unimaginable things (including tolerance for bad behavior). However, despite the fact that they consider their behavior “loving” and “caring,” these people are inflicting more harm than good. Enabling is poisonous to the recovery process.
Signs That You Might Be an Enabler
We never want to think of ourselves as enablers. After all, covering for an addict or an alcoholic will never solve the problem (it will only mask it). Nevertheless, there are different types of behavior that confirm a person is, in fact, an enabler:
- Ignoring shady behavior: In the case of addicts, the victim will sometimes sneak out of the house at all hours of the night (one of the first alarm calls that addiction is the culprit).
- Resenting the addict/alcoholic: As you enable or empower the addict/alcoholic, you may also feel resentment towards the victim. In a bizarre cycle, the enabler is helping the victim, only to feel hatred and revulsion toward that same individual (even though the enabler is making the problem worse).
- Placing the blame on others: Sometimes, enablers will blame other people and circumstances for causing addiction or alcoholism.
- Covering up for the addict/alcoholic: In this case, the enabler will be fully aware that the victim showed up drunk at a party or snuck out to buy cocaine, but they did nothing to stop these activities (or prevent anything from happening in the first place).
- Feeling fear and uncertainty: Sometimes, a person will make excuses for the addict, while also feeling an overwhelming sense of fear that the addict will attack them if they do not help.
- Making the victim’s priorities your own: Most importantly, an enabler will completely lose track of their life as they attempt to cover up the victim’s activities.
In doing one or more of these actions, an enabler will deny the addict/alcoholic of the substance abuse help they desperately need.
How Do I Stop Enabling?
In truth, there is no easy answer to this question.
However, consider these facts. As you continue to enable your parent’s, child’s, or loved one’s rampant and uncontrollable behavior, you are not showing love. In fact, you are simply driving them further and further away from you, even though it might feel like you are tightening your grip. Enabling is completely understandable, though. Taking the “tough love” approach is not easy, and sometimes parents can feel an overwhelming sense of love that can rob them (literally) of their senses.
So, think about this. If you do not enable the drug addict or alcoholic and get them necessary and invaluable substance abuse help, you will be showing them more love than you did when you enabled their behavior.
Seeking Treatment for Drug Addiction and Alcoholism
At The Recover, we fully understand how difficult treatment processes can be for addicts and alcoholics through our daily work to help these individuals overcome this terrible, painful disease. Although many people believe they can overcome their problems without help, residential rehabilitation treatment programs are still an essential step on the road to recovery. Although the path to health and happiness might not be an easy one to take, you can finally enter the threshold to freedom with the help of a loving, supporting team. Additional aspects like counseling and psychological care can ensure you address underlying psychological issues that ultimately led you to become an addict. From here, you can build an infrastructure that will help you live your life with entering relapse, all with the help of a solid residential rehabilitation treatment program.
An unbiased and substance abuse and mental health news provider, The Recover works hard to help victims of drug abuse or addiction discover the right residential rehabilitation treatment programs in their local areas. We also provide detailed information concerning West Virginia Centers for addiction recovery. For more information, contact us today at (888) 510-3898 to learn more about our comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment program.