Of course you want to help your loved one in need. You should! Families are built around trust, support and protection. But, when does helping cross the line into enabling? And, what does enabling really mean?
To truly help someone with an addiction, you need to be willing to confront them with the difficult truth by being honest, firm and standing your ground. When you love someone unconditionally, it’s natural to want to help, but it can be detrimental.
What Does Enabling an Addiction Look Like?
Enabling is when helping crosses over into doing. When family members go from helping and supporting a loved one to taking over responsibilities and activities for a loved one because of an addiction, they are enabling. This subtle shift is a dangerous one that makes it easier for an addict to maintain their addiction, free from consequences.
When an enabler recognizes an addiction but goes out of their way to protect a loved one by hiding it for them, it can lead to harmful and potentially deadly outcomes.
10 Signs You’re Enabling Addiction
- Purposely Ignoring – Noticing clear signs of an addiction and trying to ignore the problem, hoping it will disappear.
- Acting From Fear – Paying bills, taking care of responsibilities and providing transportation out of fear of losing your child or fear of what others may think.
- Prioritizing an Addict’s Needs Above Your Own – Putting a loved one’s wellbeing above your own marriage, job or responsibilities.
- Projecting Blame – Trying to rationalize an addiction, blame others or even blame yourself instead of putting responsibility on your loved one.
- Inability to Express Your Feelings – Hiding your true feelings from your loved one for fear of pushing them away or facing repercussions.
- Resentment – When “helping” your loved one turns into resenting them because of the sacrifices you are making. If it doesn’t feel good, it’s probably not healthy.
- Lying for Your Loved One – Lying to cover up what is really going on and just to keep the peace.
- Providing Money – Giving your loved one money, especially money you don’t have, to keep them from lapsing on bills or to help them maintain their addiction.
- Providing Shelter – Offering your loved one a constant safety net to protect them from ever hitting rock bottom.
- Offering Emotional Support – Crossing the line from offering support to carrying the burden of all of your loved one’s emotional baggage.
How to Help an Addict Without Enabling
When you come to the realization that you’re an enabler, it can be a very challenging habit to break. Below are some tools you can try to help separate yourself from the situation and encourage your loved one to seek help:
- Let your loved one clean up his own messes without intervening
- Accept that pulling back will cause short-term pain and anxiety, but will support better outcomes in the long run
- Follow through with what you planned despite objections from your loved one
- Be firm and work with other family members so that you stay committed
The goal is to help your loved one understand they need professional help. Enabling is not helping them come to this realization. So, in order to truly help your loved one you have to let go of trying to catch them every time they fall.
Find Family Support at Spirit Mountain Recovery Center
It is incredibly difficult for an addict to begin recovery without addressing a family’s enabling behaviors. At Spirit Mountain Recovery, we take a unique approach to recovery that allows the men at our facility to reorient their life goals and find a new purpose. Contact us today to learn more about our remarkable treatment programs and to talk about how you can help your loved one without enabling their addiction.