Enabling is toxic behavior that hurts alcoholics and drug addicts. It is important to understand the ins and outs of enabling to know how to help an addict without enabling them and support them during drug and alcohol treatment. If you don’t understand a problem, it’s hard to resolve it. Here’s what you need to know about enabling.
What is Enabling?
Enabling is not about being an enabler; it’s about enabling someone else to be an addict. It can happen with any addiction, but it most commonly occurs with substance use disorders (SUDs). When you enable someone else to continue using drugs, you give them permission to do so by:
- Providing them with the means and opportunity to get high
- Failing to take action against illegal activities that you know are happening
- Giving them money for drugs even though you don’t approve of their behavior
- Telling them how to deal with problems without offering solutions
Examples of Enabling Behavior
Example 1: If your friend has been arrested for shoplifting, you might say to him, “I’m sorry you got caught,” instead of saying, “You shouldn’t steal.” It is as if you are condoning his behavior instead of discouraging it.
Example 2: If your friend uses drugs, you might tell her where she can buy them safely, rather than telling her she should quit. In this case, you’re trying to help her get them safely; rather than encouraging her not to use them.
Signs of Enabling Behaviors From Family
Family members enable more than anyone else due to competing pressures on the family dynamic. You want to make sure your loved one isn’t getting hurt. By enabling, though, you’re actually allowing the harmful behavior to continue. Enabling hurts your loved one more than it helps them.
The following questions can help you determine whether you’re enabling:
- Do I hand out money?
- Am I supporting someone who has a drug or alcohol problem?
- When asked for a favor, do I give in and give them what they want?
- Do I make excuses for the person’s behavior
- Do I overlook unwanted behaviors and turn a “blind eye” when they do things that hurt themselves and others?
If you answered yes to these questions, then you are enabling.
The best way to help an addict without enabling is to refuse to participate in the addictive cycle. This includes refusing to provide the addict with money, shelter, transportation, food, clothing, etc., while also refusing to tolerate his or her destructive habits. By refusing to participate, you’re taking away the addict’s source of power over you.
The Best Way to Help an Addict Without Enabling
Exercising patience, understanding, compassion, and love are among the best approaches for how to help an addict without enabling them. In order to truly help someone, you need to accept that he or she cannot change unless he or she wants to.
In addition, you need to realize that supporting someone’s drug use does nothing to solve the underlying issues that led to the addiction. Instead, it makes those issues worse.
Instead of trying to force someone to stop using drugs, try to encourage him or her to seek treatment. This may include counseling, rehab, medication, 12 step programs, or another type of intervention.
Once someone receives professional care and begins to address the root causes of his or her addiction, he or she will find it easier to stay clean.
Understanding Substance Use Disorder and Addiction
When someone has a substance use disorder (SUD) they may experience periods of time when their symptoms are not severe enough for them to seek treatment. This is called the “pre-illness” period. During this time, they may still have thoughts about using but aren’t acting on those impulses. They may also continue to make decisions that harm themselves and others. For instance, they could steal money from their parents, lie to their boss, or start fights with people who don’t deserve it. These behaviors are examples of pre-illness behavior.
When someone starts abusing substances, they enter what we call the “active addiction” phase. In active addiction, the person experiences intense cravings and urges to use. If they try to resist these urges, they often feel worse than before. The more they struggle against their desires, the stronger the urges become. Their thinking becomes distorted – they believe that if they just get high enough, they won’t want to do anything else. They may even think that if they don’t use, they’ll lose control over their life.
In the end, the only way to overcome substance use disorders is to abstain from all forms of drug use. Once someone stops using, they can begin to heal. Recovery means learning new ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. It also means developing healthy relationships with other people.
Risks of Enabling an Addict
There are several risks that happen when you enable someone with a substance use disorder. They are:
- You might be tempted to give your loved one money when he or she asks for it. You may think that giving the addict money will prevent him or her from relapsing. But research shows that providing financial aid actually increases the risk of relapse.
- You may ignore signs of distress in your friend or relative. When someone uses drugs, he or she may exhibit strange behaviors like sleeping too much, having trouble concentrating, or being irritable. Your loved one may seem fine while he or she is using, but then suddenly show up at your door asking for help.
- If you ignore these signs, you may inadvertently protect your loved one from facing the consequences of his or her actions.
- Your loved one may steal from you. He or she may take your car keys, credit cards, or cash without permission. Or, he or she may sell items that belong to you.
- Your loved one may hurt himself or herself. A person with a SUD is likely to engage in risky behaviors like driving under the influence, getting into physical altercations, or overdosing.
- You may be exposed to unsafe situations. Someone with a SUD may use drugs in public places where there’s a chance of being arrested or injured by police. Or, he or her may drive after drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs.
Enabling can lead to serious legal problems. If you know someone who abuses drugs, contact law enforcement immediately.
The best thing you can do for someone with a SUD is to encourage him or her to seek treatment. Treatment works wonders!
Tips on How to Help an Addict Without Enabling Them
There are many ways to stop enabling. The first step is to recognize that you have a role in helping the addict. You can either enable by doing things like giving money, ignoring signs of danger, or providing excuses for bad behavior. Or you can stop enabling by refusing to participate in activities that reinforce your loved one’s drug use.
Here are some tips to stop enabling:
- Don’t give money to an addict. Instead, find out where the person spends his or her money and offer to pay bills instead.
- Don’t ignore unusual behaviors or actions in hope that they’ll stop on their own. This could lead to serious health risks.
- Report any suspicious activity to the police immediately.
- Don’t make excuses for the person’s bad behavior. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with him or her. Just acknowledge that something isn’t right.
- Don’t let the person stay at your house unless you’re certain it’s safe.
- Don’t lie for the person. Lying makes everyone involved feel guilty.
- Don’t try to change the person’s habits. He or she needs professional treatment.
- Don’t get caught up in arguments over whether or not the person should continue to use drugs. This debate distracts you from what matters—helping the person recover.
- Stop enabling by refusing to participate. Refusing to do anything reinforces the person’s addiction.
If you notice that you’re beginning to enable again, don’t hesitate to seek help. There are organizations that specialize in helping people who struggle with substance use disorder (SUD). They can teach you how to cope with the situation and help you develop strategies to prevent future enabling.
Addiction Treatment in South Florida
Knowing how to help an addict without enabling them is crucial to their addiction recovery. If you suspect that someone you know might be struggling with a substance use disorder, talk to them about it. Don’t assume that they’re doing fine. Ask them how things are going. And remember that recovery isn’t easy. There will always be temptations to use again. But by working together, you can help each other stay strong and keep moving forward. Call Ambrosia Treatment Center of South Florida or visit our admissions page today.