By Alastair Mordey
Many situations that involve a drug or alcohol addiction,
a loved one is enabling the addiction. Before one can understand how they
are enabling an addict, they must understand what it means. Enabling an
addiction occurs when loved ones try to “help” an addict, when in actuality
they are not helping at all. The enabler takes away any consequences from
the addict’s behavior, these consequences are crucial because they may drive
the addict to want to change. In other words an addict is able to get away
with anything because there is always someone there to clean up their mess.
Many people assume that only a close family member or
friend can enable an addiction. However, enabling an addiction cam be
instigated by various individuals; such as, parents, siblings, friends,
co-workers, neighbors, and even doctors or therapists. Generally anytime
someone is covering up for the addict by giving/loaning money, finishing
work/chores, lying or making up excuses, or generally ignoring behaviors
that should have some kind of repercussion, is enabling.
Unfortunately, many loved ones enable an addiction
through their well intentioned desire to help the addict. More often than
not, the addict is completely aware that the enabler will protect them from
any consequences; by knowing this the addict not only takes complete
advantage of the situation, but also lessens their desire to get treatment.
Enabling behavior typically begins very slowly and gets
worse over time. It may begin with the enabler keeping the addict’s abuse a
secret from others; this is called denial. Denial plays a key in anyone’s
addiction; it is also part of enabling. The enabler may make various
rationalizations, try to minimize the problem, or ignore it and hope that it
goes away. This is unfortunate, because addiction does not work this way.
Eventually the enabler will get caught in a never ending cycle.
Eventually the enabler may begin to feel fear or shame
about the situation at hand. They begin to try their best to keep things
together; while inside frustration and anger is building up. When this
happens, these emotions can be overwhelming, and they refuse to continue
making up excuses for the addict’s behavior. Because of the stress and other
emotions involved it may be very negative and aggressive. Whenever anyone is
trying to deal with addiction, they must learn as much as possible about it.
There are various support groups that can be very useful as well as talking
with therapists and counselors.
Giving an addict money to buy more drugs or alcohol is
one of the top ways that an enabler supports an addiction. Many addicts are
very good at manipulation, and when it comes to getting more of their
substance of choice, they can be very creative for reasons why they need
money. No matter what the addict may say they need the money for, once they
receive it, it will be used to buy drugs or alcohol almost every time.
Supporting an addict by giving them a place to stay, feeding them, and
generally taking care of them is enabling. It may seem kind to pay for their
rent, car, groceries, or legal matters, but it is only helping the addict to
avoid the consequences of their actions.
No one is ever responsible for a person’s addiction, but
the addict. Oftentimes, when a loved one tries to confront an addict about
their addiction, they will blame their behavior on something that the loved
one did or did not do, or on past events. They do this because they know it
makes the loved one feel guilty. If an addict encounters a life crisis, they
might be motivated to get treatment for their addiction, but only if someone
else does not handle the situation for them. A life crisis can be anything
from loosing employment to getting arrested; in general these events or
situations will change the person’s life. This will also be one of the
hardest times for an enabler not to help.
Anyone who is trying to stop enabling and move forward to
getting help for someone should consider a possible intervention.
Interventions are known to help get addicts into a rehab for treatment. If
an intervention is not possible there is always therapy or counseling.
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