The desire to help an addict is a commendable one. If the addicted person is someone you love, you may have no choice but to try to help that person. No doubt, after seeing how addiction severely affects the lives of millions of people, you will want to do as much as you can to encourage recovery. But in the meantime and even without realizing it, you can be enabling addiction with your actions or lack thereof.
Enabling addiction is one of the most detrimental things you can do for an addict. According to Psych Central, enabling involves taking or avoiding actions in order to remove the consequences of addiction from the addict. This means that the addict does not see how his behavior affects him or others because an enabler lessens the consequences of his actions. This is so harmful because studies have shown that an addict that suffers the negative effects of abusing drugs is more likely to develop the incentive to stop using them.
Take as an example one of the most common types of substance abuse: alcohol addiction.
Alcohol Addiction and the Wrong Way to Help an Alcoholic
Alcohol addiction in the family is often a painful situation where emotions and negative behaviors leave the whole household under intense stress. According to the , family members living with a drug user might rely on denial and ignore the situation to keep order in the household or to keep a sense of stability in family relationships. And what is worse, family members of an alcoholic could try to hide the truth by mitigating the natural consequences of addiction themselves and believing that the addicted one will recover even if no changes are made.
However, this is far from reality. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration explains that people living with an addict might become codependent by ignoring their own needs and feelings in order to keep peace and the approval of their addicted loved one. Such submissive behavior enables the addict to continue abusing drugs and reduces the chances of prompt recovery.
The Right Way to Help
To effectively help an addict, you first need to identify if you are acting as an enabler. Once you have done so, the next step is to correct the issue by obtaining practical counsel. Here are six signs of enabling behavior:
- Denying the problem – You can’t help a loved one if you deny that he needs addiction help. Denying that there is a problem will prevent you from talking about the topic with your addicted loved one or with a health professional. The first step to recovery is always recognizing that help is needed.
- Condoning inactivity – An enabler will condone inactivity on the part of the addict. This means that the addict will feel no pressure to lead a productive life. To this end, the enabler will try to keep peace with the addict by not making a big deal of him leaving work or dropping out of school.
- Becoming a source of financial stability – Common enabling behavior includes paying the bills of the addict and giving him money that will clearly be used for drugs. When this is the case, the addict feels free to continue abusing habit-forming substances while not feeling any responsibility whatsoever.
- Filling in – Filling in for the addict involves covering for his responsibilities. For example, a father neglecting his children may not see any problem as long as one of the grandparents does the work for him.
- Ignoring one’s needs – Putting the needs of the addict in front of our own might seem like a kind and noble thing to do. However, when this means ignoring one’s health and wellbeing to keep the addict safe and cared for, it becomes enabling and only increases the problem.
- Lying – Perhaps one of the best ways to know if you are enabling addiction is to ask yourself if you have lied for your addicted loved one. This includes lying in behalf of the addict to family members, teachers, work supervisors, health professionals, and even law enforcement.
These six signs of enabling addiction can help you identify if you are an enabler or if similar actions or attitudes such as the ones described above can also be considered enabling behaviors.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse makes a good point when it states that even people suffering from addiction and that are aware of their problem might be so confused that they don’t know how to ask for help or are afraid to do so. Particularly in these cases, you can play an important role for recovery.
Find Addiction Treatment
You don’t need to feel alone if someone close to you needs help to overcome addiction. Our toll-free helpline is open 24 hours a day and has been designed to give you the free assistance and advice you need. Call today and receive information about family counseling, medically supervised detox programs, a national network of rehab facilities, intervention services, and where to find the best values for recovery. Our addiction recovery assistants are ready to receive your call and will be glad to help.