Good Intentions Gone Bad
Although the buck ultimately stops with the addict, there are others who can either intentionally or inadvertently contribute to the individual’s substance abuse by enabling addiction. Referred to as enablers, these people are often the parents, siblings, or close friends of the addict and are merely acting out of love or kindness; however, the unfortunate result of removing the consequences of addiction is that the addiction increases in severity and last even longer.
More Than One Kind of Enabler
What’s more, since there are many different types of addiction, enablers can enable many different types of destructive behavior such as excessive spending, excessive gambling, working too much or too little, binge eating or eating too little, overusing credit cards, committing crimes, and other behaviors besides the abuse of alcohol or drugs. While it’s important to remember identifying enablers isn’t about finding someone to blame for someone’s addiction, enabling an addict rather than encouraging rehabilitation is a disservice that could result in the addict losing his or her life to the disease before being able to receive professional help.
Are you an enabling addiction? Do you suffer from addiction and have enablers in your life? Here’s why enablers enable and some of the most common signs of enabling behavior.
Why Do Enablers Enable?
Before we point out the behaviors exhibited by enablers, it’s important to understand the motivation behind enabling addiction. The most important thing to remember is that enablers almost always have the addict’s best interest in mind; in fact, very rarely do enablers enable maliciously or with animosity.
Enablers are usually under the misguided impression that they’re helping the addict by being a buffer between the individual and the consequences of his or her addiction. This is especially common of and illustrated by the parents of addicts who protect a child suffering from addiction from legal repercussions, either by making excuses for the behavior or even taking the brunt of the resultant consequences. More often than not, parents do this so that their addicted children won’t develop a criminal record that could jeopardize their futures. Despite the good intentions, this is still enabling addiction.
The typical enabler is often compassionate to a fault, but many times enablers enable as a means of avoiding or preventing conflict. For example, an addict may ask to borrow money from a friend or relative and rather than causing a conflict by refusing to lend the addict money, enablers will often give the addict the money that is then used to support his or her habit.
Similarly, many addicts will rely on others to support them by paying their rent or other bills; enablers will pay for these things because they see their addicted loved one losing their home or going without basic necessities as being the alternative, which is how the enabling addiction is justified or validated. Unfortunately, enablers fail to realize that by picking up the addict’s “slack,” they’re encouraging the addiction by deferring the consequences. In fact, many of the consequences of the addict’s behavior are experienced by the enablers rather than the addict him or herself.
Recognizing an Enabler
One of the most common causes for enabling behavior is codependence. When two people are codependent on each other, they will often feel compelled to solve one another’s problems whenever problems arise. A codependent enabler will often take pick up the addict’s slack by taking on as many of the addict’s responsibilities as possible; this could mean parenting the addict’s children, caring for other dependents or loved ones, managing the household finances, and so on.
Codependent enablers will often seem to be incredibly swamped with responsibility (over-functioning) while the other individual, typically the spouse or child, will have very little or nothing expected from him or her (under-functioning).
Justification and Minimizing
Another trait of enablers that allows them to justify enabling addiction is the tendency to minimize problems, even when the problems appear to be quite significant and serious to others. In the case of addiction and substance abuse, enablers will often make excuses for the addict by explaining substance abuse as simply a common means of dealing with day-to-day stress that many people use; they’ll compare an individual’s alcoholism, for example, with someone who has an evening cocktail after work. Minimizing the severity of an individual’s addiction allows them to continue to enable without feeling guilty or responsible for the addict’s disease. This also encourages continued enabling.
Hurting Rather than Helping
Nobody is going to expect an enabler to stop loving or supporting their loved one who is suffering from addiction. In fact, unconditional love is crucial to an addict’s acceptance of their disease, acceptance of professional treatment, and sustained sobriety after completing a treatment program.
However, it’s important for enablers to be aware of the damaging effect that enabling addiction has on addiction, allowing an addict to sustain his or her addict without the fear of consequences.
How to Stop Enabling Addiction
Individuals who enable can often be most effectively discouraged from enabling addiction by reminding them of some key ideas:
First, enablers need to remember that an addict’s deciding to recover most often occurs as the result of the cumulative consequences of their addiction; as such, letting the addict deal with and learn from their mistakes will help them to realize their condition and decide to rehabilitate much sooner than they would when they’re enabled.
Additionally, enablers need to recognize and accept their they most likely don’t have the infinite resources to pick up others’ slack, whether financially or otherwise.
Finally, enablers need to become aware that refusing to give an addict money that he or she will use to fund their substance abuse is being more helpful to the addict than it would be to give them the money.
Addiction is a deadly disease that kills people every day. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, don’t let the disease claim another casualty. Call Drug Treatment Center Finder today and let one of our caring experts put you or your loved one on the path to recovery and a long, fulfilling life free from addiction! 855-619-8070