We all want to support our friends and loved ones when they’re going through tough times and it doesn’t get much tougher than battling addiction. You hate to see your loved ones suffer and you want to help. However, some ways of helping only end up making things worse. The wrong kind of help can enable addiction and delay the point at which your loved one decides to seek treatment. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between helping and enabling and even if you know the difference, it can very hard to make the right decisions. It’s hard to see your loved ones suffer the consequences of addiction. They know this and they may use this as leverage to get you enable them, even when you know you shouldn’t. The following are common enabling behaviors.
One of the most common enabling behaviors is making excuses for the person with addiction. This may be something like calling in sick for the person when she’s really hungover or telling friends the person has to work when he decided he would rather stay home and drink. These excuses can seem relatively minor, but this behavior is unhealthy in several ways. First, it shields the person from the consequences of her substance use since you’re taking care of a problem she created herself. Second, she makes you complicit in her addictive behavior. Third, you agree, if only tacitly, to lie for her, which is probably against your principles and undermines your credibility with others.
Giving money typically when people start feeling the pinch of enabling. It could be giving someone money directly or paying for someone’s rent, bills, or groceries. Often, your loved one will have a perfectly plausible explanation why they need help just this once, but if you’ve heard that story before, there’s a good chance than any money you give is just enabling substance use. If you don’t want to see a loved one living on the street, you can give her a place to stay, assuming she adheres to your conditions, such as not bringing drugs into the house. Giving someone money is almost always a way of enabling addiction.
Picking up their slack
Addiction often causes people to default on their obligations, sometimes with serious consequences. You may feel tempted to pick up the slack, especially if other people might be hurt because of it. Sometimes you may have no choice, such as when the safety of children is involved, but typically, taking care of someone else’s responsibilities is another form of enabling. Like making excuses, taking over their responsibilities shields them from the consequences of their addictive behavior.
Putting their needs above yours
Putting someone else’s needs above your own is the main feature of codependent relationships, which often perpetuate addiction. You may be so used to attending to someone else’s needs you aren’t even aware of you own needs and desires.
While the above behaviors may feel like helping, they are really enabling. Real helping is doing whatever you can to get your loved one help for his or her addiction, whether it’s convincing her to attend 12-step meetings, meeting with a therapist, or entering treatment.
Pinnacle Recovery specializes in inpatient rehabilitation, trauma recovery, AA programs and AA alternatives, experiential therapy, dual diagnosis, family therapy, co-occurring and dual diagnosis addictions. We also offer a wide range of sober living and intensive outpatient treatment programs. Call 1-866-301-0573 today for more information.