Research has shown that addiction is often a family oriented disease. While studies have not yet indicated exactly where addiction develops, either through nature or nurture, consistencies have been showing up in families of addicts. While addiction is in the end no ones fault, it is very common for families and loved ones to struggle with codependent behaviors with their addict. If you are reading this and wondering what you can do to help your addict or alcoholic loved one, you may be guilty of enabling an addict at some point in their lives.

This topic is not intended to insult or belittle anyone, but more to shine light on the subject of enabling an addict, and there tends to be a good amount of gray area when dealing with addicts and alcoholics. The biggest struggle is that you may just want to help them, you don’t want to have to see them suffer anymore.

How would you feel if I told you that the only way an addict or alcoholic can recover is if they had to hit a complete rock bottom? Would you believe me if I told you that the sooner you cut them off, the sooner it will happen?

I am a recovered addict and alcoholic, and I can tell you that the day I was cut off from my family, was the day I truly felt the desire to change. Granted, it took me a few months to finally hit my bottom, but once I fell, I fell hard. My parents and friends had enough of me, I had isolated myself from everyone who loved me because they couldn’t bear to see me living the way I was. I must have borrowed money from each and every one of them, and despite all of my promises to pay them back, I never did. Some of them, bless their hearts, would even loan me money a second or a third time as my lies continued to get better, or they just wanted to get me out of their hair. But once my friends and family all agreed to be done with me while I was using, I knew that I had really hit a turning point. It might have actually been worse than I thought it was. This was the beginning of the end of my using, and it was the greatest thing that any of them could have ever done for me.

It is very common for people, especially parents and spouses, to want to help their loved ones, despite indication that it is only doing more damage. This is called enabling, and when dealing with active addicts and alcoholics, it can keep them on the low road indefinitely. Here are some signs to watch out for if you think you may be guilty of enabling an addict…

  1. You loan them money : This is huge, and so many family members and loved ones are guilty of it. After I got sober, my mom admitted to me that she always knew what I was doing with the money, but she would rather give it to me (even when she didn’t have it) than think about what else I would end up doing to get what I needed. She would rather put herself in debt than face the idea that I would have ended up doing illegal things for the cash. This was enabling, and God love that woman for trying, her enabling only kept me out longer.
  2. You make excuses for your loved one : Whether it be to other friends and family, to their job, to the neighbors, or to the police. If you find that you are always cleaning up the mess, and feeling taken advantage of, then you probably are. This is enabling, and will get the addict nowhere. As heartbreaking as it can be to watch, and addict will only hit bottom if they are faced with the consequences of their actions. It sounds so backwards, but does any other aspect of addiction make sense?
    parent holding his wallet
  3. Taking on more than your fair share : Financially speaking, it is common for addicts to be… fiscally irresponsible. If you find that you are pulling more weight than you can manage, while still picking up the pieces your loved one left behind, chances are you are probably enabling an addict. From personal experience, I put both of my parents into debt with my outlandish ideas, car payments, sudden decision to start school because it might keep me sober, and “extra-curricular activities”. I once convinced my mother to pawn her engagement ring so that I could fly to Massachusetts for a music festival. To this day she still hasn’t been able to afford to get it out, and now that I am sober, it has become my own personal endeavor to surprise her with it as soon as I am able.

I don’t share my stories as a joke or to lighten the mood. I share my stories with you because I am proof of the manipulation and deception that addicts and alcoholics are able to inflict on their loved ones. Parents, spouses, siblings, and friends watch as we destroy our own lives, and all they want to do is help. The hardest part of it all is that the best and only way they can help is to step back and just let us crumble.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that no human power could have relieved us of our alcoholism. Plainly speaking, no amount of begging, bribing, scolding, or hugs could stop us, because addicts suffer from an obsession of the mind. We lose sight of what is real and what is fake, and we forget about how much we affect those we love. When you enable an addict, you are really just harming yourself and them.

The best thing for you to do if you love an addict is to be there for them emotionally. Be stern in protecting yourself, but let them know that you will be there for them when they are truly ready to change. You can’t take care of anyone else if you are spread too thin yourself.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction

Getting clean and sober from drugs and alcohol is the most important thing that an addict or alcoholic can do in their life. At Pinnacle Recovery, we understand this and we are here to help you through the anxiety that going to a treatment center for drugs can bring. With help from our professionals, you can find a new life in sobriety with the least amount of resistance possible, and you can learn what it means to achieve a sustained and happy recovery. So call us today at 1-866-301-0573 and begin your journey to recovery the right way, with Pinnacle Recovery.