What Is Enabling?
Enabling happens when a person supports someone’s addiction through their thoughts or behaviors. This can be done by a parent, a significant other, relatives – anyone that is part of an addict’s life. In a way, an enabler protects the addict from the consequences of their addiction and/or tries to justify their behavior. And while it is important to try to understand what an addict is going through, understanding their reasons should not be the same as justifying their actions.
Enablers are people who usually have good intentions, but don’t realize that their actions further encourage an addict’s behavior. By shielding them from facing the facts, it stops them from realizing just how dangerous and toxic what they’re doing is. This, in turn, makes them not want to seek help or even realize that they need it. Considering how many addicts are in denial about their condition, all an enabler does is support that denial.
Being an enabler might seem like you are helping by not being harsh on then, not adding to their probably already rough reality. However, as the addict prolongs their exposure to the substance, they become more and more addicted and out of control. And what’s worse, the damage being done is also getting more intense – and before too long, it might become permanent.
Confronting someone with an addiction is rough, and it won’t be easy. But in the long run, it is what is best for them. The more you enable them, the more they will lose respect for themselves and faith in themselves. And those feelings will slowly transfer to those who have enabled them.
In order to stop enabling, you must first recognize the cycles of enabling. Then, understand the difference between helping an addict and enabling them. And finally, break the cycle and start acting.
Signs of Enabling
In The Family
A parent or a spouse might have a harder time saying no or confronting their loved one about addiction. But that is not just because talking about it is difficult. Some of them might feel like they might be a factor that pushed them into addiction. They might blame themselves for the addiction somehow – either by thinking they caused it or because they feel like they could’ve done more to stop the substance abuse.
Actions and words send out messages to people suffering from addiction, even when we don’t realize it. Enabling can be subtle, but enough for someone abusing substances to continue doing so. Some of the most common ways families enable their loved one not to face their addiction is:
- Justifying the substance abuse and/or their behavior when it becomes toxic or dangerous by making excuses for them
- Allowing substance abuse inside the house, under the guise of trying to keep them safe from the streets or dangerous places
- Giving them money or means to continue abusing substances
- Denying (to others and themselves) that there is actually a problem, whether by belittling the reality of things or by ignoring it completely
- Not saying what they really think of feel – this is a problem even if they’re not doing so because they are unsure of how to do it or afraid of repercussion
- Trying to blame other people, situations, or factors, taking the responsibility away from the addict for their own actions
- Resenting the person dealing with addiction and only pointing fingers instead of trying to understand them
- Taking over the tasks and responsibilities of the addict for them, to the point of covering for them regularly
- Prioritizing the addict’s needs above their own, almost completely neglecting themselves because they were doing so much for the addict
- Displaying controlling or other toxic behavior towards the addict, such as making them feel bad without actually helping them get help, etc.
Some of these behaviors might seem like an attempt to help the addict be safe. Others might seem like well-intended “tough love”. But they all either allow them to continue abusing or just make things worse. At their core, they are all ways to avoid getting proper, professional help for addiction recovery.
At School And/Or The Workplace
As previously mentioned, enabling is not something that only family members or friends might do. Many professional or academic institutions might have policies against drinking or using drugs on the grounds. However, only forbidding it is not all that a teacher, a mentor, or a boss can do. In fact, by avoiding an obvious case of someone in need of help or covering for them, they might also be enabling them. Even if they might seem ok, they might need help.
While these might not be close friends or be a part of their personal lives, they can still see and do something. Teachers are responsible for the well being of their students. Managers and bosses need to be on the lookout for their employees. Coworkers and colleagues might be as close as friends, and as such, they are close enough to help. Either way, it is possible to indirectly or even directly enable them in many ways, such as:
- Ignoring inappropriate or dangerous behavior and not addressing it directly with them or people who can help
- Not imposing or even having clear and specific rules regarding substance abuse
- Not regulating areas inside the grounds where people might be engaging in substance abuse (for teachers, problem areas nearby as well)
- Failing to acknowledge drug-related transactions and exchanges going on under their watch
- Trying to counsel or advise someone who might be dealing with addiction without proper training
- Lowering their expectations or demands for the addict, “taking it easy” on them without trying to help
- Covering up for the person either by lying for them or failing to report something that would require them to do so, turning a blind eye
While they might not be the ones fully responsible for their students or coworkers, they can still act responsibly. If not for the sake of the addict, then at least for the safety of those around them. Many of these institutions have counselors, HR reps, and other people who might help them in some way.
Risks of Enabling
As substance abuse becomes the root of toxic behavior, being around someone engaging in it might drive someone to behave negatively as well. Things are bound to go downhill relationship-wise because substance abuse leads to negative, sometimes risky behavior. When people are in a situation where they are pushed to their limit, it is hard to predict how they’ll behave.
Eventually, abusive behavior, such as verbal or physical aggression, might take place. These altercations and fights might not just affect those directly involved, but those around them as well. That is especially the case for children who might become equally traumatized by witnessing this experience. Parental substance abuse can create trauma in many ways.
In fact, kids and teenagers might also be at risk of becoming influenced by that. This influence can go beyond perceiving and learning toxic behaviors. When growing up with an addict, children and teenagers might be influenced to abuse substances as well. It might happen as early as in their teens or later in life.
Younger members of the family might also engage in what is called role-reversal. This takes place when the children take on the roles of their parents. They might start working at an early age to support the family because their parents can’t keep a job. They could start raising their siblings on their own or take on duties that a parent is meant to have at the house. This leaves emotional scars and can lead to emotional problems in the future.
A common problem among family members dealing with addiction is codependency, and it presents itself in many ways. Essentially, it happens when two people rely on each other in a dysfunctional way. In the case of addiction, it is a behavioral condition where a person enables another’s addiction, irresponsibility, and/or under-achievement. After some time, the addict will become too dependent on their loved ones, and their loved ones might take on their suffering and responsibilities as if it were their own.
How To Stop Enabling
First and foremost, truly helpful behavior should be about getting help for rehabilitation and getting rid of addiction. Not through force, threats, insults, fights, ultimatums, or punishments. Getting treatment should be the basis and the motive behind everything you try to do for an addict. By keeping that in mind, you can remember and understand better how to help rather than enable.
If you have enabled them so far, that does not mean all hope is lost. There is a lot you can start doing right now in order to lead them to seek help for their addiction.
Set boundaries – these are meant to be for you, not for the addict. You cannot control their behavior, but you can decide the role it will have in your life. You need to explain these boundaries and stick to them as well clearly. Things like “not using my car to go to bars”, “not using at the house”, “not taking my money to buy drugs or alcohol”, etc.
Do not make excuses for them – understanding why they might be abusing substances is one thing (a divorce, unemployment, depression, anxiety, etc.). Saying that is it ok to use drugs or drink because of it, however, is enabling. Do not justify their abuse, do not cover, and/or lie for them.
Talk to them about their addiction – It might seem difficult, but there has to be a calm, objective talk about the problem. An intervention organized by someone who can properly lead one is a great option.
Encourage them to seek treatment (on their own) – Tell them you support them and that you can help them seek treatment. However, make sure they are taking action towards recovery and do not baby or do it for them. They should be the ones researching, visiting centers, finding support groups, etc.
Participate in family activities – Whether it is support groups or at the rehab center, taking part in the recovery process is important. Many centers provide family therapy, which is a way of working on the dynamic of the family, providing information, and making family members understand how they can truly help.
Not enabling is not just about the well-being of the person suffering from addiction. It is also about your own health and that of your family. By neglecting them through enabling their behavior, you are also neglecting yourself and other loved ones. Addiction can take a toll on those who are not engaging in substance abuse, too.
Get The Help Needed At Coastal Detox
The first step towards recovery might seem big and scary, both for an addict and for those who care about them. We all want the rehabilitation process to be as smooth and painless as possible – and Coastal Detox can provide that.
Our facility is located on Florida’s Treasure Coast, and it is the perfect setting for those who want to start over, free from addiction. Patients have the best-quality accommodations and can try chef-prepared meals. Our Stuart, Florida center is committed to your safety, comfort, and privacy as you receive treatment.
Besides medical and psychiatric help, we have many additional services that have therapeutic properties. From holistic treatment to trauma therapy and relapse prevention, we go above and beyond. And we have services that suit the needs of many for every step of the way, including detox, inpatient treatment, and even a program for working professionals.
Coastal Detox accepts most major insurance providers, and we have partnered up with many of these insurers in order to make treatment more affordable to patients. If you need help, we can clarify any doubts and concerns regarding insurance coverage or payment options.
If this seems like what you or your loved one might need, do not hesitate to contact us. We can give you all the information you need so that you can choose the option that fits your needs. It doesn’t matter how bad things are – everyone deserves to get help, and it is not too late.