When a friend or loved one is suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol, one’s natural inclination is to help. As anyone who has tried to help an addict knows, it can be very difficult to keep addicts from abusing substances. Friends and loved ones often try to help in a variety of ways, many of which can legitimately aid an addict towards recovery.
Helping Versus Enabling
It is important to first establish actions that do not constitute enabling. It is not enabling to treat an addicted person with compassion, empathy, and to give them a chance to fight their addiction with your support.
The problem arises when, often in an attempt to help, friends and loved ones can often perpetuate a cycle of addiction by excusing the addictive behavior or by trying to protect someone from it, to an unhealthy degree. Enabling is defined as “a form of accommodation that protects the individual with the substance use disorder from fully experiencing the consequences of his or her substance use”.
Common Enabling Behaviors
Enabling someone’s addiction is easy to do because the line between helping and enabling is not always clear. However, there are specific behaviors that are undoubtedly unhealthy.
The Spouse Enabling Inventory, a diagnostic tool created to identify enabling behaviors for alcohol abuse, gives many examples of both overt and covert enabling.
Overt Signs of Enabling
- keeping an addictive substance readily available throughout the home.
- repeatedly bailing the addict out of jail.
- to excusing or covering up substance misuse.
Covert Signs of Enabling
Equally common, however, are less obvious behaviors. These are covert signs of enabling and can manifest as:
- ignoring the seriousness of the problem.
- forgetting the potency of the addict’s use triggers.
- assuring the individual their problem is “not that bad”.
- taking responsibility to help the addict keep a job.
- or even something as simple as telling stories of people who abuse substances.
How to Stop Enabling and Start Helping
If you are taking over responsibilities from an addict or covering for their addiction by lying about, ignoring, or downplaying the situation, you…are… not…helping…them. They will never get sober or well, being enabled.
Knowing this and owning it as a truth, try to focus on positive steps that will, instead, push them towards recovery. You can do this by:
- working with family members to set up an intervention.
- providing support so they can access and remain in treatment.
- simply having an open discussion with them about their addiction.
- talking with professional support professionals to help your loved one own their addiction, as something treatable.
- attending support groups on your own, to stay focused and supported.
A dedicated substance abuse recovery program provides addicted individuals the life skills, shift in perspective, and support network to recognize their addiction and fight it without resorting to codependent or unhealthy relationships. Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire uses a unique approach combining 12-step work with proven clinical modalities to give your friend or loved one every tool they need to overcome their addiction and achieve a better life of lasting recovery.