Enabling an addict means removing the natural consequences of an addict’s behavior. Most people equate this with unintentionally helping them stay addicted, actions like repeatedly bailing their loved ones out of jail or handing them cash. But if you’re helping your loved ones in other ways, you may be indirectly enabling them without realizing it. Here are some signs that your attempts to “help” are causing more harm than good and what you can do about it.
1. You Lie to Protect the Addict
It’s common for family and friends of addicts to lie for their loved ones because they believe they’re buying their loved one some time to get their act together. Family will call in sick on their loved one’s behalf, for example, reasoning that “he messed up, but he doesn’t deserve to lose his job over it.” This behavior, however well meaning, only enables the addict to continue using. Instead of getting written up or fired from his job for not showing up, the addict now has a reprieve from the natural consequences of his or her behavior. This prolongs the disease and delays the recovery process.
2. You make excuses for the addict’s behavior
This is a tricky enabling behavior because the symptoms and causes of addiction aren’t always cut and dry. It can be hard to say, in certain cases, that your loved one absolutely has an addiction. This can cause doubt and a gray area that can cause friends and family members to question their instincts. He’s just gong through a rough time, they’ll tell others and themselves. He’s been acting different but he swears he hasn’t relapsed. He says its just stress.
3. You avoid confronting the addict about their addiction
Confronting an addict isn’t easy. Those with a substance abuse disorder are often in denial about their addiction and will react defensively, lashing back at their accusers in angry and hurtful ways. But by avoiding potentially uncomfortable conversations, you’re ensuring the addict continues on the same destructive path. If you love or care for this person, speak up to him about it, no matter how difficult or painful having that conversation may be.
4. You think your loved one is “just going through a phase”
Addiction isn’t a phase; it’s a life-long disease that can only be managed through abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Once someone has made the transition from a “recreational” drinker/user to someone who is physically, mentally and emotionally dependent on the substance (or substances), there is no going back. There is no cure.
5. You think the addiction will go away on its own
Like most diseases, addiction does not go away without proper treatment. In fact, if it’s not addressed and interrupted, it’ll likely only worsen. Although confronting the problem head on and forcing your loved one to attend 12-step meetings or check into a drug or alcohol rehab can be emotionally, financially and logistically difficult, doing nothing and hoping the problem will resolve itself is wishful thinking.