If you think that a loved one is struggling with addiction, you may think that there’s nothing that you can do. Often times, family and friends of addicted individuals will tell their addicted loved one time and time again that they need to get help. But, addiction denial is real and forceful. Unfortunately, you can’t make someone get the help they need. Only they can truly decide that they are ready to get the help they need to step away from their active addiction. But, fortunately, there are things that individuals close to an addicted person can do to help. The most important thing a loved one of an addicted individual can do to help is to stop enabling addiction.

What does Enabling Addiction Actually Mean?

Enabling is usually confused with helping. Obviously, it’s alright to help your addicted loved one. But sometimes, what you think may be helping, is actually enabling addiction. Enabling is defined as providing someone the means to do something. There are many different forms of enabling addiction which may include:

  • Calling out of work for an addicted individual
  • Providing transportation for an addicted individual to purchase drugs or alcohol
  • Ignoring addictive behaviors
  • Making excuses for an addicted individual’s behaviors
  • Providing for an addicted individual’s needs before your own
  • Protecting an addicted individual from the consequences of their addiction

The Tie between “Hitting Rock Bottom” and Enabling Addiction

The problem with enabling addiction is that it doesn’t lead to the addicted individual getting help. This is because enabling usually allows addicted individuals to steer clear of the consequences of their behaviors. So, instead of coming to the conclusion that they need help, they deny the fact that need help in the first place. There’s a common belief in the recovering community that an addicted individual needs to “hit rock bottom” before they can come to terms that they have been in denial about their addiction. To “hit rock bottom” means to experience the consequences of addiction fully and have nowhere else to turn but treatment. So, the idea is that when enabling ceases, addicted individuals will eventually “hit rock bottom” and decide to go to treatment.

What can I do to Stop Enabling Addiction?

So, what can you do to stop enabling addiction so that your addicted loved one can come to terms with the fact that they need help? For starters, you can make a commitment to try your best to end enabling. Without a strong commitment, you will likely fail at the first “please” your addicted loved one throws at you. Other ways to stop enabling addiction may include:

Don’t Clean Up the Mess: Whether it’s bailing out of jail or picking up empty beer bottles from the night before, stop cleaning up the addicted individual’s mess. By cleaning up their own disasters, they may finally start to acknowledge the mess that addiction brings.

Decipher between Helping and Enabling: Of course, there are going to be times when you will want to help your addicted loved one. But, you need to decide if it’s really helping them or hurting them. Before committing to helping, determine if helping will actually hurt the individual in the long run in terms of addiction.

Help Yourself: Impaired judgment is a common side effect of active addiction. Your addicted loved one may place you in harm’s way just to get their drug of choice. Also, the stress of worrying about your addicted loved one may be harming your health. Above all else, you need to help yourself. Don’t let your loved one put you in danger. Also, make sure to keep up with self-care efforts in your own life.

Don’t Make Exceptions: Just because your loved one is addicted, it doesn’t mean that you have to make exceptions for them. Although you may be worried about him or her, you need to go on with your life as planned. If you invite him or her to an event or get together, carry on without them in their presence. And, follow through with your commitments to ending enabling behaviors!

Family therapy can help families of addicted individuals gain the help they need to end enabling behaviors. If you would like to learn more about the family therapy program offered at The Discovery Institute, please give us a call today at 888-616-7177.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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