Enabling a loved one is very easy to do, and often times it happens without even realizing it. This is because the behaviors feel so much like help. Anyone who loves someone with a substance abuse problem does not want to see them suffer. They do not want to see them in pain, or to walk through the perils of addiction and the shattering effects that it has on their livelihood, their family, and their life.
Here are three signs that may let you know if you are enabling the addict.
When you just want the behavior to stop it is easy to try to step in the way of the addiction in the hopes that the behavior will stop. Things like hiding or flushing drugs, dumping alcohol down the drain, hiding the car keys and money seem like ways to help and to prevent the problem from being there.
Unfortunately, it leads to more creativity for the addict. More lies. More manipulation. More ways that they can try to hide their addictive behavior. What it doesn’t do is help them or get them healthy. It won’t cure the addiction. It won’t convince them that their behavior is wrong and hurting others.
If their addictive behavior makes you feel unsafe, your first priority must be your own safety. Interfering will not help the situation, it will only make it worse as they get more creative in the ways they attempt to hide it.
Do you cover up behavior for the addict? Making up excuses for why the addict is not at an event or for their behavior are ways that you may do this. You may also lie for them, telling work, friends and family they are sick when they are in the throes of addiction is a common form of this. So is hiding things such as paraphernalia when others are around.
The motivation is fear. You may tell yourself that it is fear of them losing their job, social appearances, losing status, but this is generally really out of a deep-seeded fear of change.
Yes, you are hiding and lying for them for your convenience, because life on the outside appears good and you want to keep it that way. But you must face the reality, and accept that maybe they will lose their job, maybe they need to in order to want to face their addiction. Maybe it will affect your life in some ways. But those are consequences of being involved with an addict, and they are ones that will never go away until the addict gets help with their addiction.
Do you lend them money or find yourself constantly lending things to the one with the substance abuse problem? Do you this and tell yourself you are doing these things because they need them for work, school, or other things that you believe are necessary for them to stop their behavior? The truth is, it won’t bring about the changes you were hoping for.
None of us want someone we love to suffer. But when we shield them and protect them from feeling their own suffering, that they are causing for themselves, we take away the decision for them to even think about changing.
Does any of the above resonate with you? If so you may be. The reality of enabling someone is that is prevents them from taking responsibility for their own actions. Whether the intentions are good or not, it prevents them from fully experiencing the reality of their own life.
Stopping these behaviors and letting them live their reality is not an easy thing to do, and doing it often feels much worse than things are now. But only when that is done do they have the possibility to think about change and ask about getting help.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), addiction is a family disease that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, and damages the family’s unity in terms of everyone’s mental health, physical health, finances, and overall family dynamics.
While it’s generally agreed that the overall success of addiction treatment is dependent on the addict working on his or her own issues, for lasting success, treatment might have to go deeper, down to issues rattling about in the family closet that often – however unwittingly – contributed to the addictive behavior in the first place. For this reason, it’s often said recovery is necessary for the entire family, not just the addict.
Not exactly what a dysfunctional family wants to hear, now is it?
But a family living with addiction is a family with its members living under enormous stress. Normal routines are constantly disrupted by the addict’s erratic behavior. There is often a disconnect between what is being said, versus what is going on right in front of their eyes. Codependent behavior helps deny reality in a desperate attempt to maintain a family system that is slowly spinning out of control.
To win the war, you have to start with individual battles.
Because addiction affects the entire family, it’s critical that family members learn about the disease because it rarely exists in a vacuum. While you may feel your immediate family has only one addict, chances are there was a grandparent or an aunt that was affected, if not by alcohol, then by drugs. Previous generations did not discuss addiction as we do now and addiction was kept a shameful family secret.
Many factors determine the likelihood that someone will become an addict, including both inherited and environmental factors. According to Addictions and Recovery.org:
• Addiction is due to 50 percent genetic predisposition and 50 percent poor coping skills.
• The children of addicts are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction.
The addict under the microscope now may open Pandora’s box, enabling a healthy, happy, and sober family to emerge. It’s critical that the family learns about the nature of addiction together. Family discussions should include a look at previous generations in an effort to understand the disease that takes so much from loving families from all walks of life.
Individual family members (such as the sibling who feels resentment for the attention a drug-addicted sister received), might need individual counseling in addition to the entire family as a unit. Sobriety strips away the distractions and chaos inherent in addiction. This may leave a void with many questions, anger, and guilt by all family members. In addition to counseling, there are numerous free resources available for all family members going through recovery.
• Al-Anon (al-anon.org) For family members of alcoholics
• Nar-anon (nar-anon.org) For family members of addicts
• Gam-anon (gam-anon.org) For family members of gamblers
• Coda.org (coda.org) For co-dependent individuals
• ACA (adultchildren.org) For adult children of alcoholics and addicts