When you love someone, you may be devoted to doing whatever it takes to keep that person happy. However, if that person suffers from a drug use disorder, the line between helping them and enabling drug addiction can often become blurred. Sometimes, showing love and support for someone with an addiction can get complicated, especially if your behaviors are synonymous with signs of enabling a drug addict.
Being able to identify whether you’re an enabler is the first step you can take toward correcting harmful behaviors that may be fueling your loved one’s addiction. Continue reading to learn more about common signs of enabling a drug addict, and what you can do to stop being an enabler.
What Are Some Consequences Of Enabling An Addict?
Enabling an addict can harm the addict and all the members of your household, as it can normalize addiction and harmful addict behavior patterns. Enabling an addict often makes the addict’s life easier and gives them no reason to change and become healthier. The addict will often not be held accountable for their behaviors when being helped by an addiction enabler.
Enabling an addict encourages toxic, unhealthy behaviors, increases the risk for financial hardship and delays addiction treatment. It can set a bad example for your children, especially if the addict is a spouse or an older sibling. Your children may grow up thinking addiction is acceptable and a normal way of life, and be inclined or influenced to abuse drugs and alcohol themselves.
As the enabler, your own well-being is also at risk—especially if you devote your free time to taking care of the addict and making excuses for their shortcomings instead of caring for yourself and working toward your own personal goals.
What Are Signs You’re Enabling a Drug Addict?
Signs of enabling a drug addict include:
- Loaning or giving the person money.
- Paying the person’s bills for them after they have spent large sums of money on drugs and alcohol.
- Making excuses for the person, such as saying their aggressive behavior is due to lack of sleep as opposed to drug use.
- Lying for the person, such as telling their boss they missed work because of death in the family as opposed to recovering from the previous night’s drug use.
- Constantly giving the person “one more chance” to overcome substance abuse and change for the better.
- Prioritizing the person’s needs over your own or that of your children’s, such as giving the person money for drugs when you need it to buy food or pay bills.
- Cleaning up after the person regularly, such as doing their laundry or cleaning up vomit.
- Threatening the person with consequences if they don’t stop using drugs and alcohol, but never following through with the consequences.
- Blaming yourself for the person’s behavior, such as thinking you are annoying to live with, and that’s why the person uses drugs and alcohol.
- Refusing to talk to others about the problem out of fear the addict may hurt you.
- Believing the person will eventually stop being an addict on their own without your help or professional treatment.
- Using drugs and alcohol with the person or in front of the person, which is often a trigger for the addict.
You may not be able to see how you are enabling an addict, especially if you’ve fallen into a pattern and have been enabling that person for a long time. However, these signs may be far more obvious to your friends, coworkers, and others outside your household.
What To Do When Your Help Is Enabling An Addict
If you meet any one or more of the above signs of enabling a drug addict, you may have realized that your behaviors are hurtful instead of helpful.
The best step you can take at this point is to stop being an enabler and make healthy, positive changes for both you and the other members of your household. This may involve seeking counseling, therapy, or support, or staging an intervention to persuade the addict to seek drug addiction treatment.
How To Stop Enabling An Addict
Changing your mindset, attitude, and behaviors about addiction and substance abuse is key to making positive changes that affect your livelihood and that of your family—including the addict.
Here are steps on how not to enable an addict:
- Consider joining a support group. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a support group called Al-Anon that is limited to people who are affected by another person’s drinking problem and need support. Support groups such as these are widely available and can help you change your perspective and enabling behaviors.
- Stop making excuses for the addict. Make the addict defend themselves when drug use causes problems in their life, and stop covering for them.
- Stop providing them with money. Take charge of budgeting and paying the most important bills, if possible, and consider opening up a separate bank account if the addict has access to your money and is using it to buy drugs and alcohol.
- Follow through with any consequences. Stop threatening the addict with consequences and start following through with them instead. For example, if you have told the addict you will move out if they do not change their behavior, move out the next time they break a rule or agreement.
- Emphasize that your actions are coming from a place of love. In some cases, the addict may think you have changed your perspective because you are angry or want revenge, but you can explain that your actions are in support of them becoming healthier and getting help for their addiction.
How To Support An Addict Without Enabling
Addiction is a mental illness and complex brain disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. To support an addict without enabling, you must acknowledge that addiction is a mental health disorder that often requires professional treatment. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and continued drug use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.
Invest time in learning about addiction, and about how it affects addicts and their behaviors. Many people who struggle with addiction are often unable to control their drug use despite how hard they may try.
Tell the addict that you are willing to hear about their struggles with addiction without passing judgment, while at the same time enforcing healthy boundaries that hold them accountable when they break certain rules. Avoid using drugs and alcohol recreationally around the addict, and involve them in healthy, sober activities such as hiking, sports, or volunteer work in the community. Lastly, become involved in their addiction treatment such as with family behavior therapy, which aims to improve family dynamics and educate relatives about addiction.
How To Help Someone Who Is Enabling An Addict
If someone you know is showing signs of enabling a drug addict, explain that help is available in the form of support groups and drug rehab centers. Provide them with resources about enabling an addict, and help them stage an intervention, research nearby drug rehab centers, and find local support groups. Taking these steps can help your friend or relative improve their livelihood, and that of their loved one who is struggling with addiction.
Summer House Detox Center in Miami, Florida offers drug and alcohol detox programs to help people safely recover from drug and alcohol dependence. Contact us today at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our many available drug detox programs.