Difference Between Helping and Enabling in Recovery
Enabling happens when loved of a person with substance use problems support that person’s addiction through their own thoughts or behaviors.
So many people have loved ones stuck in addiction that they desire to help, but have no idea where to begin. Especially when the more they ask you for help, the more you could be hurting them This scenario is seen time and time again. A family thinks that they are helping a loved one that has a substance abuse or addiction problem, but in actuality, they are making the situation worse. Whether it is intentional or not, this is known as enabling. Enabling can cause your love to be taken advantage of. Before you know it you are losing money, time, and energy helping your loved one but draining yourself at the same time.
What is Enabling in Addiction Recovery?
Enabling happens when the family members or friends of a person with addiction support that person’s addictions through thoughts or behaviors. They essentially act as a cushion for the addict and prevent them from facing the consequences of their addiction. When someone is an enabler, they lose respect for themselves while the user loses respect for them as well. Enabling forms a permissive attitude towards drug use and also gives the addict no reason or desire to seek treatment to get sober. There are many different ways you could be enabling your loved one versus helping them including:
- Making excuses for your loved one’s addiction: When excuses are made for your loved one’s addiction, you are providing them an escape from the consequences of their actions. You are creating a reality where addiction is not a problem. As a result, you enable them to continue their drug or alcohol use.
- Fueling someone’s addiction with money: The money you give him or her could be going right to their habit. On the other hand, you may also not be paying for their addiction directly, but in other ways, you are enabling their use and ridding them of their consequences, such as paying their bills, food, or bailing them out of jail. When you give them money, you are simply giving them another reason to dismiss their financial responsibilities.
- Covering up for them: A huge difference between enabling and helping them is how you choose to hold them responsible for their actions. If you lie to them about how their actions have affected you, this is another form of enabling.
- Codependency: Codependency means your loved one’s dysfunction and addiction fuels your satisfaction. As the enabler in the situation, you thrive off of their problems. Understandably, you may not recognize your desire for their dysfunction.
- Putting their needs before your own: When you are the kind of person who is known for putting others for yourself, you are very susceptible to enabling a loved one with an addiction. But you are likely doing just as much damage to yourself as you are to them.
We Can Help Families Struggling With Enabling Addicted Individuals
The best way to help is to stop waiting and hoping that things will get better on their own, but you cannot walk around with blinders and allow someone’s substance abuse to ruin your life. This does not mean they cannot be in your life, but boundaries need to be set to protect yourself and your loved one. They must be in your life on your terms. One of the most helpful things you can do is let them know the ways they are hurting you and help them to seek treatment for their addiction. It may not be an easy process to stop enabling and start helping. Truly helping an addict takes form in tough love, and that can be difficult to stick to, but helping a loved one get sober and recover from addiction can make the difference between life and death.