Helping is when you aid someone to get on the right track in their recovery and persuade them to get treatment. Enabling is when you are unknowingly supporting someone’s addiction thinking you are protecting them from getting in trouble with the law or other consequences. It is important to know the difference between helping and enabling so that you can help your loved one on the path to recovery instead of hitting rock bottom.
You know that you are enabling someone who is struggling with addiction when all of your methods to “help” that person do not follow seeking treatment. One reason that you are letting that person’s addiction grow is that you could be blaming yourself for why it has occurred. Maybe you have been addicted before to drugs or alcohol and your kids witnessed and picked up on these behaviors. Or you would use in front of your friends who then copied those behaviors. You feel like it is not your place to tell that person what to do since you feel responsible for introducing them to that world in the first place.
Another way you could be enabling is if you are in denial of your loved ones problem. You do not want to accept the reality of the situation because if you know how bad that person’s problem is, you know there will have a long, tough journey to recovery and want to protect them. You do not want to believe that they need treatment and that they will get better on their own. By ignoring the problem, you are only letting it grow worse for them. You are also enabling that person by making excuses for them. You could be telling others that they have stressful days at work and that drugs relax them or that they have had a traumatic experience and the drugs help ease the painful memories. Another excuse can be that this is just a phase and that when they get older and have a career, their drug usage will go away too.
Some may also feel that if someone like their child does drugs or drinks at home, that makes it okay. That way, you can monitor how often they are using and you do not have to worry about them being high or drunk in an alley or shady area and not know where they are. You may also feel that by drinking or doing drugs with that person, you can give them a “safe” amount. There may be a family reunion party and you do not want to tell anyone about your son or daughter’s drug addiction because you want to keep the peace and have no one ask questions. You want your family to look normal as there is still a giant stigma against those with drug addiction. In order to impress everyone you know, you will just portray that person in a falsely light way.
Knowing someone has an addiction may make you do whatever it takes to keep them safe. That can mean giving them money when they ask you for it because they need to pay their bills or their drug dealer. You do not want to them to get hurt in trouble with the law so you will keep saving them. Unfortunately, sometimes you do need to let the one struggling with addiction see what rock bottom looks like so that they know to get help on their own. It is not up to you to take over their responsibilities like cleaning their house, paying their bills, or taking care of their children. Putting their needs before your own is another way of being an enabler. Every time that you have had to leave in the middle of work to bail out your loved one or spending all of your energy trying to detox that person on your own, you are no longer living your own life. By doing everything for that person liking bailing them out of jail or trying to cover up their substance abuse without advising them to go to treatment, you are only giving them permission to continue these unhealthy behavior.
You do not have to keep enabling this behavior and living in this cloud that is shielding you away from reality. You still have the chance to help. You can do this by attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings with your loved one to show your support. Maybe you will learn a thing or two about addiction as well as how to help that person. Set boundaries with that person to prevent drug-seeking behaviors. It can mean tracking their phone to know that they will not go to a bar or telling them to come home after work or school is done until they have been clean for a certain amount of time.
Do not put up with anymore excuses. As tough as it may be to say no to the one you love, convince them that you are doing this because you love them and do not want to encourage unhealthy behaviors. Participate in family therapy with that person so that you will know what it was that started your loved one’s addiction and learn how to separate that person from the disease. Lastly, commit to that person that you will help them achieve recovery and that they stick with it to ensure a successful recovery.
Located in Tacoma, Washington, Bayview Center’s mission is to offer clinically-driven programs and services to treat a number of substance abuse disorders along with anxiety and depression using cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, trauma therapy, yoga therapy, and more for a successful recovery. For more information, please call us 1-888-570-7154 at as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.