If your loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s normal to want to help them. As sociable creatures, humans rely on care and mutual support to survive, grow, and overcome challenges.
However, some kinds of help can be counterproductive. You can end up enabling their addiction, making it easier for them to continue abusing drugs and alcohol.
Enabling doesn’t always involve buying your loved one substances or providing financial support. You can also enable them by:
By supporting your loved one in these ways, you can shelter them from experiencing some of the negative consequences of substance abuse. Without these experiences, it will be harder for them to decide to get help and quit using drugs or alcohol. It may also give them a false sense of security that encourages them to continue or increase their addictive behavior.
You can offer some kinds of support, like providing shelter and emotional support, without enabling your loved one. However, if you recognize any of the above behaviors in yourself, you may want to think about the long-term consequences of your actions and whether you need to change your behavior.
There are a few steps you can take to help you stay away from, or stop, enabling your loved one.
Maintaining a relationship with a substance user can be incredibly difficult. You may have to deal with extreme mood swings, irrational behavior, and dishonesty or manipulation. The experience can be draining and leave you in need of support.
Fellowship groups like Al-Anon are specially for family members and friends of substance users. They provide a network of support and offer advice, encouragement, and strength.
Fellowship groups may help you recognize if you are exhibiting enabling behaviors so that you can change them as soon as possible. They may also give you ideas surrounding how to interact with your loved one without enabling them before supporting you in following them through.
Additionally, professional support is available to help you learn how to interact with your loved one and support them in giving up substances. To access this, you can attend family therapy sessions or see a therapist alone.
A common side-effect of substance abuse is memory loss. Often, people don’t remember what they did while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
As a family member or close friend, you mustn’t let their behavior be forgotten. If they have verbally insulted you the night before, call them up on it in the morning. If they have fallen out with a friend, don’t try and help them resolve the conflict.
You should also avoid making excuses for your loved one missing work. Many substance abusers miss days of work as they recover from the effects of a drug or alcohol session. In fact, US companies lose billions of dollars every year because of workplace absences that result from substance abuse.
The response your loved one’s manager may have in light of their absences may be what it takes to put them on the road to recovery. The threat of pay cuts or even job loss can help someone realize the seriousness of the problem and decide to end their behavior before it gets worse.
If you cover for your loved one by calling in sick or saying there is a family emergency, they may continue to abuse substances as they will believe that they can get away with it. In the end, however, their manager will notice that something is wrong - by which time their addiction may be more severe.
Drugs and alcohol are expensive, and maintaining an addiction can drain your finances. The costs of the substance often far outweigh what an individual is earning, especially if their addiction affects their performance at work. Sometimes, financial concerns can help slow down or halt someone’s drug abuse. After all, it is harder to use drugs if you don’t have the money to buy them.
The danger in a family is that when someone ends up financially supporting a substance user, they enable them to maintain their addiction. Many families and couples share their finances, collectivizing their incomes in joint bank accounts. This means users can access the income of other family members, even if they cannot finance their habits themselves.
Separating your bank accounts can be an important step in reducing financial dependency. You should also avoid lending your loved one money or gifting them with valuable items that they could sell to make money for drugs.
As we all have strong instincts to help our loved ones meet their needs, it can be difficult to stop or stay away from enabling your loved one.
However, it’s important to remember that while you may be helping them meet their short-term needs, it may be detrimental to their health and well-being. In the long-term, caring for your loved one involves allowing them to face the consequences of their actions and encouraging them to seek help or treatment.
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