People who experience drug addiction first hand often put their drug use before everything else in their lives. They characteristically tend to find themselves giving up the things they once enjoyed or seeing the people they liked to hang out with because their drug addiction is front and center. They can struggle to maintain or find employment, have problems in school, experience an increase in hostility in their relationships, and even start to notice symptoms associated with physical and/or psychological health problems.
There is no doubt that addiction is one of the most difficult diseases a person can have. When someone is active in their drug addiction, they simply cannot see past their ever-continuing need to keep obtaining more drugs and using on a regular basis. That is simply the nature of drug addiction. And when looking at just the drug addict, it can be easy to blame them for every single thing that is going wrong in their lives. However, there is no space for blame in addiction. This disease gets everyone connected to drug users involved in one way or another, allowing for a toxic cycle of functioning to develop. In most families or groups of friends, those who are not using drugs can find themselves engaging in behaviors that contribute to their loved one’s drug addiction even if they never intend to. For many onlookers of addiction, it can be easy to fall into the role of the enabler.
What is an Enabler?
An enabler is someone who does things, intentionally or not, that enable the drug addict to keep using. Anyone can develop enabling behaviors, especially in the midst of something as devastating and difficult as addiction. Enabling tends to begin with good intentions, as the loved one of a drug addict wants to do things to help prevent them from suffering further harm. While anyone can be an enabler, it is common to see mothers and fathers enabling their children (even if they are adults) in an effort to reduce the negative impact of the addiction. Unfortunately, any time enabling is occurring, it makes the situation far worse.
Signs of Enabling a Drug Addict
It is common for the enabler to have difficulty recognizing that they are enabling a drug addict. While it is sort of an oxymoron, it happens all the time. Being educated about what enabling looks like, however, can make it easier for you to recognize if this type of behavior is occurring within your family unit or social circles and if you are playing a part in it. Some of the most common signs of enabling a drug addict include the following:
- Putting the needs of the drug addict before your own — You ensure that the drug addict in your life is always getting their needs met by making sure you are the one to do so. You neglect your own needs, such as eating, sleeping, or buying something for yourself because you are putting all of your resources towards the drug addict.
- Ignoring the drug addict’s negative behaviors — Addiction is a disease that is characterized by compulsive behaviors. As a result, drug addicts tend to behave in ways that negatively impact themselves and others. You are enabling the drug addict if you ignore those behaviors or make excuses for them. Being blind to these behaviors (voluntarily or involuntarily) does nothing but allow the drug addict to continue to behave in such a manner.
- Being fearful of how your actions will affect the drug addict — If you are enabling a drug addict, chances are you get nervous to do or say the things that you are actually thinking about. For example, you may want to tell them that you can’t give them any more money but are afraid that if you do, they will get angry with you or stop talking to you.
- Having difficulty talking about your emotions — When you are caught up in enabling a drug addict, talking about how you are feeling can be hard. You may feel like your feelings are insignificant in comparison to the addict’s or you may be concerned that expressing your feelings will negatively affect the drug addict’s opinion of you.
- Blaming other people for the drug addict’s problems — One of the most common things that an enabler does is point the finger at other people for the issues that befall the drug addict. For example, they question the character of the drug addict’s boss if he or she demotes or fires them. They may even look to other members in the family as the root cause of the drug addict’s current situation. Everyone else tends to get some level of blame except the drug addict.
Enabling a drug addict is one of the worst things that you can do in this situation. The most important step you can take to make the entire situation better is to work on ending the cycle of enabling.
How to Stop Enabling an Addict
Drug addiction is not an easy disease to experience, nor is it easy to bear witness to. Enabling a drug addict does not mean that you are a bad person, in fact it means that you are like millions of other people who have addicted loved ones, too. Some of ways that you can put a stop to your enabling behaviors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Set boundaries and uphold them
- Practice good self-care
- Participate in therapy for yourself
- Do not make excuses for the drug addict or attempt to fix their problems
These are just some of the ways that you can put a stop to your enabling behaviors. Doing so is a vital component of helping your loved one get the help they need to end their use and start living a life of recovery.
Family Therapy in Southern California
If you or your loved one is addicted to drugs and needs help, stop what you are doing and call Ari Recovery in Orange County right now. We can help you or your loved one get started on the road to recovery so that you can put your active addiction in the past once and for all.