The answer is likely yes. Addiction is not something that affects just the addict. It affects anyone and everyone around the addict. Loved ones, friends, family, like it or not, they are all involved. When someone close to us is suffering as an addict, we tend to react in a way that just enables the addictive behavior. The worst part? We don’t realize that we are doing this!
So during this article we are going to introduce 5 ways that we tend to act as enablers to addiction.
Ignoring the Problem
According to mentalhelp.net, in 2010, 23 million people over the age of 12 needed treatment for substance use. This number has only increased since… addiction is a real problem that we can’t afford to ignore. When someone close to us has an addiction, say a son, daughter, husband, wife, or sibling, we do our best to ignore the problem. The last thing we want to do is acknowledge the addiction and confront the addict. We are afraid that what we say will push them further away from us, but by ignoring, we are only exacerbating the situation.
What we need to do instead is to start confronting the loved one. Next time you notice the cash disappearing from your purse or you catch the loved in a flat out lie, don’t let it go. Bring it to their attention that you know what they did and make them be accountable for it. If they don’t have to face consequences for what they are doing, you aren’t giving them a reason to want to quit. So no ignoring the situation, force them to own up to what they are doing and how they are making you feel.
Putting the Addict’s Needs Above Our Own
The ultimate test of love is willingness to sacrifice our own well-being for the sake of someone else. When this involves someone with an addiction, this general rule becomes damaging and we can’t abide by it. The best thing we can do in this situation is start showing ourselves some self-love.
Addiction is a nasty affliction and takes control over people’s minds. The addict usually feels no remorse for any pain they may be inflicting on you since the substance is in control. By trying to give in to their needs, we will just wear ourselves down. This comes at our own expense, and does not actually help either us or the addict.
Can you count how many times you have played the blame game here? We think that our loved one couldn’t possibly have gotten to this state on their own. We try making excuses and find other people or situations to blame for the result. When our loved one breaks a promise, relapses, or behaves in a way that we don’t like, we make excuses for them and give them another chance.
This is so harmful to them. We have to be accepting of the fact that they they will not get better if we keep giving them passes or excuses. We have to stop lying to ourselves and understand the truth of the situation.
This next one here might be the most challenging. We tend to spring into action and help our loved one as soon as they ask for it. They might have been evicted from their apartment or kicked out of their house and come to you begging for a place to crash. They might have completely run out of cash and as a last resort come to you pleading for some money. They also might try to convince you that they are better, but you know that they are high even as they are speaking to you.
All of these things tear at our heartstrings and we think that helping them will bring them closer to change. So we lend them our couch, we cook them a nice warm meal, and we might even give them some money to buy some essentials. This just made it so much easier for them to continue on with their addiction. They no longer have to worry about finding a place to stay, etc. They can use your resources and keep feeding their addiction at the same time!
We have to have a strong sense of willpower and not give in to their pleas for help. The only time we should give them our help and resources is when they are asking for help quitting their addiction; when they are actually serious about trying to get clean.
Not Sticking to Our Ultimatum
How many times have you given your loved one an ultimatum? Did you tell them that they would be kicked out next time they use again? But they did use again and they still haven’t been kicked out, have they? We act as enablers when we give an ultimatum, but we don’t follow through with it. All of our empty threats do nothing but give them more control over the situation. They know that the threats don’t actually mean anything so they have no reason to change their behavior. When we do act on them, it can start to change things.
Anything that adds to their discomfort to satisfy their addiction will be helpful in getting them to realize that they need to change. If we hand everything to them on a silver platter, they will likely never have this realization. We have to be able to set rules and boundaries, make them clear to our loved one, and stick to them. Whenever the rules are broken or the boundaries crossed, make sure there are direct consequences, no matter how bad it makes you feel for them.
A lot of this advice might sound harsh, but it can mean the difference between getting your loved one clean or not. Acting this way doesn’t mean we don’t love the addict. It means that we are fully aware of what is best for them and what will encourage them to seek treatment. As we all know, no one can be forced into recovery. They must decide for themselves and, because of this, we can’t make it easy for them to live with their addiction.
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