They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and, sadly, the road of addiction often is as well. Many concerned family members make choices when their loved one is struggling with drug dependence that inadvertently support his ability to continue drinking and getting high while being shielded from the repercussions of his addiction.
The term “enabler” is used to describe the often lovingly intentioned people who help an addicted person to stay in addiction. They may offer money for rent or groceries, bail them out of jail, bail them out at work, or provide other support measures that provide a buffer between the addicted person and the negative consequences of his behaviors under the influence. When an addicted person doesn’t have to deal with the results of his choices, he will continue making those choices, thus the “help” that he may be desperately requesting is not necessarily going to really help him in the long run.
Signs of Enabling Behavior
Few people who are enablers recognize themselves as such initially. The idea that they could be promoting someone’s addiction when they want more than anything for that person to enter treatment seems absurd. However, enabling behaviors may include:
- Paying bills for the addicted person when she spent all her money on drugs or lost her job because she was more focused on maintaining her drug and alcohol use
- Giving her a place to stay when she can’t manage rent
- Cleaning up after her, cooking for her, doing her laundry, paying for her phone – anything that allows her to focus more on maintaining addiction
- Calling bosses, police officers, parole officers and others in authority who want the addicted person to accept the consequences of choices made under the influence in an attempt to get her to excuse the bad behavior or limit the negative results for the addicted person
- Giving the addicted person money, drugs or alcohol
- Refusing to follow through on promised consequences when the addicted person crosses boundaries (e.g., lies, steals or continually breaks other “house rules”)
Are You an Enabler?
Have you asked your loved one repeatedly to get help but he continues to drink and get high? Do you try to create and keep boundaries in terms of expected behaviors from your loved one but find that he continually crosses those boundaries – and nothing changes? Do you try to stand firm and avoid giving your addicted loved one money or get upset with him for stealing from you, lying to you, or treating you poorly while under the influence but still give him money or whatever it is that he feels he needs in the moment?
Being an enabler does not make you a bad person. It makes you someone who deeply loves your addicted family member but feels unsure how best to help him. Many enablers deeply fear that if they do not support their loved one despite his addiction issues that he will end up dying due to his addiction. The fact is that cessation of drug and alcohol use through a medical treatment program is the only thing that is going to give him a chance of surviving addiction. The best thing you can do for your addicted loved one is to connect him with an intensive drug rehab program today.
Call now to be connected with the right treatment program for your loved one’s needs. We are standing by to assist you.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.