Good Intentions, Bad Outcomes: Enabling an Addict
Addiction often takes families by surprise. Alcoholics and addicts become quite good at hiding their addiction from friends and family so that by the time that someone realizes that something is wrong, the alcoholism or addiction might be far advanced. Shocked family members often don’t know how to respond. When they see a loved one suffering or in need, their natural response is to try to help them and fill that need. They’re afraid of losing their loved one – maybe they will die, maybe they will get angry and leave. For that reason, they may try to help the addict, believing that as long as the addict is still at home, in their care, or dependent on them, at least the addict will not get himself or herself into worse trouble.
The problem is that helping an addict is not the same as helping a family member who was laid off from their job or injured in a car accident. In some cases, addiction goes on for longer than it should because family or friends with good intentions enable the addict, cushioning the negative consequences of their poor decisions. Sometimes those in relationships with addicts are psychologically attached to the feeling of being needed by the addict, and losing that relationship would be devastating for their own sense of identity and self-worth. If you know an addict, you should evaluate your interactions with them to make sure that you are helping the addict (which might mean NOT helping them!) and not the addiction. The following are a few common ways that well-meaning friends and family enable addicts.
- Making excuses to others to help the addict avoid negative consequences.
Have you ever told the alcoholic’s or addict’s boss that they were sick and couldn’t come to work when really they were high, drunk, or hung over? Have you ever bailed them out of jail only to watch them drink, light up, or shoot up again? STOP! There are reasons that certain consequences for poor decisions have come into existence – because some behaviors are not compatible with real life. But if you continuously block all of those negative consequences, why should the person make a change? They will assume that they will always have you to use or fall back on, and they may learn to manipulate your feelings of guilt and shame to get you to behave how they want you to.
- Giving the addict money directly.
Many people justify giving addicts money by telling themselves that the addict will put it toward rent, groceries, etc. Certainly, in some cases this may happen. But if they do use your money for bills, this will only free up their resources to go toward the addiction. However, addicts often use money that they receive from others to fund their addiction, allowing their bills to accumulate even more.
- Giving” the addict money indirectly.
If the alcoholic or addict has stolen money from your wallet or purse in the past and you DON’T make every effort to hide it from them, you are enabling the addiction. If they continue to do it, and you don’t call the police, you are enabling them. Of course, they are in the wrong to steal from you, but as their priorities shift and they become increasingly dependent on the substance (sicker), they are less likely to seek help if they can still maintain their lifestyle – one way or another.
- Providing for the addict’s needs.
If you had access to unlimited free meals, housing, transportation, cable TV, internet, and interesting though sometimes nagging company, wouldn’t you be tempted to quit your job and hang out all day? To put it another way, what about the life that the addict is living is really so intolerable if they are not only able to survive but also to have a pretty easy time of it? Nothing! Without an intervention, most addicts who make a decision to change toward a path of recovery reached a point when they realized that their life was unmanageable or intolerable – when they literally could not continue in the way they had been and live.
- Justifying the behavior to oneself or others.
Addiction is not “just a phase” or a way for your son or daughter “to fit in” when they go to college! Furthermore, your loved one’s physician spent many years in school to learn how to provide them with an appropriate dosage of medicine, so don’t let an addict get away with exceeding the amount or frequency of the dose because “the doctor just doesn’t understand or care”! And don’t pretend the problem doesn’t exist by telling yourself, “that’s not something that my kids would do.” Minimizing the potential for serious physical and psychological consequences may also haunt you in the future.
Ready to Stop Enabling an Addict?
Although it is important to realize that you’ve been enabling an addict, it can be difficult to stop. You may want to consider seeing a therapist to develop healthy ways of coping with the poor decisions that your loved one is making (Read Talk it Out: Is Therapy Right for You?). We would also encourage you to call eDrugRehab today to discuss your situation. Our professionals can help you arrange an intervention (which will require that all friends and family members make a firm commitment to no longer enabling the addict) as well as choose a rehab facility. Visit the contact us page for more information.