Thin line between supporting and enabling


It is human nature to want to care for and help someone you love. There is a very fine line, however, between being supportive of someone you care about and enabling bad behaviors. Often it can be very difficult to see the line at all. Because of that people frequently end up on the wrong side of the line and don’t even know it.

Whether it is alcohol, other selfish behavior, or general irresponsibility, allowing someone to continue to choose damaging behaviors by being passive, or assisting in them through your own actions, only deepens the damage. When your intention is to help, acting as an enabler does just the opposite.

Here are 7 ways to tell them if you’re helping or enabling someone suffering from an addiction.

Making excuses for the addict

According to the Family First Intervention, making excuses for someone with an addiction denies the reality of the problem, and is a sure sign of enabling is denial or avoidance.

Making excuses for someone with an addiction denies the reality of the problem, and is a sure sign of enabling is denial or avoidance. If you’re an enabler, you choose not to confront the addict because you fear conflict. Instead, you may find yourself making excuses for the addict’s behavior and convince yourself that the problem will just go away on its own.

You may say things like, “He’s just going through a phase.” This doesn’t help the person in question, it allows the problem to persist. To truly help, it’s important to confront them, in a respectful and loving way, about their behavior.

Giving Them Money

100-ziotych-addiction-capsules-47327As an enabler, you probably give your loved one money that they will ultimately end up using to buy drugs. You might even pay their bills, buy groceries, or otherwise enable them financially. While it can be hard to see a loved one’s electricity get shut off because he or she spent the money on drugs, paying the bill is enabling and diminishes the ramifications of the person’s actions.

Rather than pay an addict’s bills or give cash that ends up being traded for drugs, offer your money for rehab instead.

Taking Over Their Responsibilities

Taking over the responsibilities that your loved one has neglected due to addiction is a sign of enabling. Some examples include cleaning the house, picking children up from school, or otherwise handling their affairs

Telling Lies to Cover Up Their Behavior

Lying to cover up an addict’s behavior is another sign of enabling. They need to be held responsible for their actions. Covering up mistakes and wrong-doings enables them to continue to make the same poor choices. Accountability is far more helpful in the long run.

Bailing Them Out of Sticky Situations

board-game-chance-close-up-1422673Helping someone out of a predicament caused by drug use only enables them to continue making poor decisions. Whether it’s bailing them out of jail, buying personal items back from the pawn shop, or lying to employers and loved ones, bailing them out takes away the negative consequences of addiction.

While it can be difficult to see a loved one sit in jail or get fired from a job, letting them suffer the repercussions is more likely to prompt them to seek treatment.

Codependent Behavior

argument-bench-breakup-984949Codependent behavior is almost always present to some degree in an enabler. You may get personal gratification from helping the addict. For example, you may feel that you’re doing a good deed or feel a sense of pride from making a sacrifice, or you might feel a sense of control out of the situation or enjoy the feeling of being needed.

If you find yourself enabling your loved one, you can attend support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon to address your codependency and learn how to provide support without enabling them.

Putting Their Needs Before Your Own

If you’re helping an addict appropriately, you will set clear boundaries and remain assertive. It’s possible to be supportive without neglecting your own needs. Helping someone should never be a threat to your own well-being, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself first.

Helping Helps, Enabling Hurts

It’s important to stop and ask yourself whether your actions are helping or harming. Helping empowers an addict to take responsibility rather than creating dependency. No one can force them to change. In the end, the desire to change must come from within.

When someone suffering from an addiction is enabled, he or she is less likely to want to change because the harsh reality of poor choices is softened. Allowing them to suffer the consequences of addiction can help show how life would improve without drugs. Consider contacting Family First Intervention and asking counselors to help your loved one to overcome addiction.


Drug and Alcohol Intervention

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