The effects of addiction on family members can be utterly devastating.
For those who watch a loved one or friend slowly descend into the widening tailspin of addiction, it is ugly to experience and you often feel there is nothing you can do to stop the slide. As any human being would do, you want to try and do everything in your power to help those you love thinking that your assistance will help remedy an already dire situation. While you will spare no expense in giving a helping hand to an addicted family member or friend, you may be walking a very thin line.
While your intentions are good, the actions that you take in order to help the ones you love may actually cause more harm than good. Far too often, family members will engage in actions that enable the addict to continue their addictive behaviors. If these behaviors are not addressed, it not only will make your loved one’s addiction much worse, it will throw the entire family unit into total dysfunction. The following are 5 signs that you are enabling the addict in your life.
No matter what the substance or substances of choice, drug addiction can be very expensive. Many addicts will use most or all of their available finances to obtain substances. Whether they are employed or unemployed, the lack of money due to drug and alcohol use will cause the addict to come to the family to beg or plead for money. They may say they need the funds because of an unexpected repair or for emergency purposes. The addict in your life may continually beg, plead and even manipulate you with guilt and shame in order to get money from you, and if you give in with financial help you are allowing them to buy more drugs and the cycle of addiction continues.
Paying or Providing a Place To Live
Another one of the major signs that you are enabling an addicted loved one is that you are either paying their rent of mortgage, or that you are providing a place to live without any conditions. As stated in the first sign, addiction is a very expensive habit to maintain and oftentimes addicts run out of money. As a result, the important financial obligations such as paying their rent of mortgage gets neglected. There are those times where a family member may need a helping hand from time to time because of unexpected situations, but if you are constantly paying their rent or mortgage (and by “helping” meaning paying the full amount) you are engaging in enabling behavior.
Similarly, you are enabling the addict if you are providing them with a place to stay without any rules or conditions. Again, it is understandable there would be times in which you would allow a family member to live at home for a certain period of time due to an unfortunate turn of events or situation that may occur. In the case of a loved one who is addicted, the reason they are coming home to live is because they were not able to keep up with their financial obligations. You may feel that you are helping them out in order for them to “get back on their feet”, but if you are just allowing them to live at home without a plan in place you are enabling the addict to continue their behavior.
One of the additional signs that you are enabling a loved one who is addicted is that you are providing them transportation in some form. Whether you help them with a car or insurance payment, you loan them a vehicle or by even purchasing them a car, you are giving the addict the mobility and freedom to visit their dealer or make a run to the liquor store. Not only is this enabling behavior, this can also prove to be dangerous due to the increased risks of driving while under the influence.
Paying for a Phone
You may feel that by providing a phone to an addicted loved one, you are doing so in order for them to keep in contact with you if they need anything. In reality, your addicted loved one will rarely call if at all, and the times that they do contact you it will be asking for a favor such as money or a ride to or from somewhere. When you give a loved one addicted to drugs free means of communication, you are allowing them to be able to call their dealers. Additionally, most or all their saved numbers are those they get drugs from or those people they do drugs with on a regular basis.
Bailing Them Out of Jail
For those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, the consequences they can experience can be severe such as legal consequences. Whether it is driving under the influence, possession charges, drunk and disorderly, assault or other charges, those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol often fall very hard and have to face the music. Watching someone you love get arrested for charges related to their drug use can be heart-wrenching, and you may feel that if you bail them out of jail and take them home they may have “learned their lesson.” By bailing a loved one out of jail, you are giving your loved one the impression they will never have to face the consequences of their action and they will continue to abuse drugs and alcohol.
These five instances of enabling are the most common in families who are wrestling with addiction. Addiction is not only a disease of the brain and body, addiction is also a disease of spirituality. When you and your family know the symptoms and signs of enabling, you will increase the chances that you’re not unwittingly helping them continue their destructive ways. The only thing that you should be enabling is a loved one’s sobriety.