Are you an enabling a drug addict or alcoholic? Enablers are usually close family members or friends, and they enable the addict by shielding them from the consequences of their addiction. Enablers might do things like give the addict money, take over their responsibilities, clean up their messes, lie for them, give them rides, etc. While an enabler thinks they’re helping in a positive way, they’re actually making it easier for an addict to use and cause destruction to themselves and their loved ones.
Sometimes it can be as hard to stop enabling as it is to stop an addiction. If enablers try to stop, they often end up feeling very guilty. They feel responsible for the addict, and they are afraid of what might happen to the addict without their help. Letting go of that feeling of responsibility is a difficult process. If you’re an enabler, the most important things to accept are that you are not responsible for an addict’s life, and that they can only help themselves.
If you want to stop enabling, it’s a great idea to get professional help. A therapist who specializes in enabling and codependency can help you tremendously. With their support, you can explore the motivations behind your enabling, and you can learn ways to stop. There are lots of different emotions that come with caring about an addict, and therapy for yourself – regardless of whether or not the addict is getting help for themselves – will help you process those feelings.
In order to stop enabling, you’ll have to put stricter limitations on what you will and will not do for an addict. You’ll have to decide what restrictions you’ll put in place, and you’ll have to stick to them. For example, you might refuse to give an addict anymore money at all, refuse to bail them out of jail, or refuse to let them stay in your house while they’re under the influence. By putting restrictions in place, you’re breaking the cycle of enabling, and you’re letting the addict face the consequences of their use, which is essential if you ever hope for them to seek help. If an addict is shielded from consequences, they have no reason to stop using.
You may also find it helpful to seek out a support group for loved ones of addicts. Co-Dependents Anonymous and Al-Anon are two popular groups. Here you’ll meet people that understand exactly what you’re going through, and their experiences can help you learn more, including how to develop new attitudes and behaviors that don’t enable.
You must begin to put yourself first. For too long, you’ve been putting an addict’s needs before your own and neglecting yourself. You are a loving person who is deserving of happiness, and you need to find your own. Your physical and emotional health should be your priorities. It isn’t easy to stop, but enabling an addict is only making their problems worse in the long run.
Lisa M. Hann is a freelance writer specializing in addiction and recovery. She has a B.A. in Journalism from Temple University. She has been sober since 2010, and she resides in New Jersey with her son. She’s the author of the books How to Have Fun in Recovery and 365 Ways to Have Fun Sober.