Having someone in your life struggle with an addiction is challenging to deal with. You may want to help them, but how do you know when you’re helping instead of hurting? Enabling behavior can easily be mistaken as helpful behavior. We’ll explain why in this article.Enabling an addict is defined as any actions that make it easier for the person to abuse whatever it is they are addicted to. This behavior will only feed their disease and prolong the possibility of recovery. Because family members and loved ones care so much about the addict, they sometimes have a hard time giving them tough love. They don’t want to see them upset or angry so they’d rather “help” them than get in an argument. The difference between helping and enabling is simple. Helping someone is doing something for the person that they are unable to do themselves. Enabling someone is doing something that the person can, and should, be completing on their own. For example, doing their laundry, giving them money for past due bills, gas, and groceries.Other ways to enable addicts include:
- Avoiding issues that should be addressed in hopes to keep the addict from becoming irritated or angry.
- Attempting to bond with the addict by using drugs or drinking with them.
- Lying on the addict’s behalf to support their behavior.
- Making excuses for the addict; pardoning their behavior by blaming it on something other than the addiction.
- Cleaning the addict’s house or any messes they’ve made.
- Not following through on ultimatums you’ve made for the addict, for example, if you allow the addict to live in your home and threaten to kick them out but never end up doing it, they will always take advantage of you.
- Again, helping out financially or even bailing the addict out of jail after their behavior lands them there.
If you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself or someone you know, it may be considered enabling. Make a conscious effort to stop helping the addict by stopping these behaviors. If it’s someone you in your family, talk to them to help them understand how they are actually hurting the addict rather than helping. Enabling your loved one’s addiction will only make it harder for them in the end.
If you have questions about enabling vs. helping, or would like support with discontinuing these behaviors, please contact one of our counselors.