The Difference Between Enabling & Supporting Addicts
How to Care for Loved Ones Without Condoning Their Behavior
Watching a friend or loved one struggle with addiction is never easy, especially if they refuse to acknowledge they have a problem. The natural reaction is to support the afflicted however you can, and this is a great sentiment that can play a large role in their recovery, but be careful about how you approach it. For addicts, support means helping them eventually address their issue and overcome it. It does not mean continuously bailing them out of trouble or engaging in questionable activity in order to protect them. This is called enabling, as it allows your loved one to live consequence free and prevent them from realizing they have a problem.
It’s Easy to Mistake Enabling for Support
From the outside, distinguishing enabling from support may seem easy. Keep in mind that when someone you deeply care about is dealing with addiction, it is difficult to pull yourself away and let them get into trouble. Some of what they get into may result in damage to their career, status, and finances, but it is not your job to cover for them, and they may be allowing these things to slide because they know that you will cover for them.
How to tell if you are enabling. Do you do any of the following to protect a loved one struggling with addiction?
- Call their boss and lie about why they can’t make it to work that day.
- Give them money to cover rent, food, and other living expenses.
- Rationalize their behavior to others.
- Bail them out of jail on a regular basis.
- Spend most of your day thinking and worrying about your loved one.
- Blame others, yourself, or circumstances for your loved one’s addiction.
Your loved one may resent you if you quit doing any of these things, they may even lash out and try to blame you for their problems. Stay strong and call a recovery service like Anchored Recovery Community if you need to speak with someone and get affirmation that you are doing the right thing. Stopping enabling behavior is hard, but you have to remember that you are doing what is best for them in the long-term.
What You Can Do to Support Your Loved One
Just because you’ve stopped enabling an addict does not mean you won’t be there for them when they seek help. Supporting an addict means reinforcing the idea that they should seek treatment and letting them know that you will be there for them if that day ever comes. As much as they may resent you for leaving them to deal with the consequences of their actions, when they are ready to make a real change and overcome their addiction they will remember that you cared enough to offer your help despite their actions.