Enablers: Are You Helping an Addict?
It’s hard being a substance abuser. You have to score, you need a place to kick back, you need money for tomorrow’s bag, tab or rock, and nobody wants to be your friend except other drug abusers.
And they’re boring.
It takes a lot of time out of each day handling an addiction along with all of the other routine chores like grocery shopping or cleaning up the house. In fact, many substance abusers use spouses, relatives, friends, neighbors – even casual acquaintances to handle some of the day-to-day stuff that we all do because our basic living standards are higher than the residents of a crack house.
Are You an Enabler?
If you live with a family member who has a drinking problem, a gambling problem, a drug addiction problem, chances are you’re enabling that addict to continue abusing substances or engaging in unhealthy addictive behaviors.
Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders can lead to extremely dangerous health problems. In some cases, individuals with an inaccurate body image literally starve themselves to death.
If you ignore your daughter’s eating disorder and don’t take a helpful, pro-active approach to find a solution, you’re enabling that child to head down a dangerous, self-destructive path.
Do you ignore the obvious signs of addiction?
You let your spouse drive after sharing a couple of bottles of wine. You overlook the arguments, the job hopping, the missing jewelry, the drug paraphernalia, the vanishing paycheck – for you it’s easier to say nothing.
Do you put the needs of the substance abuser ahead of your own?
How about ahead of the rest of the family? Your spouse gambles away the weekly food money but you, somehow, manage to feed yourself and the kids by cutting back on family activities. Everybody suffers.
Are you afraid of the addict living in your house?
Substance abusers, and those who engage in unhealthy habits, sometimes turn violent. Have you ever made a decision out of fear of the addict? Afraid he’ll turn violent? Afraid she’ll just make it hard on other family members so you keep your mouth shut.
Have you ever lied about an addict’s behavior?
You got that black eye walking into a door. “Bob couldn’t make it; he’s got a cold.”
Enablers often maintain the status quo, believing that confronting the problem will exacerbate the problem. It won’t be solved, and now the stress and tension levels in the home are high.
Are you fearful of accepting the facts?
Do you believe that “it” only becomes a problem when you admit it’s a problem? Ignore it, deny it, it goes away. It’s not a real problem because you’re afraid to examine the tension of living with an addict.
Indeed, if you help a loved one continue unhealthy behavior, you are an enabler. You enable that individual to continue unhealthy behaviors that corrode quality of life. You’re always “worried” about the addict but you don’t take steps to address the problem, afraid to admit to yourself that you aren’t happy, the family is suffering, and you keep a smile pasted on your face.
Stop the Cycle of Enabling Unhealthy Behaviors
It isn’t easy. You think that by “helping” an addict fix a problem you’re helping the addict. You aren’t.
You can’t clean up every mess the addict makes.
The dishes are piled high in the sink, the bed hasn’t been made in weeks, you get a call from the local police to come bail out your alcoholic child, spouse, relative, or friend.
It isn’t easy, but counseling for enablers helps. Don’t clean up after a night of binge drinking. Don’t ignore missing money. You can’t clean up every mess the addict makes.
Take a long-term view.
If you say something, it’ll lead to a screaming argument and physical abuse. However, if you don’t say something, the unhealthy activities continue.
Find the right time. A time when you can talk to the addict calmly and explain what is and is not acceptable behavior. Don’t avoid short-term confrontations that simply hurt you, the addict, and your family over the long term.
Protect yourself and your family.
Don’t let your inebriated spouse pick up the kids from school. Don’t allow the careless behavior of the addict put other members of the family in danger.
If the activity continues, and you fear for your safety or the safety of the kids, seek help for yourself if the addict won’t accept the pain he or she causes.
Take control of your life again.
If a loved one is abusing, that family member becomes the focus of family life. Don’t allow this to happen to you or the other people with whom you live.
Seek help. If you’ve tried to re-gain control, if you’ve tried finding a calm moment to discuss the impact unhealthy behaviors is having, if you recognize that you do, in fact, enable unhealthy behaviors to take action. You don’t have to do this alone.
Develop a plan – a step-by-step plan that eliminates your role as an enabler.
Put it in writing and share it with the addict.
Don’t expect the addict to agree with you about the problem. However, you should seek counseling and help when living with an addict. You need to create boundaries of acceptable behavior.
You need support from professionals with experience in substance abuse and unhealthy behaviors.
To learn more about breaking the cycle of enabling unhealthy behavior, contact Hawaii Island Recovery, located in a tropical paradise that nurtures a healthy lifestyle for addicts and their families.
We look forward to making your life better for yourself and for the ones you most care for – your family.