How To Support An Addicted Loved One Without Enabling Them
Substance abuse is a serious problem in the U.S. In 2012, The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that approximately 23 million people required treatment for substance abuse but only 2.5 million people received treatment. Most of these addicts were in denial and believed that there was no need for them to receive treatment. Denial is a major obstacle that prevents an addict from seeking the help he needs to get sober.
Sometimes a person accepts the substance abuse and will enable their loved one to continue in their abuse. Enabling often accompanies and supports an addict’s attitude of denial and hinders them from seeking the help they need. Addiction is a progressive disease that will eventually cause physical and psychological harm. If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the best thing you can do for them is to stop enabling them and encourage them to face their addiction and get professional help. Here are specific signs that can help you recognize if you are enabling your loved one:
- Trying to cover up the addict’s behavior and lying to others about your loved one’s addiction. Trying to keep the peace at all costs and putting on a calm, controlled exterior.
- Having difficulty expressing your true feelings and fearful of negative repercussions if you do.
- Taking care of and putting your loved one’s needs before your own. Enablers often over-extend their help toward their loved one and often neglect their own needs.
- Ignoring your loved one’s addiction problem and their negative, potentially dangerous behavior.
- Acting out of fear in the hope of preventing serious problems or events.
- Blaming others for your loved one’s addiction which re-enforces their victimization status and negates responsibility on their part.
- Feelings of anger, hurt or resentment toward your loved one because of the burden their addiction causes you.
If you find that you are engaging in some of these behaviors than you most probably are enabling your loved one in addiction. You have become a part of the problem even though your intentions were good and you didn’t realize you were aiding and abetting. Before your loved one’s addiction gets any worse and possibly puts them in danger, there are things you can do to help them. To end the cycle of enabling and begin to give real help to your loved one, you can try using these effective techniques:
- Begin the process by leaving any messes your loved one makes while intoxicated for him to clean up. Let him know that you cannot continue to keep cleaning up after him and he will have to attend to it himself. Put the brakes on paying for things he wants or needs and let him understand that he will have to begin buying these things himself.
- Make plans to do things together and if your loved one refuses to engage, then go without him.
- Start to take back your own life and identity. Plan to meet with friends or relatives outside of the house without your loved one. Join a club or gym, or take a class in something that you will enjoy on your own. Invest in yourself by treating yourself kindly. Buy things that you have wanted and feed yourself in body, mind and spirit. Remember that self-care is not being selfish.
- Do not allow the addict to manipulate you by placing guilt on you or bullying you into continuing in the old game of enabling. Let him know that he really needs to consider getting professional help for his addiction. If he has been to rehab and has relapsed tell him that it is not uncommon and that he can still recover.
Many addicts have relapsed and went back to rehab and began to live a sober life. It is possible only if your loved one wants it and commits to it. You cannot do it for him and you cannot save him from his addiction by being a crutch. It is up to him to have a better life if he wants it.
Tell your loved one that you will help him when he is ready to go to a rehab center to recover from addiction. In the mean time, start enjoying your life by separating yourself from the dictates of addiction. You have the power to save yourself, and your loved one has the power to save himself. Lead by example and hope for the best.