Enabling Drug Addiction - What to Do When Helping Isn't Helping

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Watching a loved suffer from addiction is one of the most painful experiences you’ll feel in your life. You know they have a problem, and all you want to do is help. But, your best attempts to keep their lives on track may be part of the problem. Family and friends may be enabling drug addiction resulting in a codependent cycle of “helping” that ultimately perpetuates addiction and delays recovery.

Is your loved one currently living in your house or are you helping pay the bills? Do they rely on you to take care of everyday activities and chores they could do themselves? Are you giving them money or fixing their problems when the consequences of substance abuse rear their heads?

Enabling is not love – it is a crutch that only cripples you and the person you want to help. Today we explore ways you can stop enabling, help your loved on the path toward sobriety, and how recovery service providers can help all parties involved achieve long-term recovery success.

What Is Enabling?

In general, enabling is any behavior that makes it “easy” for a person to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. For many family members, this means allowing their loved one to reside in their home while they actively abuse drugs. They may also support them financially when addiction causes the loss of their job. 

Addiction enabling is directly tied to codependency. Social situations in which a person is needy or relies too heavily on another defines a codependent relationship. With addiction, this can go both ways. The person with the substance use disorder is codependent on their family to help them survive by keeping a roof over their head and paying for their lifestyle. The family members, often parents, are codependent by wanting to protect and care for their loved one; essentially depriving them of the necessity to get treatment.

Enabling vs. Tough Love

You may feel like you are rejecting or abandoning your loved one if you turn them away. Some people may even accuse you of outright doing so when you stop enabling drug addiction. However, employing tough love is one of the best things you can do for them and yourself.

Tough love is rooted in boundaries. You have rules and standards that you have developed and now enforce from a loving standpoint. Central to tough love is refusing to give in and support your loved one’s lifestyle by not giving them money, taking care of daily activities, or doing anything for them that enables their addiction until they are in recovery.

You must accept the reality of tough love because it often leads to the things you were so actively trying to shield your loved one from. Without living in your house, sufferers from addiction may wind up homeless on the street or sleeping in their car. They might commit a crime and get arrested. But their life is not your responsibility. The only thing you can do is offer to help them recover when they are ready and keep a watchful eye on their safety.

The Importance of Boundaries

The best way to stop enabling is to set some healthy boundaries. Boundaries are rules we develop that protect our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Boundaries are blurred in codependent relationships, and you may feel like barriers shouldn’t exist when you love someone.

Unconditional love is not without conditions. People need to have boundaries to respect themselves and each other. You can start setting boundaries by making a list of behaviors you will not do and those you will not tolerate from your loved one.

A few examples to help get started include:

  • Not providing food.
  • Not providing shelter.
  • Not providing money.
  • Not allowing them to use your phone.
  • Not blaming yourself for their actions.
  • Not allowing them to use your vehicle.
  • Not blaming yourself for their feelings.
  • Not taking responsibility for their addiction.
  • Not taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

As difficult as it is, you have to accept the fact addiction is your loved one’s problem. Although you should actively support them, offer to help them find a rehab or mental health professional, you aren’t responsible for “fixing” them, or curing their addiction. Many individuals with a substance use disorder often don’t realize how bad their own addiction is until they begin to face consequences such as losing their job.

The Role of a Third-Party Recovery Service

Professionals working for a recovery service provider are trained to help families, and those with substance use disorders navigate the recovery landscape. It can be difficult for many to even know where to begin or what to look for in a good treatment program, how to protect one’s career, and manage the financial and legal obstacles that will arise. 

At the family level, a third-party recovery service becomes the family mediator. Coaches and counselors, also known as care coordinators, are available to help you identify ways you might be enabling your loved one to provide practical advice on how to truly help them. Working together with supportive family members, counselors plan interventions to begin the recovery process. From there, coordinators then assist you in finding the right rehabilitation facilities, detoxification centers, physicians, support groups, and other resources that help recovery.

Once the recovery process begins, care coordinators guide those in recovery through every step of the process. They aid in time management, scheduling, and communication between each service provider to ensure everyone remains on the same page. With the assistance of a care coordinator by your side, family members can adequately provide much-needed love and support without the stress of balancing the many aspects of the recovery process.

Helping Someone With Addiction

Addiction is a very personal problem, but recovery doesn’t have to be undertaken alone. If you want to help your loved one, you must first stop enabling drug or alcohol addiction. If you are seeking assistance in finding the right resources to guide your loved one into recovery, contact Modern Recovery today.

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