To ‘enable’ someone to continue their addiction means to make it possible, or make it easier for them in some way. It’s important to try not to enable an addict, and instead to help them overcome.
10 Ways You Could Be Enabling an Addict
Anything you do that makes it easier for the addict to obtain and use drugs or provides them with a sense of comfort and ease during the course of their drug abuse can be a way of enabling the addict. According to National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK), “numerous socioeconomic and psychological factors all play an important part in the aetiology of drug misuse… The most robust evidence highlights peer drug use, availability of drugs and also elements of family interaction, including parental discipline and family cohesion, as significant risk factors for drug misuse.”
Enabling the addict simply prolongs their ability to spiral down deep dark tunnels, where often, you are dragged along despite your unwillingness to go. Learning about the disease of addiction, can help ease the traumatic stress that this may bring. The following are 10 ways you could be enabling an addict.
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1. Letting the Addict Have Control
During the course of addiction, an addict typically becomes very selfish and their main concerns involve continued use of the drugs, despite their seemingly sincere wills to do otherwise. Concern for others in the majority of households where addiction occurs, is displayed only when the addict is looking for resources to use or after they have had their drugs.
In the mean time, there are frequent upheavals from physical and psychological distress that has other family members “walking on eggshells” as the addict gains full control over the atmosphere of the home.
2. Making Excuses for The Addict’s Behaviors
According to the Institute of Medicine (US),”Drug abuse leads to reallocation of economic support away from the family; lack of participation in family activities, including caregiving; lack of emotional commitment and support for parents and children; and the inability to provide a reliable and adequate role model for other family members, especially children.”
Making excuses for an addict’s wrongful behaviors enables them to keep doing the same things that destroy the family dynamics. Children and spouses of addicts are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders from having to deal with these issues on a daily basis and they are more likely to abuse substances as a result of the exposures to the drugs.
3. Providing a Safe Environment to Use
Most people don’t want the addict using drugs in their home, but, many people fear making the addict leave, sending them off to the streets where they could be in danger or where contact will be lost. Addicts often threaten the people they care about with overdose, suicide, reprisals, and discontinued relationships because they know the impact that these threats can have on their loved ones. Playing into these threats is enabling the addict to continue exerting their wills over yours.
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4. Providing Money to Obtain the Drugs
Addiction progresses from the occasional use of the drugs for their positive effects to compulsive and uncontrollable use to avoid the withdrawals. It becomes very expensive as tolerance to the drugs continues to increase requiring higher and more frequent doses to elicit the desired effects and stave off withdrawals. Lending or providing money to obtain the drugs when an addict is suffering is contradictory to helping them get better.
5. Providing Support or Money for Other Expenses
Addicts who have been self-supportive before tend to lose their self-sufficiency over time. Providing money for food, gas, utilities, rent, or even the drugs to stay well may seem like the right thing to do when the person you care about is down and out, but, chances are they are using these needs to gain more of your enabling support, playing on your senses of generosity to maintain their habits.
6. Disregarding Your Own Wellbeing
The stress, anxiety, and pain that you feel, while coping with an addict and their addiction, will eventually begin to wear you down physically, emotionally, and psychologically. More often than not, a person who is enabling an addict gives up some of their own values, beliefs, assets, and time to make sure the addict is taken care of long before they take care of themselves or the others they may be obligated to protect.
7. Trying to Maintain Peace and Being Non-confrontational
Between the frustration, confusion, and fear; trying to keep peace in a relationship where peace is just a fleeting moment between one intoxication and withdrawal to the next, is a task that endures around the clock. Many times, the people who have a relationship with the addict will undergo tense, fearful, and confusing situations trying to avoid conflict at the expense of their own wellbeing. Sometimes, they believe it’s their own fault that the addict is suffering the way they are.
Addiction changes the way an addict perceives their wrongful behaviors and by avoiding confrontations in an effort to keep peace, you are enabling the addict to have a greater sense of comfort in what they are doing.
8. Picking Up the Broken Pieces
According to the NIDA, addiction “is a complex brain disease characterized by compulsive, at times uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use despite devastating consequences.” As the course of the relationship with the addict continues to deteriorate, you will probably be the one picking up all the broken pieces.
Bailing the addict out of jail, relieving their debts to creditors or drug dealers, and taking care of other obligations they have neglected is enabling the addict by not helping them to recognize the harms they are causing or the dangers they are in.
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9. Joining the Addict in Their Activities
Whether the addict is addicted to drugs or alcohol, joining them in the activities is a serious mistake. This way of enabling an addict removes any effect of the positive examples you may use to let them know you do not support their addiction choices and behaviors in the future. They gain a distinct leverage over you by using your own circumstances to justify their continued use.
10. Supporting the Use of Other Abusive Substances
It may seem less harmful to support the addict’s use of other substances such as alcohol or anti-depressants when the substance they prefer has wreaked significant consequences, but, this enables the addict to avoid seeking the help they truly need to recover. Abuse of other psychoactive substances doesn’t take away the cravings for other drugs, but rather, decreases the inhibitions to use them and often leads to overdose when they are combined.