Don’t Be an Enabler
If someone in your life is struggling with an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or some other destructive behavior, it’s possible that you’re actually enabling this addiction without even knowing it. An enabler is someone who inadvertently condones and allows a person to continue with an unchecked addiction by shielding them from the consequences of their actions. Often this happens because you love the addict and you want to make things easier on them. However, your sympathy could actually be doing them harm.
Enablers don’t come right out and say “It’s okay that you have this addiction, I support it.” That would be absurd. In fact, if the addict is your spouse, child, or close friend, you are likely counseling them to kick the addiction and get their life together. But words are meaningless if your actions are making it easier for them to continue coasting along on the path of addiction.
It’s the little things that make you an enabler. Giving the person a ride or money after they’ve wasted resources on drugs, cleaning up their messes or lying for them, taking over their shirked responsibilities, all of these actions seem perfectly helpful and have a loving intent behind them. But really all you’re doing in this situation is teaching a sick patient that they can continue to get away with their addictive behavior and irresponsibility.
It’s hard to stop enabling an addict you love, even after you realize what you’re doing. Feelings of guilt will settle on you and you worry that the addict will be in danger without your watchful eye or helping hand. While it’s certainly important to watch out for their safety and health and to advise them to get help with recovery, it’s not okay to live their life for them. The only person responsible for an addict’s life and choices is the addict him/herself.
If you’re having trouble with enabling, you can talk to a therapist or addiction recovery counselor for advice. Often this can lead to a more productive treatment process for the struggling addict as the counselor can suggest treatment programs and support groups to help. You’ll have to set strict limits on what you will and will not do for the addict, and hold fast to this line.
Not to suggest that an addict is a child or inferior human by any means, but when someone is under the spell of a troubling addiction, this person often behaves like an unruly teenager or small child. You must demonstrate clear consequences and suggest alternative routes to healthy choices and behaviors. Be firm and caring and the person you love will eventually make the decision on his/her own. Be supportive and caring but don’t enable their destructive behavior in any way.