In order to stop enabling your loved one’s addiction, you first need to know that you are doing it. Ask yourself the following questions to assess whether or not you are an enabler:

  • Do you make excuses for their behavior?
  • Have you lied to anyone to cover for the addict?
  • Have you bailed them out of debt?
  • Do you avoid confrontation out of fear of their response?
  • Have you paid for bills that they were supposed to pay for?
  • Have you engaged in the same addictive behavior in order to relate and strengthen the relationship?
  • Do you give them repeat chances?
  • Have you threatened to leave and then not done so?
  • Have you finished a task they have failed to complete?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even just one of these questions, then at some point you have enabled the addict. If you answered ‘yes’ to the majority or all of these questions, then you have played a significant role in enabling their behavior.

Know the difference

Know the difference between helping and enabling. Enabling your loved one in their addiction is assisting them in doing things that they should be doing themselves, and could do if there was no addiction, while helping is assisting them in doing things that they couldn’t do for themselves, even when sober.

How to Stop

If you want to truly help, you can do so by being a source of love and support in their recovery efforts, setting boundaries in the relationship, and stepping back to allow the addict to deal with the consequences of their behavior. You are not helping by making excuses for them or taking over their responsibilities.

Stop providing the addict with a safety net. If you act as a safety net, then he/she will not come to an awareness of the need for personal responsibility and continue with their destructive behavior.

Don’t take over responsibilities that are not yours. If the addict has someone to take over their responsibilities then where is the motivation to get help?

Avoid giving or loaning money. In the throes of addiction, one’s ability to make rational and responsible decisions is diminished, so any money you provide acts as an enabler for continued use.

Create boundaries and stick by them. Make these boundaries feasible and realistic. You cannot control someone else’s choices and behavior, but you can set boundaries in place so that these choices and behaviors do not drastically impact your lifestyle.

Saying, If you dont quit drinking, I will leave!” is an ultimatum and a threat, but saying, I will not have drinking in my home” is setting a boundary.[1]

Stop making excuses. If you cover for the addict when it comes to responsibilities and duties like work, you are enabling their behavior. If you make an excuse as to why he or she can’t come into work for example, like saying that they have come down with an illness when in reality they are hungover, you might try to justify it by claiming that you are doing so to save their job. But a job loss is a consequence that may be an influential factor in their eventual decision to recover.

Detachment

For your own benefit, and for the benefit of the addict in the long term, it helps to detach. This does not mean that you stop caring, it just means that you let go of their problem, understand that it is theirs and not yours, and that you can step back and look at the situation from an objective point of view.

Through detachment, you can avoid the suffering that comes about from the addict’s behaviors. When you detach, you can focus on yourself and your own wants and needs. When you choose to detach, you can do so with love and compassion. As mentioned earlier, detachment does not mean that you stop caring. Nobody would expect you to stop caring about a loved one suffering from addiction. But you can detach from a place of compassion toward yourself and your addicted love one. When you do this, you show love to yourself by leaving that place of suffering and allowing space for personal joys, and you show love to the addict by ceasing to be an enabling factor in their destructive behavior.

Respect, understanding, and patience

By avoiding enabling behaviors and detaching from the problem, a family or partner can do well in playing a role in their loved one’s recovery. It is likely that the addict will notice the change, realize the consequences of their actions, and begin to think about recovery. Understand that it can take time for an addict to fully realize how harmful and upsetting their behavior is to those who love them, but if the process of change and recovery is met with respect, understanding, and patience, and hope is maintained, then sobriety may be on the horizon.

[1] Verywell Mind. (2019). How to Stop Enabling an Alcoholic or Addict. [online] Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-stop-enabling-an-alcoholic-63083 [Accessed 19 Feb. 2020].

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