What is enabling?
No one wants to be accused of being an enabler. Dealing with recovering addicts, or loving someone who struggles with addictive behaviors you may feel obligated to help them. Unfortunately, the truth is that sometimes what may seem like helping can actually be doing more harm than good.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a simple definition of enable is to make someone (thing) able to do or to be something, to make possible, practical or easy. When we discuss enabling in the recovery community, we are talking about codependency and enabling that occurs in relationships with (recovering) addicts.
The subject of enabling can be a touchy idea because often times those who are the enablers feel they are actually helping. A common personality trait of an enabler is to be helpful. Most of the time enabling is seen as being helpful or supportive by the person committing the enabling behavior.
In a codependent relationship the enabler struggles with the stress of their loved one’s addiction. They usuall feel guilty if they are unable to do something for their loved one when asked. The person on the other end of this relationship (addict/recovering addict) knows exactly what to say, often through manipulation. The enabler neglects their own needs and responsibilities to help others.
The constant need for an enabler to please others, often times will lead to these types of behaviors:
- Resentment, guilt, anger
- Low self-worth
- Controlling behavior
- Making excuses for other’s behavior
- Struggles with setting boundaries
The first step to breaking the enabling behavior is to recognize there is a problem. There are many behaviors that could be changed.
Here are five things to keep in mind when making changes to your enabling behavior.
- Stop covering up the fact that your loved one may have an addiction problem. You need to make sure that your loved one sees the consequences for their substance abuse, this is the only way they will see that change needs to happen.
- Stop giving your loved one money, clothing, gift cards, and other gifts. Addicts are known for taking advantage of the people that love them. This can be hard at first, but clear boundaries need to be established in order to avoid having this continue in the future.
- Stop with the control and manipulation. Do you constantly see yourself trying to control your loved one? Attendance in AA, NA, or CoDA (codependency anonymous) will help you understand and accept that there is nothing you can do to control your loved one’s addiction. This will be beneficial to you.
- Make your loved one stay true with obligations. Stop making excuses on why they act the way they do, or why they blow off important dates or meetings. You need to hold your loved one responsible for their obligations so they can go out into society as a contributing member. Sometimes a hands-off approach can be beneficial, you are no longer there to be a crutch in times of need. This will show the addict that their actions are hurting themselves and everyone around them.
- Stop thinking about your loved one’s reaction. Your loved one will be angry once they notice a change in your responses to their behavior. When they realize that you are not paying their way or covering their lies it will be difficult at first. Remember to stay strong and keep these tips in mind when breaking out of those codependent ways.
The best way you can help a loved one struggling with alcohol or substance abuse is to get them the addiction treatment they desperately need. At A New Start, we specialize in an individualized treatment plan of the whole person, the mind, body, and spirit. Please do not hesitate to call A New Start today at (561) 571-8849 for more information about our intensive outpatient treatment program.