There is a small handful of people in my life that I would do anything in the world to help. Without hesitation, I would drop everything for them; give them the shirt off my back; open my home to them; take a bullet for them. Anything. If something ever happened to one of these people, I know I would crumble. Whether a child, spouse, parent or sibling, when you love someone – truly love someone – it is natural to want to do everything in your power to absorb any and all of his or her pain. When you love someone struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, this feeling can be overwhelming. It is deeply painful to watch someone for whom you care so much, destroy himself.
When Helping Hurts.
Despite the best intentions you may have when it comes to helping a drug addicted child, parent or spouse – it is easy to cross the line between helping and hurting. This line is especially blurry for families and individuals who haven’t seen addiction firsthand, or who have little experience in dealing with it. Helping: Help involves a positive action and adds value and progressive change in the life of another person. Help is supportive. Help lifts people up. Help strengthens others. Help makes others mobile. Help gets our loved ones to a place where they can support themselves. Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable doing himself. Help doesn’t control. Help doesn’t debilitate. Help doesn’t halt progress. Help doesn’t hurt. When help begins to hurt – it’s enabling. Enabling: On the surface, enabling looks a lot like helping. Upon closer examination – it’s the extreme opposite. Enabling discourages and de-motivates others. Enabling makes the other person powerless and unable to fend or provide for themselves. Enabling is debilitating and damaging. Enabling is doing thing for someone that he could (and should) be doing for himself.
Are You Helping or Enabling Addiction?
Enabling vs. helping is a tricky thing to determine without fully examining your actions – and the outcomes of your efforts. Start with these questions:
- Are your loved one’s circumstances or conditions improving? Worsening? Staying the same? Helping means that you’re doing something to lift up your loved one. If you are helping, their circumstances, mentality and health will experience positive changes. If your loved one’s conditions and addiction are not getting better – or getting worse – chances are, you’re enabling.
- Are your actions helping to self-empower your loved one? Are they becoming more dependent on you? Helping a loved one will inspire him to take life and his circumstances into his own hands – and provide for himself. “Covering for” your loved one or allowing him to avoid his own responsibilities, allows him to escape the consequences of his actions. Enabling allows him to become more dependent on you – rather than himself.
- Are your actions motivated by guilt? Fear? Why are you doing these things for your loved one? Why are you giving him or her money? Why are you lying to family about him? Why are you ignoring the bank statements? Being filled with fear or guilt often leads people to do things out of desperation – things that don’t help.
- Is your loved one doing his or her best to help himself or herself? Help is inspiring. It shows our loved ones that we care – and that we will lift them up to provide for themselves. Is your loved one doing his best to care for himself and make changes to his lifestyle to better himself?
- What good has come from your help? What bad has come from your help? Helping brings about good results – enabling keeps our loved one stagnant or regressing into worse behaviors and health.
Your Loved One Isn’t A Victim.
If your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, there’s a serious chance that you are acting out of fear, pain, guilt – or even anger. You see him or her in a negative or sorry light. In order to truly help someone with an addiction, you need to stop treating your loved one as a victim – and instead, envision them at their best. It won’t be easy – especially as you know they are at their worst. But by doing so, you’ll challenge them to own up to who they really are, and regain control of their life.