Addiction reaches every aspect of a person’s life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It affects family, friends, neighbors, co-workers. No one is left untouched by this disease. Each month, Vertava Health breaks down one of the facets of addiction to offer insight, education, and healing. For the month of February, we will bring you articles, stories, videos and photos about enabling addiction and what it looks like to love someone to death – as well as our focused drug of choice: alcohol. At Vertava Health, our mission is inform you, educate you, and provide treatment for you and your family through the darkest times of addiction. We are here to love you back to life. We hope you will come back for information that may help save your life or the life of someone that you love. Read on. Do you have a son or daughter, parent or friend that is addicted to alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs? If your loved one is struggling with addiction and you’re enabling them, your actions – are killing them. When it comes to drugs and alcohol addiction, ENABLING is the number one cause of death. Let me explain. It’s human nature to want to help a friend or loved one who is in need. There’s something honest and genuine about coming to their aid – when it is appropriate. But when it comes to “helping” someone who is addicted to wine, beer, liquor, Vicodin, heroin, or meth – you may not be helping at all. In fact, the chances are that what you’re really doing is enabling that person. You may not be doing it on purpose. You may be doing it with the very strongest feelings of love and compassion, and fear for your loved one’s well-being. You may even know you’re doing it, but you make excuses like, “I know I’m enabling, but…” It does not matter. Your actions can put them in their grave. There IS a difference between the helping and enabling – and knowing that difference could be the difference between life and death. But because the line between helping your loved one live or enabling a horrible disease is all too easily blurred by things like love, fear, and exhaustion – we need to clear up the difference between “helping” and “enabling”. Helping means you are doing something for your loved one that they can’t do for themselves – or can’t do alone. Enabling means removing the natural consequences of someone’s actions.
What makes enabling deadly?
If you have friend or loved one dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, you know all too well that it’s a serious problem – a problem that can damage relationships, destroy families, ruin careers, cause financial devastation, lead to violence and crime, medical problems – and that it often times leads to death. While it is a harsh reality, there are serious injuries, overdoses, car wrecks, suicides, homicides, and assaults that occur every single day that are directly related to drugs and alcohol. When you enable someone who is struggling with addiction, you’re not only condoning his or her addiction – you’re perpetuating it. You’re sending the message, “Don’t worry. It’s OK if you keep using. I’m here to help you so you can avoid the consequences of your behavior.” Enabling allows your addicted loved one to keep on using without worrying about the consequences. Enabling makes it easy for them to continue down their path of devastation and destruction without any responsibility. When you keep on rescuing them and taking care of them, what incentive do they have to change their behavior. None. By allowing them to continue down this path, the longer they keep using. The longer they keep using, the stronger the addiction becomes, and the more difficult it will be for them to get into treatment – if ever. So, is that really what you want?
Why does someone become an enabler?
If you’re enabling someone you love – I am NOT trying to beat you up for it. The truth is, you are not alone in this. Your loved one’s addiction likely has you feeling caught between a rock and a hard place. You might feel like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. After all, you don’t really want to enable your loved one, but you’re terrified of what will happen if you don’t. Or maybe, you have a desperate need to feel needed by your loved one. They’ve pushed you away so many times, it feels good – almost important – to feel needed. These are some of the most common reasons why people enable their drug or alcohol addicted loved ones: Fear. Enabling is many times motivated by fear. When you’re terrified of what might happen to your loved one if you don’t help – it’s easy to enable if it means keeping them out of jail, keeping their electricity on, or helping them keep their job. Misguided Love. Seeing a loved one at risk of going without food, losing their job or being evicted is one of the most heartbreaking things imaginable. Maybe you tell yourself you’re being loving by stepping in “just this one time” by giving them cash for groceries, calling in for them to say they’re sick, or paying their rent. Exhaustion. Dealing with someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction can be absolutely draining physically, mentally and emotionally. Many times, people end up enabling because they’ve grown weary of fighting what feels like a futile battle. No matter how strong you are, when disease hits your family – you can get worn down. Codependency. Sometimes, addiction can create unhealthy relationships between people. It’s common for people with a drug or alcohol addiction to form a relationship with people who are codependent. People who are codependent enable their addicted loved ones because they’re too emotionally dependent on the dysfunctional relationship to risk losing it. Protecting the “Family Image”. Some families will go to great lengths to protect their family image. By paying their loved one’s bills, or covering for them when they miss work or functions – they are actually enabling them to continue down their destructive path of addiction. Ignorance. We’re not saying you’re dumb for enabling. Maybe you’ve never really seen addictive behavior and truly don’t know what to do or how to do it. Maybe you don’t realize that you’re only making things worse. You can only do better when you know better. Examples of Enabling:
- Turning a blind eye to their addiction or behaviors
- Accepting your loved one’s excuses
- Making excuses for your loved one
- Lying for your loved one
- Lending your loved one money
- Paying for things for your loved one (ie. groceries, rent, utilities)
- Rescuing your loved one (ie. letting him live with you)
- Supplying your loved one with drugs or alcohol
- Going with your loved one to get their drugs or alcohol
- Supplying your loved one with drugs or alcohol
- Blaming other people or circumstances for your loved one’s addiction
- Blaming yourself for your loved one’s addiction
Need to stop enabling? Here’s what to do.
If you’ve recognized these signs or behaviors in yourself, it’s time to stop letting your loved one kill themselves with drugs or alcohol. In order to stop your enabling behavior you must:
- Understand why you’re enabling
- Recognize and accept you’re making their addiction worse
Admittedly, neither of those are easy. But the consequences are too deadly to continue what you’re doing now. Finally, you need to reach out for help. Your loved one’s addiction will NOT go away on its own over time. And bad consequences – even deadly consequences – are inevitable if their addiction continues. Being part of the problem is like handing someone who is suicidal a gun and telling them you’re there to clean up the mess when they pull the trigger. Addiction kills. But, help is available – for both you, and your loved one. Call 888-601-8693.