Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
The Difference Between Helping And Enabling Is This
Addiction is an insidious illness that compromises every aspect of life. It also negatively impacts the lives of family members. This disease is more powerful than the will to survive. Complicating matters further, most with it don’t know they have it until end stage. Addiction changes the way people think, feel and behave. These changes can most often be seen through unhealthy behavior patterns such as isolating, disconnecting from family, poor hygiene, sleep changes, financial difficulties and depressive and/or aggressive mood swings.
When you love someone struggling with addiction, it’s important to understand the difference between helping them and enabling their illness. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by their problems and get caught up in their chaos. You’ve witnessed their decline. You’ve tried helping them. You’ve tried talking to them. You’ve tried pleading with them. You’ve threatened them. You’ve yelled at them and you’ve cried. But nothing you do works.
Please note, your addicted loved one hears you. They don’t feel good about what’s happening, either. Addiction affects the area of the brain responsible for impulse control and reasoning. Simply put, they can’t stop. Each time they pick up the consequences get worse. Now, they’re not only overindulging, they’re driving impaired. They don’t show up for work. They get defensive when you ask questions. And money is missing from your wallet.
You may have a love/hate relationship with the addicted person. They’re happiest with you when you’re helping them. But when you say no, it’s a different story. You, on the other hand, aren’t happy at all. You’re exhausted. You’re tired of cleaning up their messes. You’re tired of bailing them out. You’re tired of fixing them. You’re tired of helping them and it’s taking a huge toll on you.
You can’t remember the last time you had energy or even felt good. You trudge through your days, distracted and in a fog. You beat yourself up and wonder if you did something to cause this.
You’re in survival mode and doing the best you can. Without education and support, your life will continue to spiral downwards until finally, something snaps. Most often that something is your marriage, finances or physical/psychological health. Families can suffer from nervous breakdowns, heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, chronic depression and fatigue.
All you wanted to do was help. But most who enable have no idea the help they’re providing is actually aiding in the demise of the person they love.
Enabling is doing something for someone who can and should be doing it for themselves.
Helping is supporting choices leading to recovery and wellness.
By the time someone has progressed deep into addiction, they appear unable to do many things without help. Some can’t keep a job. Because they have no money, they ‘borrow’ yours. Some can’t keep up their car payments or child support. They need gas money and money for food. They fall behind in the rent. The car insurance needs renewing. Their demands are endless.
They may rely solely on you for support. But appearances are deceiving. Addiction is a mirage. Substance abusers are highly intelligent people. They are masters of manipulation. Although it may look like they are needy and weak, they are not! The effort required to maintain a drug addiction could run a fortune 500 company.
Ask yourself this;
Are you making excuses for them?
Are you the first person they call when needing help?
Addicted persons use substances to feel better.
Enablers give in to feel better.
Both parties are doing the same thing, seeking temporary relief leading to longer term problems.
Enabling behaviors are part of codependency. Codependency is a condition affecting the individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying, relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction.” People with codependent traits often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.
Codependents and addicted persons both suffer from unhealthy behavior patterns and self-defeating thoughts such as;
Preoccupation; addicted person constantly thinks about substance. Family member constantly thinks about the addicted person.
Increased Tolerance; addicted person needs more of the substance to achieve the same effect. Family member becomes more tolerant of addicted person’s substance abuse.
Loss of Control; addicted person loses control of their behavior under the influence of substance. Family member loses control of their behavior when engaging with the addict.
Craving; addicted person experiences severe physical or psychological urge to continue using. Family member experiences severe psychological urge to control the addict.
Medical/Psychological Problems; addicted persons experiences weight loss, memory loss, organ failure, infections, abscess, dental problems requiring dental cleanings and treatment, neurological deterioration and poor mental health. Family members experience stress-related health problems such as high blood pressure, ulcers, insomnia, depression, mood swings, fatigue, migraines, clenched jaw, dental pain, heart disease and other chronic health issues.
Dishonest Thinking; both addicted persons and their family suffer from rationalizing, justifying, minimizing, denying, blaming, sneaking, lying, hiding, keeping secrets and isolating.
Enabling a substance abuser is helping them to commit suicide. So what can you do? First things first… YOU. Take your eyes off them (for now). Learn everything you can about addiction. Understand the addicted person isn’t the only one who gets sick. Each family member is affected.
Addiction can’t thrive without an enabling system. Instead of helping their disease, empower their recovery. Learn all you can. Don’t buy into the myths. Substance abusers don’t have to want to go to treatment, to succeed there.
If you’re worried about your loved one, Vertava Health can help. They will guide you in the process of becoming well and ultimately, helping your loved one, help themselves.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1888614-2379.