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Tag Archives: Enabling

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

So many families are often confused on where to draw the line with helping a family member who is struggling with addiction – especially if that person is your child. Parents want to know how to help an addict without enabling… if you are enabling addiction, are you loving that person to death?

It is the natural instinct for parents to help their child and to provide for them – food, shelter, and assistance to keep them safe. However, the line needs to be drawn when you find that you are providing food, shelter and covering for their responsibilities only makes getting high or drinking easier for them.

Why would your loved one have the motivation to change an unhealthy lifestyle if it is so easy just to stay where they are at? This is what keeps many stuck in the cycle of addiction, with no desire to get out. That doesn’t mean that you need to cut off your loved one complete, nor should you put them into dangerous situations in an attempt to force them to change. Instead, you need to provide the right kind of help for an addicted loved one.

Enabling Addiction: The Wrong Way to Help a Loved One Struggling with Drug and Alcohol Abuse 

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Examples of How Loved Ones Enable Addiction and Substance Abuse 

In order to know the right way to help a loved one struggling with addiction to heroin, pills, alcohol, or other substances, you first need to recognize the behaviors that do not help. These are enabling behaviors and should be avoided.

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Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Denial (Refusing to Accept the Reality that A Loved One Is Addicted) 

Denial is a behaviors that is common surrounding substance abuse – and both the addict and those around them can have a hard time accepting the truth. Many parents ask how their addicted loved ones can be so crass or blatant with their drug and alcohol use, when they know what it is doing to those around them. Denial is very strong instinctive reflex to difficult situations.

The reality of the situation for the drug or alcohol user is that they have found themselves in a situation that is dire, and often denial is the only defense they have against a very harsh reality – that they are addicted.

For loved ones, denial is also very instinctive. Parents especially don’t want to see just how broken and in need of help, their children have become. Therefore, many loved ones don’t allow themselves to see the full severity of the addiction. This behavior not only keeps the family from formally realizing and addressing the extent of the addiction, but also sets an example for the addict. Remember, in the mind of an addict, the addiction is only as severe as the reaction of people closest to them.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Avoiding (Ignoring the Fact That A Loved One Is Addicted) 

For severe addictions, it can be harder for a loved one to avoid the signs and symptoms. When an addiction is causing failing health, work life, or personal life, it is easy to recognize and harder to avoid. With high functioning and functioning addicts, avoidance and denial are easier.

The avoiding enabling behavior is more common in the early stages of substance abuse and addiction, and loved ones often write off the signs of a problem as a “phase” or a stage that the individual will outgrow. In fact, it is just the opposite – parents and loved ones need to address the problem while in its infancy before it progresses.

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Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Being Quiet (Failing to Speak to Them about Their Addiction) 

Talking to a loved one about their problems with drugs and alcohol is not easy, and usually the individual will purposely make talking about the problem more difficult or uneasy in an attempt to avoid the conversation altogether. Addicts and those with substance abuse problems don’t want to talk about it – they want you to leave them alone and keep a situation where it is easy to get high or drink. Much like denial, being quiet only allows the progressive disease of addiction to worsen.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

 Allowing (Drug/Alcohol Abuse is Allowed in the Home or Controlled Environment) 

Many parents and loved ones that don’t understand the addiction, but recognize it, will often come to an agreement with the substance user. Drinking and using drugs is only allowed during certain times and under certain conditions, is an example of an attempt to create a controlled environment.

By creating a situation like this, you are only creating the illusion that the substance abuse is tolerated. You might think that you are only trying to lessen the dangers surrounding a loved one’s inevitable behavior, but when you look at it from the other side, these boundaries create an open situation where the substance abuse is tolerated, verified, and acceptable.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Justifying (Making Excuses for Them to Abuse Drugs or Alcohol) 

Justifying is similar to allowing, in that it establishes certain substance abuse behaviors as acceptable. A great example of this type of behavior is when families justify substance abuse due to past traumas that the individual might have gone through.

PTSD and trauma should not be seen as qualifying conditions for substance abuse, rather they should be seen as risk factors. Allowing a loved one to lean on past events or existing medical conditions as an excuse for substance abuse and self-medicating blocks responsibility and accountability. In order for an individual to change their behaviors, they need to know and accept that their current behaviors are not justified and they need to be motivated to change.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Being Ashamed (Trying to Protect the Family Image) 

Being ashamed is closely related to denial. This behavior happens when family members feel embarrassed or ashamed at the behavior of a loved one regarding their substance abuse. As a reaction to this shame, the family member often reacts in a toxic manner.

Disowning or cutting off the family member, refusing to communicate with that family member, or cutting the addict completely out of familial life and events are all reactions based off shame. While these reactions may seem justified in the mind of those feeling ashamed, they are not productive and can only hurt the addict and worsen their state.

It is important to note that the common reaction to these actions is often to care less about their worsening addictions and sink deeper into both depression and substance abuse.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Lack of Accountability (Buying them Necessities, Paying Rent, or Bailing them Out of Jail/Emergencies) 

Lack of accountability stems from the addicts perceived lack of repercussions from continuing their substance abuse and negative behaviors. If there are no repercussions for their behaviors, why would they care to change? Accountability must be established, if the addict is going to motivate themselves to make a change.

It is important to note that there is a fine line between cutting off a loved one to leave them helpless and only providing support that will help the situation to better. The problem comes in when you are offering the basic necessities but not a way to get out of the situation where they depend on you for those necessities.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Trying to Control (Attempting to Control a Loved One’s Behaviors) 

This type of enabling behavior is rarer than others, but is extremely toxic to the addict. Controlling the behaviors of the addict stems from codependency on the part of the loved one. In certain situations, a family member may feel emotionally dependent on the addict, and therefore uses enabling the substance abuse as a barter. They allow the substance abuse, or provide an environment where the substance abuse is accepted in order to feel emotionally connected to the addict.

If the addict depends on you to continue their addiction, than you are needed – right?

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Say No to Enabling (And Yes to Help) 

The main difference between enabling an addict and offering them real help, is that real help offers the chance at bettering the addict’s life, getting them help to treat the addiction (not strengthen or feed it), and performing actions that can lead to recovery.

How to Help an Addict without Enabling 

Familial bonds make it difficult to understand where the line between enabling and helping lays. It is also extremely difficult to bring yourself to cut enabling behaviors, and can cause emotional distress. Simply put, reversing enabling behaviors and replacing them with honest help for an addict often needs the help of an intermediary. Breaking enabling behaviors is best done with the help of professionals during an intervention that involves all members of the family that make up the enabling structure. This is the first step in addressing the enabling behaviors and offering real help for the addict. It will take time for the addict to heal from their addictions and behaviors, but it also takes time for the family to learn how to help without enabling.


Help for Families Enabling a Drug-Addicted Loved One 

Reflections Recovery knows and understands the struggles that families go through with a loved one, and we know that enabling behaviors like these cannot be broken overnight.

We offer intervention services for the family to help with the initial stages of addressing substance abuse and addiction, and the help you receive from us follows through the entire continuum of treatment – through detox and therapy to aftercare and ongoing addiction support.

Call us today to take the first step in getting help for your loved one.

6 Ways You’re Enabling Your Loved One’s Addiction

Substance abuse problems across the United States are rampant. This unfortunate reality affects more than 21 million Americans. Even worse, this widespread pattern of drug abuse has put millions of American families in proximity to a dangerous addiction.

The challenges of supporting a family member who struggles with drugs and alcohol are significant. The problem becomes even more extreme when family members are actively contributing to the addiction.

Why would the family members of those struggling with substance abuse actively want to keep acting out a pattern of toxic family dynamics known as “enabling behaviors”? Answering this question, exploring examples of what enabling behavior looks like, and understanding the need for a professional intervention can help solve the problem for good.

This post outlines six of the most common forms of enabling behavior and what may motivate family members to act out these emotionally destructive patterns.

How Does Enabling Happen? 

The truth is that it’s very rare for a family member to actively plot against the health and success of another. Enabling behaviors are more often related to emotional baggage and unresolved tension between family members that existed before the addiction.

These are some of the most common examples of negative emotional baggage that lead up to enabling behaviors between family members:

Guilt Over the Addiction 

 It’s not uncommon for a family member to feel a sense of responsibility for a loved one’s addiction. This person may even feel that a mistake they made in the past pushed the loved one into drug use. Alternatively, a family member may feel like allowing the loved one to pursue treatment out of the home is a form of failure as a parent or sibling.

As long as this guilt clouds their judgment, a family member can’t be counted on to help support their loved one in getting real help. This may lead to actively working against the treatment process so that they still have a chance to solve the problem themselves.

An expectation that the Addiction Will Pass 

 Accurate information about addiction is scarce. Some individuals strongly believe that overcoming addiction is as easy as locking a family member in a bedroom and waiting for the cravings to pass. However, this approach is not only ineffective but also puts a family member’s life in danger.

Family members won’t be able to move past this obstacle until they recognize that they have much to learn about combating addiction. Furthermore, they’ll need the assistance of medical professionals and addiction specialists to find long-term success in addressing their loved one’s addiction problem.

Fear of Family Abandonment 

A long-term substance abuse problem begins to affect a person’s brain chemistry. Eventually, individuals suffering from addiction will be willing to do just about anything to keep using, including weaponizing the love of their family members. They may threaten to run away or commit self-harm if they are pressured into treatment.

For many family members, this threat is sufficient to give up on the idea of getting help. The cycle of enabling is particularly dangerous because it leads to family members accepting a loved one’s addiction as an inevitable part of their lives.

How Enabling Becomes Codependency 

When family members engage with addiction specialists and get their addicted loved ones into treatment, they address enabling relationships quickly and establish healthy family social dynamics. When families don’t take these steps, however, the problem risks becoming even more serious.

Some individuals eventually develop their own psychological dependency on enabling an addicted loved one. This two-way addiction relationship, known medically as codependency, creates even more barriers between a loved one with a drug addiction problem and live-saving treatment.

Reasons Why Enabling Happens 

Understanding why enabling happens is the first step toward putting a stop to it. Next, family members must be able to recognize what enabling looks like in their own household. Being able to spot enabling in action means understanding what motivates someone to enable an addicted loved one in the first place.

Here are a few scenarios to help illustrate why a family member would enable another:

  1. Keeping a Secret 

    A pair of siblings are very close to one another. They’ve shared and kept each other’s secrets since childhood. In college, one of them starts to experiment with methamphetamine and becomes addicted.

Not wanting to undermine years of trust, the sibling does not reveal this startling development to other family members. Eventually, the sibling is willing to cover and lie for the addicted family member, not wanting to risk a lifelong friendship with a close loved one.

  1. Playing Provider 

A grandmother sends a small allowance to one of her adult grandchildren who recently lost his job, hoping to help support him as he looks for a new one. She finds out that he has been spending her money on marijuana instead.

After asking him to promise to not spend the money she sends him on drugs, she continues to forward him the allowance for months. Ultimately, she ignores her better instincts because she is attached to the feeling of being a provider.

  1. Supporting Through Excuses 

A husband notices that his wife has been drinking (and mixing alcohol with her antidepressant medication) more and more often. She gets defensive about the issue when he confronts her.

The husband resolves to monitor her behavior and only intervene when he feels like the problem has escalated too far. In the meantime, he begins to call her in sick to work and make excuses to family members when she is too hung over to function. His reasoning is that it his duty as a husband is to protect his wife’s reputation.

  1. Protecting by Delaying

A mother has watched multiple news reports about underqualified drug treatment programs and has developed a fear of sending her child into treatment for heroin addiction. She is eventually convinced into touring a few facilities to ease her fears, but she instead finds even more excuses to delay treatment.

Eventually, she becomes convinced that the best way to address the problem is to perform her own form of detox and rehabilitation in her own home.

  1. Feeding Tension 

The youngest of three siblings is currently struggling to keep up their grades in school and is relieved when their oldest sibling is caught using MDMA. Now, the attention of the family is on the oldest sibling instead of the youngest sibling’s performance in school.

The youngest even go out of their way to not mention anything when they observe the oldest slipping back into drug-using patterns. This passive enabling can be just as dangerous as handing a loved one money to buy drugs.

  1. Accepting Addiction 

A father has recently found out that his daughter, a high-powered attorney, has been using cocaine on a regular basis on weekends. He confronts her on this and she doesn’t deny it, arguing that she can afford it and that as long as it doesn’t interfere with her work, it’s not a problem.

Feeling helpless about solving the problem, the father gives up and goes home. Not wanting to feel like a failure as a parent, the father resolves to pretend the problem isn’t there.

Contact an Intervention Specialist 

Codependent and enabling relationships are complex, toxic and dangerous. It’s too much to ask for one family to handle this issue by himself or herself. After all, most of the family drama that would undermine an attempt at treatment develops long before the addiction. Without the watchful eye of a neutral third party, figuring out how to untangle these emotional webs is nearly impossible.

Thankfully, professional intervention specialists are available to help with this exact predicament. In addition to helping family members plan an intervention, these specialists can spot the troubling family dynamics that arise with codependency. Doing this work early ensures that the intervention that guides a loved one into treatment is ultimately successful.

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What real clients have to say about Reflections Recovery Center in Arizona
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