Understanding Addiction with Reflections Recovery Center

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Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Is Alcoholism a Disease and can it be a Genetic Predisposition?

Language is, of course, one of the most important ways that humans communicate. The words we use are meaningful, especially so when it comes to serious issues like addiction.

Over time, language shifts to fit our needs and our understanding of the world around us. With regard to addiction, much of the language has changed from someone being an addict to someone dealing with or suffering from addiction. This is not without reason.

The more we understand, it’s apparent that addiction is about more than just personal choices or character defects. Many people wonder, “Is alcoholism a disease?” In modern times, there is the disease theory of alcoholism which theorizes that alcoholism, and other addictions, are a disease of the brain. Some experts disagree with this, though they concede it may still of course have something to do with genetics.

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a government resource, they state, “Relapse rates for addiction resemble those of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.”*

Other diseases require constant, life-long treatment and someone might see relapse after some time without symptoms. Unfortunately, many people often take addiction relapse as a sign that they themselves or treatment has failed. However, as NIDA states, “This is not the case: Successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases.”*

People have different genetics, of course, and how their genes affect their susceptibility to addiction will differ. Mental health is also a big part of genes and can play a part of alcoholism for many people.

At Reflections, we take this into account when forming a treatment plan as well as a relapse prevention plan. With the prevalence that alcohol has in society, it is not an easy thing to avoid.

Genetically Predisposed

For various illnesses, diseases, and even character traits, you’ll often hear someone say, “It runs in the family.” There are numerous causes; genetic factors are part of it, as well as societal and historical factors.

Trauma, a common element in addiction, is something that can impact multiple generations. Each generation might not go through the same exact trauma.

However, it can still affect the next generation and play a part in their issues. Per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk of AUD [Alcohol use disorder].”*

Genetic predisposition is a factor in many people’s struggle with alcohol–but, it is not the only factor. 

At Reflections, we take a look into people’s life up until they have come to us for treatment. We do so through laboratory testing, to understand their genetic history, as well as understanding their family history.

This gives us an idea of the social factors that also play a part in contributing to their addiction. If we understand as many factors as possible, we can provide a more thorough and effective treatment.

Dr. Lisa Parsons, our Medical Director, is interested in understanding biochemical imbalances. She works to identify any vulnerabilities in someone’s DNA that make them prone to addiction. This allows her to develop the best treatment for each client.

Alcohol and Mental Health

According to NIAAA, It is possible for an AUD to coincide with, add to, cause, or be caused in part by, mental health disorders.*

Mental illness does not mean someone will inevitably have an AUD, but it is possible to be a factor behind AUD. It is possible for mental health disorders to be passed through genetic and environmental circumstances.

It’s important that treatment providers distinguish the various types of mental health disorders, how they are caused, and what is possibly making them worse. NIAAA notes that mental health is affected differently based on whether someone is currently drinking, intoxicated, going through withdrawal, or sober.*

Depending on severity and length of use, it may take longer for someone to recover physically and mentally. Co-occurring disorders develop frequently with addiction. When this happens, it’s essential to treat each disorder fully to give patients the best chance at recovery.

According to NIAAA, it’s also possible for someone to have depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue without it being severe enough to be classified as a “disorder”.

If this is the case for anyone, they should not feel that their mental health issues are not as bad and therefore do not deserve the same care. We will work with each patient to treat any issues and to improve their mental health, regardless of classification.

It’s necessary to remember that mental health is not a final achievement to reach. It’s something to work on continually. That shouldn’t discourage anyone; even people with seemingly few mental health problems need to put in effort and take care of themselves.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Worldwide, 3 million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol…” This includes health problems from drinking as well as accidents.

It’s possible victims of harmful use may not have consumed any alcohol. The best time to seek help is now. Everyone should want to prevent all deaths and any harmful actions that happen as a result of alcohol use.

Alcohol use does not have to result in death to destroy lives. It’s not easy to acknowledge that you, or even a loved one, has a problem with alcohol. Once again though, now is the best time to do that.

Don’t let alcohol steal anything else from you or your loved one. Call us today.

Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment – NIDA
Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder – NIAAA
Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders – NIAAA

How Long Do Alcohol Cravings Last During Alcohol Addiction Recovery?

Those that are recovering from alcohol use disorders, especially those trying to quit alcohol on your own, often have a lot of questions about the alcohol withdrawal symptoms that occur when first stopping alcohol use. First of all, it is important to know and understand the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, as well as the alcohol withdrawal timelines.


Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Though the exact timeline depends on how much alcohol you usually drink, how long you have been drinking, your unique health conditions, and the patterns of your alcohol use; generally the timeline for alcohol withdrawal seen in patients with a dependence to alcohol is as follows:

Stage 1 Alcohol Withdrawal

After taking the last drink of alcohol, someone who is chemically dependent on alcohol with begin feeling the early alcohol withdrawal symptoms within 8 hours. Within the first 8 hours to 24 hours of alcohol cessation, you can expect the following symptoms – starting as mild-to-moderate, and getting increasingly worse:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal Upset, Stomach and Abdominal Pains
  • Headache
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Anorexia (loss of appetite and purposeful abstinence from food or even fluids)

Stage 2 Alcohol Withdrawal

After the first 24 hours without drinking, the alcohol withdrawal will begin to move into stage 2, characterized by worsening day 1 symptoms and the addition of the following symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:

  • Increase in Blood Pressure
  • Increased Body Temperature
  • Abnormal Heart Rate, Palpitations
  • Confusion, Trouble Focusing

In between stage 2 and 3 comes the peak symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. It is in this timeframe that severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or delirium tremens (the DTs) will make themselves known.

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens (DTs) Include:

  • Seizures
  • Dangerously High Blood Pressure
  • Extreme Confusion
  • Hallucinations (Primarily auditory hallucinations, but mild sensory and visual hallucination can occur)
  • Fever, Dangerously High Blood Pressure
  • Tremors, Uncontrollable Shaking
  • Paranoia
  • High Anxiety, Panic Attacks, (Feeling like you will have a heart attack or die is common, as your body is sending signals that something is very wrong)
  • Sleeping an Entire Day or Longer (In some cases of DTs the patient goes into a sleep patter through the DTs, a semi-comatose state)

Stage 3 Alcohol Withdrawal

In most cases, stage 3 marks a decrease in the intensity of stage 2 symptoms. After 48-72 hours, the symptoms slowly decrease in their intensity until “stabilized” within 2-3 days. This decrease should continue for the next few days until the symptoms are more or less resolved. However, because of the possibility of prolonged alcohol withdrawal, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), and a number of other factors, a person may feel alcohol mild withdrawal symptoms in some form or another for up to 6 months.

How long do the Urges to Drink Alcohol Last after Detox?

First of all, it is highly recommended that you go through medically-supervised alcohol detox that tapers you down before completely weening you off alcohol. This is the safest method for quitting alcohol, and will help to decrease the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms – including the urge to drink, or cravings for alcohol.

If you quit alcohol on your own – not using a medically assisted alcohol detox program – alcohol withdrawal symptoms can persist for longer, fluctuate in intensity, and put you had higher risk of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Self-detox, improper alcohol detox, and lack of alcohol counseling in the initial withdrawal stages can lead to increased urges in early recovery, or relapse due to uncontrollable urges to drink alcohol.

Why Some Alcoholics Have No Urge to Drink Again After Detox

The urge to drink alcohol is purely a mental symptom of alcohol dependence. The body has no need for alcohol unless you are chemically dependent on alcohol due to alcohol abuse. Many recovering binge drinkers and chronic alcohol abusers find that after alcohol detox, they have no craving for, or urge to drink alcohol.
It really comes down to how you look at alcohol use. If you know that alcohol is not going to give you any pleasure, and will only cause more harm than it has already done, it is much easier to resist these inflated mental “urges” to drink.

Some patients that suffer acute alcohol withdrawals, DTs, or severe alcohol withdrawals have stated that the experience was so bad that it made them never want to drink again – because they never want to feel that way again. The urges might still be there in the first few months of recovery, but they are able to resist those urges until they subside completely within the first year of sobriety.

Still, some recovering chronic alcohol users still have it in their mind that alcohol will give them benefits, or they don’t consciously recognize the negative outcomes associated with their choice to drink or not drink. Some foolishly still believe that alcohol can be fun in moderation, or simply want the feelings alcohol gave them in the past. These are not physical urges for alcohol, they are purely mental, and if you are feeling these urges, they need to be dealt with mentally – in the form of alcohol counseling.

How Alcohol Counseling and Alcohol Treatment Suppress Urges to Drink in Recovery

Alcohol treatment programs utilize counseling and mental health treatment to deal with the mental effects of alcohol addiction. Alcohol counseling can help dramatically improve many of the mental symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including the subsequent bouts of depression or anxiety that hit in the first months of sobriety.

Even more importantly, alcohol counseling uses therapies to tackle the mental urges to drink. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Alcohol Abuse are used to help you to realize that drinking again will not give you any pleasure, will not make you feel better, will not get rid of the urge to drink, and can only cause more harm. Once you have made this connection in your mind between alcohol and negative repercussions, resisting the urges is much easier.

A common saying in addiction recovery is “alcohol creates a need for itself.” You don’t need alcohol, but the addiction to alcohol can make you believe you do.

The Best Ways to Fight Urges to Drink in Early Recovery from Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

So many recovering alcoholics and former drinkers worry about the urges for alcohol that occur in early recovery, and believe that alcohol urges – like alcohol withdrawal symptoms – will never go away. This is truly a frightening thought, but unfounded. Alcohol urges and symptoms do go away, and they decrease every day that you stay sober.

Sure there will be times when you will be faced with a situation where you are tempted to drink (perhaps a company party, family get-together, an awkward social situation, or even times of stress), but as soon as you decide to NOT drink, you will be surprised at how quickly that urge subsides.

There are some tips for alcohol relapse prevention that can help you to overcome alcohol urges, though. Finding a non-alcoholic beverage of choice, remembering all the hard work you put into recovery, staying away from tempting situations, etc. These tips can help definitely help, but what helps the most is alcohol counseling and treatment during the beginning of your sobriety; and having aftercare options available to you, attending meetings, and having peer support work the best.

Thinking About Quitting Alcohol, or Have a Family Member that Needs to Quit?
The Best Start to Alcohol Recovery Begins with Alcohol Detox

Medically Assisted Alcohol Detox

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.

Learn About Our Family Counseling Program

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.

Check Out Our FAQs on Addiction

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.

Help for Parents and Loved Ones in Denial About Addiction of Family Members

Enabling is the act of shielding a loved one who is struggling with addiction from the consequences of his or her substance abuse. Families can enable the addiction without even knowing they are doing so. Many actions that family members or loved ones take with the intention of helping do more harm than good.

Addiction And Codependent Relationships

Families enable addiction because it is often more comfortable than facing the problem of loved ones struggling with addictions. This is the same reason the loved one abuses drugs and alcohol. This connection makes it easier for people struggling with addiction to teach their families to enable them. When families enable addiction, they make addiction comfortable for those abusing drugs or alcohol. Thus, they have no reason to quit or seek help, and it creates codependent relationships.

Four Enabling Behaviors Taught To Families 

Help for Parents and Loved Ones in Denial About Addiction of Family MembersPeople with addictions teach family members that the addiction is the fault of anyone or anything other than themselves. Loved ones then feel guilty for not having helped or solved the problem. Guilty families become enabling families.

Loved ones experience the threat of a host of consequences if they do not enable addiction. The fear of the person abusing drugs or alcohol hating them, never speaking to them again, committing suicide, or dying teaches families to enable.

Those struggling with addiction use hope as a tool to teach enabling behaviors. Their loved ones hold on to the hope that the addicted family member has a plan for recovery. As a result, the loved ones wait for an incident or person to inspire change and do nothing themselves.

People who struggle with addiction often see themselves as victims. They believe that their terrible life has led them to their addiction. They convince others of this situation as well, inspiring guilt and dodging accountability.

Denial And Addiction In Families 

Enabling not only hurts the person struggling with addiction, it will cause problems that affect the entire family. Arguing about the enabling behaviors and addiction disrupts once-peaceful families. Money and resources that would normally go to the entire family are spent on furthering an addiction. Other family members become resentful and anger distorts open communication lines in the family. Denial delays treatment for the loved one struggling with addiction.

Are You Enabling Addiction? 

Many family members do not even know they are enabling addiction. They tell themselves that their behaviors are helping. While these actions do come from a place of love and caring, they often do more harm than good. It is important to note that pointing out these behaviors is not meant to place blame on family and loved ones. The purpose is to better understand why family members take part in these behaviors and help them stop.

Enabling Behaviors 

Helping Obtain Substances 

This comes in the form of giving money, or a ride to the liquor store or dealer. Even if this happens with the intent of preventing their loved one from getting behind the wheel, it is enabling.

Turning A Blind Eye 

It may seem like a safer option to allow a loved one to use the substance in the house. However, this only provides them with a comfortable and consequence-free place to use.

Lying To Cover For Addiction

Family members can lie to cover for their loved one’s addiction too. Making up an excuse to an authority figure or downplaying the problem to someone showing concern is shielding the problem from the world and from help.

Empty Threats 

It can be easy to make empty threats and not follow through. A lack of boundaries reaffirms enabling behavior in the family member and addiction in their loved one.

Taking On Your Loved One’s Responsibilities 

Paying for bills, searching for a job, or cleaning up after a loved one with addiction makes them more comfortable and less likely to seek help.

Undue Stress 

A family member experiences emotional, physical, or financial stress due to the person struggling with addiction. If the regular interactions that a family member goes through to protect this person from the consequences of his or her actions causes undue strain on emotions and relationships, it is enabling.

No Sign Of Change 

Family members may continue to help their loved one despite seeing no signs of that person getting better. If there are no changes, something is not working.

Healthier Behaviors Instead Of Enabling 

Enabling behaviors prevent consequences and accountability. Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction begins with the person struggling with addiction becoming accountable for his or her actions.

As a family member or loved one of someone with an addiction, be sure to set clear boundaries. There is no need to clean up their messes, give them money, lie to others for them, or protect them from authority. Follow through on those boundaries for their sake and the wellness of the family.

Don’t be a supplier of temptation. If they struggle with drinking, don’t bring them to places where alcohol is easily available or drink around them. Encourage sobriety by helping them to find sober activities they enjoy. Remember to practice self-care. Enabling an addiction is not only unsafe for the person struggling, but also for the person enabling. Constant guilt and fear have a destructive effect on mental health.

Addiction Intervention For Families 

Family support for an addiction is important for everyone. An intervention gets the entire family involved and sets up a treatment plan for recovery and provides family support for addiction. Within that plan, everyone is accountable for their own actions in relation to addiction and enabling addiction.

An intervention allows the entire family to communicate and understand the full effects that enabling an addiction are having on everyone. Act before addiction creates bankruptcy, overdose, or a broken family. A family intervention is the first place to start if your family is in a cycle of codependency, denial, enabling, and addiction.

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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
Reflections provided me with the tools that got me where i am today with 14 months sober.
— Ricky A, Long Beach CA
Reflections gave me a life and an opportunity to become part of society. They challenged me and shaped me into the man I want to be.
— Dyer K, Gilbert AZ
I learned how to stay sober, found my best friends and created a new life at Reflections
— David S, Phoenix AZ

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