Seven Signs that You’re Enabling an Addict
When an individual suffers from an addiction, his loved ones may begin to treat him differently. As addiction progresses, drug users often become unable to perform basic tasks, such as waking up for work on time. A concerned loved one may help the drug user wake up in the morning. Although helping a drug user function in daily life may seem kindhearted, helping too often can prolong an addiction.
How Does Helping Become Enabling?
Helping a drug user perform tasks that he can and should be able to do on his own is known as enabling. This type of behavior provides temporary relief to the drug user but is harmful in the long run. Family members who enable are often well-meaning, but unfortunately, enabling perpetuates the cycle of drug addiction. Signs of enabling include the following:
- Making excuses for the user and rationalizing his drug use. An enabler can come up with any number of reasons for the drug user’s behavior, such as, “He’s having a hard time at work,” “She only uses when she’s depressed,” or “He will quit using when he’s ready.”
- Calling in sick to work or school for the user. When a drug user is wasted or hung over, she may not be able to go to work or school and probably won’t be thinking clearly enough to call in sick. An enabler may call in for the drug user, thus preventing her from experiencing any type of disciplinary action from school or work for her absences.
- Blaming oneself for the user’s drug problem. Enablers often behave the way they do, because they believe that their loved one’s problem is somehow their fault. Some feel that they had not been supportive enough in the past and are trying to compensate by helping out more now.
- Making empty threats. Threatening to stop giving the drug user support but then not following through is common among enablers. Repeated empty threats make future threats seem weak, allowing the drug user to continue his behavior with no fear of his enabler’s threats.
- Lying for the drug user. Enablers may lie in order to help a drug user out of a tough situation. In fact, they often go to great lengths to cover up the user’s undesirable behavior. This type of behavior is exhausting for the enabler and destructive for the user, who will continue down the path of addiction, fully expecting the enabler to keep him from any real harm.
- Cleaning up after the drug user. Drug users may let their homes become untidy enough to become a health hazard. Enablers are likely to come over and clean the drug user’s home. Enablers are also likely to clean up after a drug user who is sick and experiencing symptoms such as vomiting.
- Bailing the drug user out. The term “bailing out” can refer to an enabler bailing a drug user out of jail, but it can also be used to describe many other situations as well. An enabler may bail a drug user out of a financial or social problem. Enabling is essentially a long series of events in which the enabler bails the drug user out of difficult situations, thus preventing him from ever experiencing the real consequences of substance abuse.
Truly helping someone who is addicted to drugs requires tough love. Drug users who suffer through the natural consequences of addiction are far more likely to seek recovery than those who do not. Families can help their loved one recover without turning to enabling. This may mean allowing the drug user to struggle through some unfortunate situations. Concerned loved ones can also stage an intervention or offer to help the drug user enter treatment. Entering treatment is the best chance the drug user has to experience recovery.
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If you or someone you care about is suffering from an addiction, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Call our toll-free helpline to learn more about your treatment options. We can secure a place in a high quality treatment program for you or your loved one. Our helpline is available 24/7 for your convenience, so please feel free to call anytime.