Watching any person go through a troubling time makes you want to help. For some people, they go above and beyond the call of duty. If your loved one is dealing with a substance use disorder, enabling that person may be playing a role. For some families, substance use is a genetic trait. You might feel guilty about the situation. Becoming an enabler is common in these situations. Learn more about the enabling process and how it’s ultimately harmful to the dependent person. There are other ways to cope in these situations.
Wanting to Solve Problems
An enabler doesn’t come from a negative part of a dependent person’s life. In fact, enablers might be the closest people to the afflicted person. Spouses, parents, and other loved ones want to problem solve for the person. If the person is trying to quit drinking but there’s an obvious struggle, enablers might offer an alcoholic drink to him or her. This action isn’t because they want to see the dependent person fail at their goal. The offering essentially solves the issues at hand, such as:
- Reducing the stress of the situation
- Calming the person’s temper
- Putting a smile on his or her face
If the offered drink is taken, the problem is solved for a temporary period. The person feels satiated, which pleases everyone in the room. It doesn’t ultimately solve the long-term problem of creating sobriety and a healthy lifestyle, however.
Feeling a Sense of Entitlement
A person struggling with sobriety may come home from a long day’s work. A cold beer or cigarette after work may have been a habit in the past. However, the person is trying to stay away from these vices.
Enablers see the situation in a different light, however. They might believe that the person earned the right to have just a small drink or drag on a cigarette. They may reason that a small amount couldn’t hurt the person.
If loved ones convey this sense of entitlement to the person dealing with a substance use disorder, he or she might fall prey to the logic. Any sobriety that they fought for over the past few days or weeks is suddenly gone. Enablers must be strong so that their reasoning doesn’t block the healthy pathway of sober living.
Enablers are largely empathetic when it comes to substance use. In fact, they might use the substance in question themselves. Certain drugs are socially approved at this point in time, such as:
Illicit drugs in the household might be approved of because more than one person is dependent on the substance. With these factors in mind, enablers understand how the loved one feels. They understand the craving that’s involved.
By using the substance for just a short duration, the person would feel so much better about themselves or the day itself. This scenario is where enabling becomes a major problem. The thought process might come from an empathetic position, but it doesn’t help the person with a healthy lifestyle.
Loved ones must recognize that they’re only compounding the problem by being empathetic in these situations. Recovery is impossible with peer pressure in the home and by close confidants.
Enabling a person can also signify a weak point in the relationship. As an outsider, it’s difficult to see the loved one struggle with a substance use disorder. The frustration might take over the person who just wants their loved one to have some control.
The enabling person might expound on these statements, such as:
- Why can’t you just control your drinking and have one cocktail?
- Just take a Vicodin and you’ll fee. better.
Frustration and guilt are combined into these statements. It’s true that addiction in any form is difficult for everyone involved on a regular basis. True friends and loving relatives have to constantly think about their statements before they make them.
Being an enabler is much easier than fighting a daily battle. Everyone is human, and they’ll react in various ways as the loved one fights for a sober lifestyle.
Ignoring the Situation
There’s a stark contrast to expecting control of the afflicted person. Friends and family members may turn a blind eye to the situation. “Out of sight, out of mind” perfectly describes some enabling people. By ignoring the signs of addiction, they convince themselves that there’s no problem.
The afflicted person who used to have several loved ones around is now noticing a void. Those loved ones suddenly have other plans or commitments. They don’t want to deal with the situation because it’s becoming an overwhelming emotion in their minds.
Although you aren’t actively handing the person an illicit substance, the “out of sight, out of mind” scenario gives him or her permission to do as he or she pleases. Drug use might escalate without any loved ones to support the person in a sober lifestyle.
Reducing Strain on the Entire Family
A classic enabling habit that’s seen in many families is keeping the peace. Your son or daughter may have a drug issue. As a parent, you always clean up their messes. In this case, you might keep the peace with these actions, including:
- Paying for a car repair that stemmed from a drug-induced accident
- Bailing the person out of jail
- Calling in sick for the person when careers take a backseat to substances
Drug use recovery cannot occur if the person’s life is quickly smoothed out by enabling people every time. A struggle must ensue for the person to see the effects of his or her actions. Dealing with addiction is hard work. The rewards are substantial, but a rock bottom must be present as motivation to get sober and remain that way.
Stepping Up to Uncomfortable Situations
Enablers care deeply for their loved ones. They wouldn’t be enabling them if emotions weren’t part of the situation. However, the enabling must stop at some point. Family and friends should think of the addictive issues from a long-term perspective. Confronting the person may be difficult at first, but you’re doing something good for them in the end.
You might try a one-on-one conversation as a way to break the ice. Be aware that the loved one may become defensive during this process. It will be uncomfortable for both of you, but the truth must come out.
Don’t play a blame game with the person either. Tell him or her about your emotions and how this situation hurts you very deeply. Depending on your relationship with the person, this conversation might be the seed that grows into a sober lifestyle in the future.
Turning to Family Counseling
There’s no harm in seeking out counseling as a loved one of a dependent person. Family counseling gives everyone a fresh perspective on the situation.
You can learn several skills during these sessions, such as:
- Knowing when to say no
- Understanding subtle enabling signals
- Learning healthy habits that support and encourage possible rehabilitation
The dependent person doesn’t have to be in recovery at this point either. Your family may need the counseling boost to hopefully change the situation at home. If the enabling stops, addiction treatment might become a viable option in the person’s mind.
By creating a comfortable household, there’s no motivation for the person to seek help. Your counselor will go over effective household policies that improve everyone’s relationship with enabling. Remind yourself that knowledge is power as the loved one realizes that a change must come for an improved home life.
Working on the Loved One’s Behalf
If one-on-one conversations don’t seem to help, consider an intervention. This type of enabling works in the person’s favor as they struggle with sobriety. For some dependent people, they may not realize the extent of their problem.
Interventions offer these benefits to the entire family, including:
- Supporting the person while discussing the reality of the situation
- Creating a bond that will serve them through rehab and recovery
- Stopping the negative enabling behavior
In general, interventions work as catalysts for rehabilitation. They’re not guarantees of a successful outcome, however.
Ideally, families will have a professional guiding the intervention so that the entire process is as loving and beneficial as possible. Everyone’s emotions will be heightened, so a neutral person keeps the conversation on track and moving toward a decision at some point.
Helping With Facility Research
Your loved one may be dealing with both physical and mental issues as they agree to addiction treatment. Treating the situation now will work in everyone’s favor. Use your influence to guide a research process on nearby facilities. Explore these aspects of treatment, such as:
- Facility amenities
- Treatment types
- Insurance acceptance
- Length of treatment
A substance-dependent person may need a relatively rapid answer to their situation, so don’t spend too much time on research. A handful of places may suit the person’s needs.
You may want to visit a few facilities in order to really see the treatment in action. Your loved one will depend on the professionals’ expertise and guidance, so a reputable facility is paramount. Walk around each facility and ask your loved one about his or her feelings. One facility may be more comfortable than another one.
Supporting Loved Ones in Rehabilitation
Rehab professionals know that participants respond well to treatment with loved ones involved during the process. With this fact in mind, the enablers become the sturdy backbone that supports the dependent person through rehab.
Phone calls and inspirational letters can be used throughout the treatment process. Your loved one doesn’t have to be completely isolated from the outside world. Encouraging words and a good sense of humor can make the process much easier over time.
Most treatment facilities start with an inpatient schedule. Make the stay an easy one with these comforts from home, such as:
- Clean laundry
- A favorite pillow or stuffed animal
- Personal photos
Dealing with addiction isn’t just a physical process; there’s a mental side that must be explored before any progress is made. Knowing that the person is loved creates a whole new level of recovery.
Enabling in a Positive Way
With the dependent person in rehab, it’s time to put those enabling skills to the test. There are probably many changes that need to be completed at home. When the individual arrives home after treatment, there cannot be any items that remind him or her of previous habits, such as:
- Drug paraphernalia, including ashtrays
- Alcoholic drinks
- Notes, posters and other reminders of drug use
You might clean the loved one’s room so that any forgotten items aren’t left over as discoveries upon arriving home. Wash the linens and create an inviting space. Your loved one will feel like a brand-new person as they return home.
Be aware of any enabling friends who might drop by. Make it clear that only positive individuals with good intentions are allowed in the household. The recovering person needs a transition time to settle into his or her new life.
Knowing Your Limits
You’re not a professional addiction specialist. When your loved one returns home, remind yourself of those enabling days. Your loved one needs a new support system. Be there for them as a listener and inspiration. Participate in activities that are now part of a sober life.
It’s important to remember that a friend or family member cannot be everything to the recovering person. He or she requires external support from groups who understand the addiction perspective.
Be a supportive friend by locating support groups in your area. Look for a variety of groups that meet at different times of the week. If any issue arises, your loved one will have a place to go for alternative support.
Sobriety is possible when loved ones and dependent people work hard to fight temptations. You can be a warrior against substance use disorders by recognizing any enabling behaviors within yourself. Addiction treatment and tough love can help a person move forward to a better quality of life.