How to Stop Enabling Addiction
An old proverb says “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” There may be no truer analogy for the concept of enabling addiction. Parents, siblings, friends, and loved ones of an addict are the people in the world who love the addict the most, and henceforth, they become the people who try to protect the addict from the consequences of addiction.
The Need to Protect and Preserve
Addict enablers are mostly
well-meaning, but misinformed. Somewhere deep down they probably know that they are going about this all wrong, and yet there is a primal instinct at work which compels them to protect the ones they love. Unfortunately, this does not mean protection from addiction itself, but rather protection from potential hazards borne from addiction. Why?
Because an addict generally does not want protection from the addiction, they wish to engage in the addiction. However, they will take all other means of protection, because they seek to avoid other unpleasant effects. They really do not wish to be homeless, in extreme discomfort, or forced to engage in unsavory behavior in order to support their addiction. They just want the substance. That’s it.
Unfortunately, enabling addiction takes the responsibility off the addict and puts it on the enabler. Therefore, they are the one who suffers many of the consequences of the addiction. It’s almost like carrying someone else’s sin.
There are a number of ways loved ones enable addiction. They may house the addict, because he or she would otherwise have nowhere to go. They may financially support the addict, thus blindly freeing up money for the addict to spend on drugs or alcohol. They also may provide emotional support, protect the addict from criminal penalties, and deflect conflict which may upset the addict.
Important! If the addict does not have to face the consequences, then there is no incentive for change.
Stop Enabling Addiction
# 1 – Don’t Fear Consequences
Remember, you cannot save every person from everything every time. Trying to control the situation out of fear of repercussion only serves to prevent the addict from suffering the consequences which may, in fact, provide incentive for change.
#2 – Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries and communicating these to the addict will help him or her understand why you can no longer enable them, and how much it could cost you if you do otherwise.
Setting boundaries may include limitations such as
- Withholding financial help
- Refusal to lie or make excuses for their behavior
- Refusal to post bail
- Refusal to take on their responsibilities
#3 – Place Your Own Welfare First
It doesn’t matter if the addict is your husband, wife, son, or daughter. You cannot risk your own welfare for their sake. You will not be any good to them or anyone else if you are harmed in any manner related to their addiction. Selflessness is admirable, but it does not serve to help the addict or yourself.
#4 – Do Not Negotiate or Yield to Threats
Once you begin setting boundaries, there is a good chance the addict will try to change your mind, make concessions, or outright resort to threats. This type of behavior reveals a person who knows that their life is going to become more difficult very soon, and is frightened of the consequences. Yes, those very consequences which may be the only incentive the addict has to seek help.
If you or someone you know is an addict, please seek help immediately.