The Dangers of Enabling a Loved One Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

The Dangers of Enabling a Loved One Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be extremely difficult, leaving you wanting to do everything in your power to help them. But some perceived helpful actions, such as enabling, end up doing more harm than good.

According to experts, enabling is commonly defined as removing the natural consequences to the individual struggling with addiction of his or her behavior. In other words, it’s providing help when the person being helped could and should handle the task alone.

What Is Enabling?

Knowing what’s enabling and what’s not can be difficult. It’s not always apparent when you’re playing a role in supporting the addictive manners of a loved one or friend. Some examples of enabling behavior to look out for include:

  • Paying the addicted person’s bills
  • Cleaning up vomit or other messes made while they were drinking or using drugs
  • Calling in sick for the person and making excuses for why they can’t go to work
  • Bailing them out of jail or assisting in getting them legal help
  • Continually believing their lies and accepting their excuses
  • Avoiding discussions of their substance abuse, afraid that it will make things worse
  • Allowing yourself to be physically and mentally abused by the individual struggling with addiction
  • Perpetuating the addictive behavior as normal to your children or expecting them to act as if nothing is wrong within the family
  • Allowing your loved one to change the subject when their substance abuse problem is brought up 

The Harmful Side of Enabling

In terms of addiction, enabling can be extremely detrimental. Although it may begin as a well-intended effort to help, evidence has shown that experiencing the damaging consequences of their actions is often what drives an addicted person to admit they need treatment. By stepping in and helping them avoid such experiences, all motivation an addicted person might have to take responsibility for their own actions is now taken away, which allows their addiction to continue and progress.

Because it discourages them from addressing their problem with professional help, enabling a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol can often lead to situations that cause physical, mental and psychological harm as well as hamper their recovery.

While you can’t make your loved one stop abusing substances or accept treatment, you do have the ability to refuse to make it easy for them or continue to support their addiction. This can be a difficult habit to break, but it’s entirely possible to stop the cycle. Understanding, recognizing and stopping these enabling behaviors of yours can be an important first step in helping someone recognize their own destructive behaviors and that they need help to begin their path towards recovery and a healthy life free of drugs or alcohol.

By: Jenna Mitchell

Contact Elements Behavioral Health

Call 855-678-8337 for a confidential assessment or fill out the form below and we will call you.