Did you know over 21.5 million Americans aged 12 or older experienced substance use disorder in 2014 alone? This has affected millions of other lives, including their families’ and friends’. If you’re looking for more information, chances are you could use some help answering the question, ‘Am I an enabler?”

However, some of the reasons why an addict may have continued abusing substances are their friends and families, too. They may be enablers, which might have prevented an addict get the type of help they needed at the time.

If you have a loved one suffering from addiction, how do you know you’re enabling an addict? How do you know your help isn’t perpetuating the problem instead of solving it?

Enabling can be in the guise of help; read on to see which actions are enabling.

1. Lying to Cover Up Their Behavior

It’s quite common to cover up your loved one’s behavior to save face or to protect them from consequences. Families will lie to employers on behalf of their loved one who has failed to show up for work for days. They might lie to the addict’s friends and other family members to keep his/her condition hidden.

Although these actions are understandable, they do nothing to help the addict. Losing a job isn’t desirable but it’s a natural consequence of being unable to show up.

Lying to prevent an addict from facing consequences enables their addiction. They don’t realize the effect of their condition on them and on their loved ones.

Well-meaning friends and relatives might also be in the dark about their addiction. This would make them unable to help them the right away, further sending the addict down the rabbit hole.

2. Making Excuses on Their Behalf

Addiction isn’t always obvious. Your loved one might have symptoms here and there but nothing apparent. This is why friends and family might make excuses in their minds for a sudden change in behavior.

Enablers will tell themselves, “it’s because of stress” or “he’s acting different but there must be another reason.” Often, they don’t want to think of the worst case scenario. They may also have doubts about whether their loved one relapsed or not.

This is enabling because it delays treatment and it lets the addict continue with their ways. As you delay accepting the truth, they might even continue on to do some irreversible damages. These include the loss of a job, a car crash, or even a loss of life.

3. Ignoring Their Potential Dangerous Behavior

If the addict is already exhibiting dangerous behavior, acting like there’s nothing wrong shouldn’t be anyone’s choice of action. If you do know that there’s a problem but you choose to overlook it, you might get yourself in a risky situation.

Their brains change with the use of drugs. If they were harmless before, that doesn’t mean they can’t hurt you now. If they can’t get their next fix, This can make them restless, irritated, and even violent.


4. Supporting Them in Financial Matters

An addict will have no second thoughts on spending their money on drugs. Most of them spend it until they’ve exhausted their savings and properties. Many can’t even hold a job together, losing their main source of income.

As a result, they’re bound to run out of money for buying drugs and alcohol. They won’t also be able to pay their bills, rent, and get other essentials like food.

At this point, they’ll resort to asking for financial help from their friends and family members. They’ll tell you they’ll use it for paying bills. This can be a good enough reason for some people to be comfortable about giving them money.

Now, there are times when they’ll tell the truth and the money is for bills and groceries. Still, this isn’t any different from giving them money outright so they can fuel their addiction. It teaches them that they can continue to use their own money for buying drugs and alcohol instead.

It can be hard watching a loved one struggle, but practicing restraint on your part may be the help they need. Having no more money to fund their addiction might be the push they need to better their lives. If you continue to provide financial support, you’re saying in a way that their addiction is okay.

5. Takes Over Their Responsibilities

An addict will lose the ability to perform their responsibilities at home or work. They may forget to clean the house, keep the lawn trimmed, or bring the children to and from school. As a result, a spouse or a family member may feel obligated to pick up these tasks.

Losing a job, for example, means the spouse has to work more hours to keep up with their bills. When an addict fails to wash the dishes, their sibling might take over that duty instead.

This has the same effect as giving them money. You’re saying that it’s okay for them to continue using drugs as someone else will pick up their responsibilities. Not forcing them to do their chores will also give them more time for their addiction.

6. Avoiding Confrontation with the Addict

The signs are all there and the addict is well on their way to hitting rock bottom. Still, some people will avoid confronting them about it for various reasons. They may not like confrontation or they may not know how to go about it.

Either way, the inaction is unhelpful, and it may even be harmful. The addict will continue on a downward spiral until someone gets hurt.

Still, these reasons for avoiding confrontations aren’t unfounded. An addict gets defensive; they’re often in denial about their condition.

They often have the reasoning that they “can stop anytime they want.” They may also lash out at you, get violent, or say hurtful things to keep you off their backs. The truth is that they also don’t want to confront their addiction.

If you avoid confrontation, however, nothing is standing in their way. As a result, they’ll continue on with their lives as if nothing’s wrong.

7. Giving Them Too Many Second Chances

Often times, people don’t want to do anything drastic the first time they’ve gotten wind of a loved one’s addiction. They’ll talk to the addict, who might then apologize and say they’ll stop and get better.

This is not often the case, however. Without professional help, it’s easy to relapse and go back to their old ways. The next time you confront them about it, they’ll say the same thing.

The same thing happens – you’ll forgive them then give an ultimatum. You’ll end up thinking to yourself, “he’ll come around” or “he’ll keep his word this time” over and over.

The cycle then continues until one of you decides to do something about it other than forgiving. Sometimes, an addict needs to face the consequences of not following through on a promise in order to change. That won’t happen if you keep giving them second chances.

8. Having a Codependent Behavior with the Addict

Sometimes, the actions above are because of codependency with the addict. Many fear that talking to them and staging an intervention might cause the addict to be angry and run away.

In this scenario, they’re being dependent on the addict as much as the addict is dependent on them. They may need the addict close by in order to fulfill their emotional and/or physical needs. Thus, they end up enabling the addict, whether they’re unaware or not.

This is sometimes rooted in the fact that other people like feeling that another one “needs” them. An enabler may take pleasure from being a caretaker of another human being. They make sure that the other party always “needs” them.

This becomes unhealthy when this feeling overrides the desire for the addict to become better. This behavior isn’t helping them get over their addiction, it’s helping them stay sick.

The Difference Between Helping and Enabling an Addict

To stop enabling an addict, it’s important to know when you’re helping and when you’re enabling. By definition, enabling means performing actions that don’t allow the addict to reflect, thus delaying their confrontation with their condition and situation.

In this scenario, helping might be inaction; not supporting them with their bills, chores, work, and other responsibilities might be the help they need.

Of course, you can also take action to help, such as by staging an intervention or forcing them into rehab. You may also extend financial help by paying for an institution to assist with their rehabilitation.

When the addict gets better, you can further help by not mentioning the substance around them. You may also help them get back to their feet by providing a room in your house or assisting them in looking for a job.

Find Help for Addiction Now

If you find yourself enabling an addict, it’s time to take measures that will help instead. Contact us today and let us know what you’re going through. Let’s discuss how we can help with your loved one’s addiction.


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