Enablers are those in the life of an addicted person who provide help and assistance with things that the addicted individual is capable of handling themselves. Enabling may indirectly encourage the growth of the addiction, because it allows the person struggling to avoid or mitigate the negative consequences of their actions.
Common forms of enabling include paying bills, providing spending money, managing commitments such as work or school, and providing excuses for the addicted individual. Although enablers mean well and often truly care about the person they believe they’re helping, their actions often delay the realization of how bad a dependence or addiction has become.
If someone in your life is suffering from addiction, take the following steps to avoid becoming an enabler and learn how to genuinely help your friend or family member get the help they need.
- Don’t lie or make excuses for the addicted individual. It may be painful to see them miss out on opportunities at work or school, but it’s important that they take responsibility when they don’t honor a commitment.
- Stop providing financial assistance. Giving an addicted individual money is tacit to giving them permission to use their drug of choice. Also avoid paying any bills, fines, or legal fees.
- Do not take on simple tasks that the addicted individual would be able to do if they were sober. You may be helping them out in the short term by picking up groceries or filling up their gas tank, but by removing their daily responsibilities, you’re only allowing them to fall deeper into addiction.
- Do not participate in your loved one’s addiction. This includes not only behaviors like drinking around someone suffering from alcoholism, but also things like offering to buy them a drink or stocking beer or liquor in your house.
- Set firm boundaries and stick to them. If your loved one doesn’t stick to the conditions you’ve put in place, make sure to enforce your boundaries and don’t back down – that only indicates that they can continue to take advantage of you and that you’ll back down again in the future. It may be hard to cut them off or refuse to offer to help with things like bills, housing, or transportation, but boundaries allow you to look out for your own mental, emotional, and physical health.
If your loved one shows a genuine in getting help or treatment in the future, you can reach out to them and offer whatever assistance they need. But the difference between enabling and truly helping is stark – take a step back and make sure you’re not allowing someone in your life to be enveloped by their addiction.