Enabling the Addiction

Am I making it worse?

There is a reason that an addiction intervention is often called a family intervention. Enabling, put quite simply, is the action someone takes or does not take that allows or helps an addict to continue drinking or using drugs. Often even with the best intentions of love, we inadvertently strengthen the addiction of a loved one when what we really intended to do was to simply “help them to stop”. This is especially difficult when dealing with teens and young adults. As parents, our first response is that we do not want to believe our child is an addict. Secondly, we want to give them time to work out their issues. This process usually begins slowly over time and almost always with the pure intention to simply help.

For example, the alcoholic is hung over so we call in for him at work because we don’t want him to lose his job. Or we lend the drug user money because he is in “big trouble” and says he needs our help or we give him money because we want him to finish school. The reasons are endless. And, the excuses are common. As untreated alcoholism and drug addiction progresses, so too can our enabling behaviors. We find ourselves tolerating more and more outrageous behaviors that we never would have considered dealing with previously. Because of this, we begin to compromise our own sense of morals and dignity. Our focus becomes more and more on the addicted one and we, very often, begin to lose ourselves in the process. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally and financially we end up feeling drained and powerless. At later stages, the addict’s behavior can even begin to affect us physically after the anxiety and stress of hundreds of sleepless nights begin to wear us down. In the end, it is usually only anger, frustration and hopelessness that is left.

Why won’t he / she get help?

The question is hard. The answer is simple. Right now his drug and alcohol use is more comfortable and natural for him as it has become or is becoming a way of life. Seeking treatment is the unknown. With all the negative consequences that we see, it may not appear that way to us, however it’s the truth. And the reason it is more comfortable for the addict is because we have helped to make it that way. It is common for us at Intervention INK to find a loving family completely encircling an addict. He has no job because the family loans him money. He has no apartment because the family lets him stay with them “just until he gets on his feet.” He is not in jail because the family has bailed him out. He drives drunk because no one confronts him. His grandparents do not know because the family keeps the addiction a secret. He is not in prison because the family didn’t want to give him any more legal problems, even though he has stolen from them time and time again. Does any of this sound familiar in your individual family situation? If so, please know that you are not alone.

Of course these are extreme examples, but enabling also occurs in families where the addict has not hit rock bottom and is still functioning in society. For us to more greatly understand our role in the lives of an addicted one, it is best if we break down the basic types of enabling behaviors during the intervention process, understand the effect this actually has on our loved one and look back into our past to see if we have exhibited any of the enabling behaviors ourselves. It is important to know that, even if you have demonstrated enabling characteristics in your past, it isn’t too late to change the direction of how you deal with the addict. These habits can be changed. That is part of the healing process not only for the addict but also for the family members. Keep in mind that as long as all the factors around an addict remain the same, he will continue to behave as he always has. Therefore, the person who offers enabling must learn to change their own behavior so that the addict will respond in a positive direction. In other words, by letting the addict feel the negative consequences of their lifestyle choice – not being sheltered and protected by others - they will be able to move towards a positive means to an end. However, this is only achieved when we stop enabling them to continue they way they always have.

At Intervention INK what we are trying to do, through our own personal experiences, is guide the family so that each family member comes to their own realizations as to how their past actions could possibly have affected the people they love. Identifying how we have enabled is just a part of the entire addiction intervention process, but still an extremely important one. Our goal is to teach family members how to handle situations that are common with addiction issues, while also taking into consideration that each family has an individual dynamic that might not be part of the norm. We are here to help. To help you understand the past. To help you understand the present. And to help you strive for the future.