Enabling an Addict

Watching someone you highly care about experience the struggles of an addiction can be hard. It’s only obvious that you want to reach out and help them to stop the vicious cycle of suffering.

Close friends and especially parents will want to lend a helping hand regardless of how complex or risky the situation may be. When the addict happens to be a teenager or young adult, sometimes a parent or guardian’s desire to help can actually backfire on the addict’s long term recovery and journey back to health. The more enablement an addict has to help them continue their unhealthy behavior, the longer they will wait to make a change. They will also become used to relying on others to work hard on their behalf to pick up the fallen pieces. It’s important to watch out for any signs of enabling behavior and initiate changes to prevent negative consequences. Continuing to enable somebody will  ultimately result in prolonging someone’s addiction.

Recognizing an Enabler

When it comes to truly assisting a young addict, there’s a gray area with showing them enough emotional support and just encouraging their negative behavior. When you’re behaving as their foundation of help, you are assisting them by doing things they truly can’t do very well alone. Yet, enabling means you are regularly doing things that the other person could and should be doing by themselves to learn how to be strong and independent individuals. They will never learn from their mistakes as long as their mom, dad, or guardian is there to cover for them.

An enabler will also make a huge mistake by prioritizing the addict’s needs instead of their own and sacrificing their physical health, mental health, and timely schedule in the process. For example, an enabler could miss important events for their work or skip out on meeting with friends or doing hobbies to help save the addict from a dangerous yet self-caused situation, like being too inebriated to drive themselves home safely. If the addict gets into legal trouble, the enabler may try to cover up their mistakes by putting the blame on themselves or paying for the legal fees.

Other red flags are enablers developing resentful feelings towards the addict since they are overloading themselves with tasks or issues they can’t handle, lying to themselves about how normal and acceptable the addict’s habits are, and spending too much energy focusing on the addict’s state of mind in general. Doing any of these behaviors only is contributing to the harmful environment that addict is living in. Over time, they will only start to believe that no matter how bad things get, you will always be there to mend the stitches and bring them back on their feet.

Breaking the Cycle

Since addiction affects just about everyone in the addict’s social and professional network, taking steps to avoid resorting to the easy way of enabling them can play a big role in on how well they can cease their vicious cycle of substance abuse. If a person realizes that they’re enabling often throughout each week, they need to quickly seek therapy or advice to create an individualized action plan with a professional to change how they react to the addict. They need to stop making excuses, lying, and covering up for the sake of the addict.

As a person who experienced being an enabler myself, I know first-hand that being close friends with someone who had an intense addiction to drugs is difficult to go through. The addict was a person that I had known for several years since high school, and while we weren’t related I thought of him as part of my own family. Being younger and feeling helpless with how to help his situation, I was scared to initiate an appointment with a therapy professional for his own sake. Instead, I was driving around and taking him from house to house to get the drugs he needed, covering up his mistakes, and lending him emotional support when his highs and lows took a dark turn. Looking back, I wish I knew better to be brave and not take an easy route to avoid making my friend upset. I definitely learned that I have to remember that doing what truly is best for them will not always be accepted in the present, but will be appreciated in the long run when they realize how positive their life beings to feel again.

Start Your Journey

Many people battling the cycle of substance abuse and addiction find that turning to the aid of therapy and support groups provided by rehab centers can make a real long term difference. Instead of being “safe” and enabling behavior, reach out to the resources that are available to you online and within your community for more help for the sake of you, the addict, and your family. Over time, you can learn about how to help an addict break their ties with dependency and build a stronger and more disciplined body overall.


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