In Articles, Clearbrook Treatment Centers Pennsylvania, Family Resources
It’s certainly true that substance abuse is a family disease. Yes, the addict is the one that suffers the consequences of addiction, but those that love him/her are not exempt from the pain. As the parent, spouse, or friend of an addict, you can feel lost and helpless or confused about which way to turn. While it’s natural to want to support and help your loved one recover and get sober, you want to make sure you’re not enabling addiction in the process.

Help vs. Enable 

You probably ask yourself time and time again, “How can I help them?” “What can I do to make this better?” It’s a natural feeling and instinct to want to protect your loved one, whether it be your child, your significant other, or even your parent. Nevertheless, in the case of addiction, often “protecting” blurs the lines of enabling the addict in your life.  

While these behaviors of the family member are often “well-intended,” they are harmful all the same. We understand the subject of addiction is often very overwhelming and knowing how to help is confusing.  

When it comes to addiction, there’s a major difference between helping and enabling. Enabling is behavior that perpetuates or even encourages a loved one’s addiction by preventing them from experiencing the full consequences of their actions. Many people don’t realize when they’re enabling an addict, as their intentions are usually good. The result is often the development of an unhealthy codependent relationship.  

Helping, on the other hand, is when you help someone do something they can’t do themselves. For instance, while the addict is fully responsible for their actions and taking responsibility if they don’t have a car, you could help them by driving them to their 12-step meetings. 

Enabling is harmful to both the enabler and the addict and is different from being supportive or helpful. Because enabling can be difficult to distinguish, sometimes the only way to stop enabling is to attend a program for families of addicts that will teach about enabling and how to avoid it. 

Signs You’re Enabling a Drug Addict 

There is a fine line between being supportive and enabling addiction, and it can be hard to know when you have crossed this line. Unfortunately, until you can recognize how you’re enabling drug addiction, your loved one’s substance use may only get worse. To help, our drug rehab in Pennsylvania shares some common signs of enabling addiction to be mindful of. 

Ignoring the Problem 

Like many people with addictions, some loved ones of addicts are in denial about their loved one’s drug or alcohol problems. Even with numerous red flags, they may neglect to accept that their loved one’s substance abuse goes beyond a healthy amount. If you continue to ignore your loved one’s problem, they will likely do the same and never get help. 

Making Excuses for Them 

An enabler of an addict will often make excuses for their loved one’s drug or alcohol use and the repercussions. For instance, if the individual missed a child’s graduation because they were too hungover or were using drugs, the enabler may try to protect them and make excuses. They may say that their loved one had a rough day or is going through a tough time instead of facing reality. This continued behavior just shows the individual that their behavior is okay. 

Lying About Their Loved One’s Substance Use 

Along with making excuses, many loved ones will take this one step further and start to lie about their loved one’s habits. They may cover up the severity of the person’s drug use or drinking when it involves others or even tell lies on their behalf. Calling in sick for your loved one or telling someone that your loved one couldn’t make it because they are busy when they are drunk or hungover are both good examples. Lies like this allow the individual to avoid the negative consequences of their behavior and prevent them from learning the lesson. 

Giving Them Money For/Buying Them Drugs or Alcohol 

While this may seem obvious, many people who enable addiction will often give money to their loved ones or even buy them drugs or alcohol despite being aware of the problem. While the enabler may feel guilty or be in denial, either way, this type of behavior isn’t helping. Buying addict drugs or alcohol or giving them money knowing it’ll be used to fuel their problem tells them that their substance abuse is okay. 

Fixing the Person’s Mistakes 

Enabling drug or alcohol use often involves fixing or minimizing the person’s mistakes. Some examples include helping them financially because they lost their job or driving them to social gatherings because they got a DUI. If you are frequently cleaning up a loved one’s messes, they may never realize the extent of their problem and look for support. 

How to Help an Addict Without Enabling 

If you’re ready to stop enabling addiction and set your loved one up for success, below are some helpful methods for preventing enabling behaviors and actually helping the addict.  

  • Attend family support groups to learn more about addiction and how to support the individual 
  • Participate in family therapy with the addict to rebuild your relationship 
  • Stop indulging the person’s behavior (i.e., stop giving them money, don’t make excuses, etc.) 
  • Encourage them to get drug or alcohol addiction treatment  
  • Help them stick with treatment (i.e., drive them to meetings or the facility if they don’t have a car) 

Whether you find yourself enabling a spouse, child, or friend, you need to stop sooner rather than later if you want to help them quit. Clearbrook’s inpatient rehab programs in Pennsylvania can help both you and your loved ones move past this substance abuse problem and start planning for the future.  

For more information about our support for families of addicts or substance abuse treatment and detox in PA, call Clearbrook Treatment Centers today at 570-536-9621 or send us your contact information so we can reach out to you. 


Related Reading:  

Social Effects of Alcohol 

How to Confront an Alcoholic 

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