When living with an addict, it can be extremely challenging to not do things that enable their use. It is common for many loved ones of addicts to fall into a pattern of appeasing an addict in many different ways so that the stress of the addiction is lifted. However, this type of behavior is highly dangerous, as it not only encourages an addict to use, but also keeps them from ever getting the recovery they need to become sober once and for all.
The Dangers of Enabling an Addict
In most cases, enabling often includes providing an addict with money, shelter, food, clothes etc. to help prevent them from hitting a rock bottom. For most, providing these things for an addict might seem like a caring gesture, when in reality it is only a detriment to their health. Engaging in these enabling behaviors can prevent an addict from getting addiction recovery in the following ways:
- They feel accepted – When individuals do things for an addict such as support them financially, the addict begins to feel that his or her addictive behaviors are acceptable, which often makes them feel as though there is no reason for them to stop using. Therefore, he or she might never feel that addiction treatment is necessary for them, especially if their loved ones never push back against their use.
- They can’t hit rock bottom – Rock bottom is inevitable for many addicts, and it often catapults them into getting the treatment they need to stop using. However, if loved ones are constantly keeping them from hitting that rock bottom by either supporting them financially or emotionally, then he or she can continue to use without ever experiencing the major consequences of a rock bottom episode.
- They develop low self-esteem – Not being able to provide for themselves or constantly having to rely on others is stressful for an addict, as they begin to feel powerless over their addiction. While in many cases this is a good thing, those who’s use is being fueled by others can quickly develop low self-esteem as a result, often leading to problems with depression and anxiety, which in turn continue to perpetuate their addiction.
When enabling behaviors are present, addicts become unable to feel the real consequences of their addiction, making them more likely to avoid treatment and continue to use.
How to End Enabling Behavior
Ending enabling behavior is crucial if an individual wants an addict to get himself or herself into addiction recovery. By setting emotional boundaries, refusing financial support and no longer engaging in any behaviors that make an addict feel as though their use is acceptable, loved ones of an addict can begin to take the steps necessary to get their loved one into addiction recovery.