In an effort to survive your loved one’s addiction, you help, worry about and support them. I understand. You’re trying to preserve your family, protect your addicted loved one, and navigate the difficult world of addiction. So often, though, I’ve seen well-meaning family members and friends enabling a loved one’s addiction. I’ve created a list of 11 enabling behaviors: If you identify with even one of them, I encourage you to seek help in addressing your unhealthy behavior, finding emotional wholeness and taking the first step toward helping your addicted loved one get clean and sober.
1. Covering for Them at Work
Calling in sick for your hungover or strung-out loved one might protect their job for another day, but you also prolong the addict’s day of reckoning and recovery.
2. Giving Them Money
Give an addict rent, grocery, or even bail money and you’re enabling them to continue using. In essence, you become their drug dealer.
3. Cleaning Up Their Messes
Empty beer bottles, vomit on the sofa, or broken relationships are not your problems to fix. Clean up messes for the addict you love and you prevent them from facing the consequences of addiction.
4. Pretending There’s No Problem
To your family members, kids, friends, and co-workers, you put on a smile and pretend that everything is okay. While your act preserves your family and your sanity, the deceit ultimately allows the addict to continue down a destructive path.
5. Letting Them Skip Family Functions
Dance recitals, parent-teacher meetings, and birthday parties are all important family functions. Allow your addicted loved one to skip these events and you encourage them to continue using.
6. Getting Angry at Drinking and Drugging Buddies
When your addicted loved one stays out all night with friends or spends their entire paycheck buying drinks for everyone at the bar, you might be tempted to feel angry at the addict’s buddies. Your misdirected anger takes the focus off of the addict and their destructive behavior.
7. Believing the Addict’s Lies
You’ve heard the same lies over and over, but you still hold out hope that maybe this time, the addict will quit drinking, stop partying, or pay bills before hitting the bar. While I admire your hope, I also encourage you to see the truth.
8. Neglecting Your Own Needs
If you’re an enabler, you focus so much on the addict that you sacrifice your physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual needs. Neglect yourself long enough and you could experience a nervous breakdown.
9. Avoiding Discussions About the Addiction
Like the elephant in the room that everyone pretends isn’t there, addiction may be a topic you refuse to discuss. I wish I could say that this strategy works, but even if you think the addict will blow up in anger, blame you, or leave the home, looking away doesn’t make reality disappear.
10. Calling an Addiction a Phase
Your addicted teenager is not going through a phase. They have a serious problem that must be addressed before the addiction kills them.
11. Allowing Yourself to Be Abused by the Addict
Hitting, name-calling, and blaming are all forms of physical or mental abuse. Allow an addict to treat you this way and you tell the addict that you’re okay with their behavior.
Do you see yourself doing any of these 11 enabling behaviors? If so, I encourage you to seek professional help. Talk to an addiction therapist, attend AA or Al-Anon meetings, and begin to understand your behaviors as you take steps toward healing for your entire family.