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Enabling vs. Empowering: How to Know the Difference in Addiction Recovery

Addiction has been one of the most significant problems within our nation for many years. This is easily understood when viewing the millions of people currently struggling with addiction, as well as the fact that more people are developing addictions every day. While addiction is obviously horrible for the individual struggling, it is also quite hellacious for loved ones witnessing their struggle. One of the most important things that loved ones of addicts need to understand about this situation is that their actions can either be helpful or harmful. A loved one’s actions or behavior toward an addict could be said to fall under one of two categories, with one of these being enabling an addict and the other empowering.  So, how do you if you are enabling an addict?  Find out below.

What is Enabling an Addict?

So, what is an enabler and what does this kind of behavior include? Well, enabling an addict essentially involves actions that contribute to the addiction or allow it to continue. Many different types of behavior and actions can fall under this category and they can be knowingly or unknowingly done. It could be something as obvious as giving the addict money to buy drugs or something as subtle as calling into work for the addict or babying them when they feel horrible after a binge.

The longer that a loved one continues to enable the struggling addict, the more severe the behavior can become. Many addicts even learn how to manipulate their loved ones into sympathy or enabling behaviors. The addict could complain to their loved ones about horrible withdrawal symptoms, which then makes the loved one feel sympathy, and the addict may then use this as a way to convince them to buy the drugs. Unfortunately, many loved ones do these actions on the basis of believing they are helping, which is where the knowing or unknowing factor comes into play. The loved one could think that they are helping the person to feel better or preventing them from doing worse things, but this is often not the case. Many times, addicts just use this as a way to continue their various behaviors and use without suffering any consequences.

Other types of enabling behaviors could include:

  • Explaining away or making excuses for the addict’s behavior or absence.
  • Lying to cover up the individual’s addiction.
  • Providing incorrect financial support (bailing them out of jail, paying for drugs, paying for legal costs, etc.)
  • Threatening consequences if things do not change but not following through with the consequences.
  • Not confronting the addict about their addiction because of fearing their retaliation.

Like mentioned above, the loved one may think they are assisting the individual, but they are often causing more harm than good. Realistically, the damage caused by enabling an addict can become worse over time for both the addict and the loved one. Enabling loved ones are often wanting to help the struggling individual so much that they end up taking on many of the addict’s responsibilities, which results in the addict having less responsibility and the loved one neglecting many of their responsibilities. This desire to “help” can become desperate as the loved one continues to take on more responsibilities and the addict starts expecting them to handle everything. This circumstance can also come under the heading of co-dependency, which is where the loved one begins to place the addict’s needs higher than their own, and this relationship becomes destructive and unilateral.

Empowerment in Addiction Recovery

Empowerment is the converse of enabling, as the first part of it is not doing what the addict can do themselves. Empowerment can be great for both sides, as loved ones and the addict can benefit from it. In the course of enabling, a loved one can lose themselves in a way, and this is not good for anyone. The person that is caring for the addict needs to take care of themselves, or they are not going to be able to take care of anyone else correctly. A substantial benefit of empowering yourself is that it allows you to be able to see past attempted manipulation and accurately assess actions as far as whether they will be beneficial or not.

You can truly help the addict by not covering or cleaning up for them and getting them to begin taking responsibility for their condition, allowing them to move forward. By empowering yourself, you can, in turn, empower the addict, which gives them the ability to make better judgments and decisions. Instead of allowing the condition to continue like enabling does, empowering helps to break the cycle of addiction and codependency.

Empowering actions can include:

  • Supporting and requiring independence and responsibility.
  • Turning down the addict’s negative requests.
  • Taking care of yourself.
  • Encouraging and participating in open communication.
  • Practicing and recognizing improvement in yourself and the addict.
  • Talking to the struggling individual about their addiction and seeking treatment.

For those having trouble with enabling or knowing how to handle their loved one’s addiction properly, there are support groups that can be beneficial. Two of the most prominent of these are Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, which consist of the loved ones of addicts. These kinds of groups allow loved ones to express their feelings and experiences, as well as discover new ways to take care of the struggling addict properly. Addiction can impact loved ones profoundly and they often need support as well to get through the situation.

When Seeking Treatment for an Addiction

Addiction can be a hellacious burden to struggle with, but proper treatment can help people to break free of it. Best Drug Rehabilitation recommends a comprehensive treatment program that helps thousands to break free of addiction each year, and it can do the same for you or your loved one. Each addiction is unique in many ways, and we create a custom program for each person admitted to our facility. Give us a call today, and one of our advisors can answer any questions that you might have about enabling an addict or our referral service.

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