Over 20 million Americans 12 and over have an addiction. Virtually no one in America is sheltered from addiction or its effects on friends and family.
But no matter how difficult it can be to watch our loved ones deal with addiction, if we want them to get healthy we have to let them deal with it on their own. We can’t be enablers and expect the ones we love to solve their problems.
If you want to learn how to stop being an enabler, keep reading. We’re going to talk about what an enabler is, how to spot the signs, and how to be compassionate without enabling.
What is Enabling?
Enabling is the act of making an addiction easier for an addict. You might look at this definition and think it’s crazy. There’s no way you’d ever make an addiction easier for your loved one, right?
But enabling isn’t as cut and dry as just buying drugs for your loved ones. Enabling happens when we stop doing what’s best for us and start doing what’s best for the addict. And while it might seem like a kindness, enabling actually hurts our loved ones in the long run.
So, how do you stop being an enabler?
Stop Supporting Financially
The first thing, and arguably the hardest thing, that you’re going to have to do is cut them off financially.
This decision is going to get a lot of pushback. There will be a lot of hurt feelings, probably some tears, and maybe even a fight in store for you. It might hurt a little to do it.
But this is the most important step in helping your loved one kick their addiction.
As addicts, most people won’t stop until they have no other choice. And as long as someone is there paying their bills, buying them food, or even paying for their habit, there’s no reason for them to stop.
No matter what repercussions it might have, you need to cut the addicted person off financially unless they agree to get help.
Don’t Protect Them From the Consequences of Their Actions
Next, you have to stop shielding them from the fallout of their decisions. When another family member wants to express their discontent with the situation, don’t try and stop them for the sake of the addicted person. If your loved one is arrested for possession with intent, don’t try and plead with the court or pay their fines.
The longer you go out of your way to ease whatever blows come to the addict in your life, the longer they’ll go without feeling like they need to change. So stop covering for them, stop cleaning up their messes, and stop protecting them from the consequences of their mistakes.
Once you’ve made the decision to let your loved one deal with the consequences of their actions, you’ll have more time and mental space to protect yourself. It’s time for you to do what’s best for you and the people you are meant to protect.
Don’t get in the car with an addict behind the wheel, and certainly don’t let your children or other dependents get in the car either. Lock up your valuables, any weapons you may have, and instruct your younger children to do the same.
If you have to change the locks on your house, do it. This is all a part of making sure that you are protected.
Be Open to Counseling
Counseling isn’t just for the addicted person. Dealing with a close relative who is addicted is damaging both mentally and emotionally, and there will be lasting scars that only therapy can heal.
There’s also the option of family counseling. If your loved one is open to the idea, group therapy sessions with them can go a long way to helping them take care of their addiction in a productive way.
Always Have a Plan B
Oftentimes when we love an addict, we find that our expectations are never met. That’s why it’s important to always have a plan B in place for when you expect the addict to do something with or for you.
When you’re left without something to fall back on, you can feel helpless. Relying too heavily on an addicted person isn’t good for either one of you.
Live For Yourself
Lastly, if you want to stop being an enabler that means you have to start living for yourself. Take a step back from the addict and their addictive behaviors, their troubles, and their trauma. Look in the mirror and decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Pick up some new hobbies, go on vacation, or go back to school. Whatever you’ve been putting off in favor of taking care of your addicted loved one, it’s time for you to do that.
How to Stop Being an Enabler: Recognizing the Signs
So, how do you know that you’re an enabler? There are a few signs that you should look out for.
- Ignoring dangerous or negative behavior
- Don’t know how to express your feelings
- You put the addict first
- Lying to protect the addict
- Blaming things other than the addict
- You resent the addict
If you notice that you have some of these behaviors when it comes to your loved one, you might be an enabler. That means it’s time to take a look at your actions and make a change.
If you’re not sure you’ll ever know how to stop being an enabler, just know that you’re not alone. It can be difficult to start saying no to the addict in your life. They might react badly and you might be afraid that it can damage your relationship.
But at the end of the day, seeing your loved one in recovery is worth all the hardships.
For more information on treating addiction, check out this article next.