How to Stop Enabling Behaviors

Addiction is a cycle of persistent destructive behavior that enablers help to perpetuate. Enabling is assuming the responsibilities that addiction has made difficult or risky for the addict to do. This behavior may include paying credit card, rent and food bills. Enablers lie to the boss, the children or friends to protect the addict. The down side to enabling is that it also lead to dependence. The addict begins to depend on the enabler to defend them in arguments, clean up their messes, even provide the money to buy drugs or alcohol. In essence, enablers assist the addict to continue the addiction by not allowing them to experience the full consequences of the addictive behavior.

What Motivates Enabling?

It is a natural reaction to assist a loved one when they seem to be in trouble. But when this help provides an escape from confrontation for bad behavior and failure to take responsibility for actions that bring pain and injury to oneself or others, it is no longer helping, it is enabling. People enable addiction by…

  • Joining the addict in the behavior to appease them or to continue the allusion that it is okay.
  • Making excuses to others for the individual’s ongoing substance abuse behavior.
  • Always bailing them out of financial problems, or issues with the law.
  • Taking responsibility to explain absences from work, school or missed appointments.
  • Avoiding confrontations with the addict for fear of getting them angry.
  • Protecting them from confrontations with other family members to keep peace at all cost.
  • Agreeing with them in blaming others or circumstances for their substance abuse problem.
  • Allowing yourself to be manipulated by giving in to demands for money or help.
  • Claiming the problem as your own by trying to rescue, fix or control all aspects of the situation.

Once you get into the habit of enabling a person in addiction, it can be difficult to stop. Fear is often the predominant deterrent to halting enabling activities. We are afraid that without our help the person will end up living on the street, indulge in criminal activity, overdosing or causing a fatal accident. When seen from this perspective it is easy to justify the enabling behavior. However, the belief that you have the ability stop any of these fearsome outcomes is a false sense of power that is generated by enabling behavior. It is important to separate yourself from what you are doing to protect the individual to what the individual need in order to overcome the problem. The goal should be a return to independence for the addict rather than the constant need to be helped.

Five Steps to Stop Enabling

  1. Make a decision that you will no longer perpetuate the addiction through enabling behavior.
  2. Seek help for yourself to understand why you became an enabler and the damage enabling can do to both you and the person in addiction. Work to build your self-esteem and confidence to resist a relapse into enabling behavior.
  3. Make a list of the things that you now do for your loved one that they did for themselves before the addiction began. Choose one item from that list to stop doing immediately such as…
    • a) Stop giving them money that they may be using to purchase drug, alcohol or to gamble.
    • b) Stop paying their bills or debts because they lost their job due to the addiction.
    • c) Stop pretending that they are not drunk, passed out or sick when others ask about them.
    • d) Stop hiding the negative effects their addiction is having on your and others.
    • e) Stop doing things for the addict that they can do when they are sober.
    • f) Stop joining them in activities that lead to substance abuse or using with them.
  4. Reach out to others for help in dealing with this problem. Call a drug treatment center that can help you to stage an intervention to get the person into a treatment program.
  5. Do not make threats but decide on the consequences if the person in addiction refuse to get help. Once you communicate these consequences, follow through.

Be gentle with yourself. It may take time to fully relinquish enabling activities but it can be done. When enabling stops, the process of finding real solutions can begin. If you think you are indulging in enabling behavior call Drug Treatment Centers Ocala today at (352) 360-7348. Our counsellors are available 24 hours a day to help you to stage an intervention or discuss treatment options and services.

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