Addiction affects everyone who is around the addict, whether family, friends or loved ones. In some cases, the people around the substance abuser may be contributing to the problem by enabling their addiction and making it worse.
What is an enabler?
Enablers are those who, knowing or not, encourage drug abusers or alcoholics to continue using. For example, giving money to a heroin addict who spends all of his or her money on drugs allows the addict’s problem to continue. In some cases, the enabler is directly aiding the person in their addiction. In other cases, the person might be helping in ways that aren’t directly connected to the drug abuse.
Not every enabler is giving the user drugs or alcohol or supplying them with a way to get them. The person may be giving the addict a place to live despite the person still using. Enabling can be as simple as bringing addicts meals despite the addicts not helping themselves.
Why is enabling harmful?
Enablers usually believe that they’re helping the abuser, especially if he or she isn’t giving the person a way to use drugs. However, when abusers don’t hit rock bottom, they have no reason to stop their habit. Instead, they continue using because their lives don’t seem all that bad. The longer people enable drug abusers, the longer he or she will use. When others are picking up the pieces, the individual has no need to quit.
Parents, relatives and friends usually have their heart in the right place. They care about the person and don’t want to see them homeless, hungry or without transportation to get back and forth to work. In reality, this isn’t really helping the person. It’s leading to a codependent relationship that just masks the true issue.
How to stop enabling?
Just like drug abuse, enabling is a difficult habit to break. It almost becomes an addiction in itself. The first step is to stop doing favors for the abuser, even if it takes letting the person fall. It’s important for recovering enablers to remember that their attempts to help will only hurt the drug abuser in the long run.
Contacting a drug treatment center is the only way to truly help drug abusers recover from their disorder. Many treatment programs offer additional help for friends and family members to correct their own problem behaviors that contribute to a person’s addiction. With the right therapy, the former drug abuser and the former enabler can return to a healthy and supportive relationship.