When loved ones struggle with a drug or alcohol addiction, it is hard to know how to help. Because addiction often has a significant and harmful impact on those who use or drink, it can change their behavior, personality, and overall health. While these changes hurt the person who struggles with addiction, many do not realize the harmful effects addiction has on friends, family, or loved ones. People often want to help a loved one struggling with addiction, but they do know where to start. Also, they may want to help without feeling as though they are part of the problem. This challenge, known as enabling, is a very common struggle for those who have an addicted loved one in their lives. 

Signs My Love One is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

Drug and alcohol addiction looks different from person to person. It is important to know what the common symptoms of addiction may look like in your loved one so you can better understand how to help. Different substances have unique effects; however, some signs of addiction occur regardless of the substance used. Some of the more recognizable indications of substance use may include new or worsening difficulties at work or school, changes in physical health, changes to hygiene and personal appearance, new or worsening financial problems, mood swings, increased isolation, and new legal struggles related to substance use. You may also notice your loved one making excuses for drinking or using drugs or choosing to drink or use over participating in once enjoyed activities or necessary obligations. 

What Does it Mean to “Enable” Someone?

Enabling is a term frequently used when talking about someone helping someone else to continue making (potentially) harmful choices. Enabling occurs in various contexts, including relationships where one party struggles with a behavioral addiction such as gambling, eating, drinking, or drug use. When you enable someone who struggles with addiction, you will likely achieve the opposite outcome you desire. While you want to help them feel better or want to get better, enabling behavior often accomplishes the opposite. Enabling means you (often unwittingly) promote and encourage your loved one’s bad behavior without encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions. 

It is not uncommon for people to mistake helping for enabling. Sometimes this is because they do not know what enabling behavior may look like. Some common examples of enabling include making excuses for your loved ones drinking or drug use, financially supporting them (either their substance use or paying their bills because they used their money for substances), minimalizing harmful behaviors, putting their needs above your own, covering up for their behaviors, and blaming yourself for their substance use. 

How to Love an Addict Without Enabling

People who enable an addict aren’t always aware of their actions. Also, many do not realize that deep down, enabling behavior is not about helping the addict but about the enabler helping themselves. When people enable, they find comfort in the feeling that they are making things better for someone. The enabling behavior continues out of the fear that your addicted loved one will not “need” you anymore or will seek support elsewhere without it. Unfortunately, part of that fear must come true for your loved one to seek and receive the help they need to overcome addiction. 
For this to happen, you must find safer, healthier ways to manage your loved one’s needs and your need to provide support. This means (sometimes) allowing challenges to happen. Ask yourself why you are giving them money? Why are you covering for destructive behaviors? How are the actions you take allowing them to continue to use? It is possible to provide support and love without enabling. Consider reaching out for help at a treatment center that specializes in family therapy. During this time, you can learn more about setting boundaries and communicating effectively with your loved one. You can also learn more about addiction and how to provide care and support without supporting ongoing harmful behaviors. To learn more about family therapy and reducing enabling behaviors in your relationships, contact us at Casa Serena today. Let us help you learn safer ways to help your loved one overcome addiction struggles.

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