Enabling Vs. Supporting Someone with Addictions: How to Tell the Difference
Deciding When And How To Help
When you love an addict or alcoholic, it can sometimes be difficult to tell when you are genuinely helping them or when you are just enabling. The line between these two actions is often thin, and given the nature of alcoholism and addiction, discerning the difference can be almost impossible. This leaves many families in the uncomfortable position of figuring out when and how to help and whether or not they are doing more harm than good.
What Is The Difference Between Enabling Vs Supporting?
Enabling in many ways looks like supporting, but it differs in one main aspect. To enable someone is to protect them from experiencing the full weight of the consequences of their actions. This may sound like what we should do for our loved ones, to protect them from the possibility of pain, but when it comes to addiction, this proves to be more hurtful than helpful.
For instance, let’s say your son gets arrested for the first time because of his addiction. You could support him by helping to get a lawyer. This would more than likely not be enabling, although some would argue. Now let’s say your son has been arrested seven times and is going to court again. If you pay to get him out of trouble and don’t allow him to experience the consequences, you are enabling his behavior rather than supporting his ability to change.
Signs That You Are Enabling
When you are caught in the moment and dealing with the profound emotions that come with a loved one’s addiction, it can be difficult to see the difference between enabling vs supporting. However, many people who are enabling partake in the same sort of behaviors. These behaviors are:
- Keeping secrets for your loved one to avoid problems
- Making excuses for their behavior
- Giving them money
- Covering up their problems by paying for rent, legal fees, etc.
- Blaming others for their behavior
- Blaming their problems on things other than addiction
- Trying to control their every move
- Making empty threats
If you find yourself doing anything listed above, you may be enabling your loved one’s addiction. It can be very difficult to break these patterns of behavior because alcoholics and addicts are acutely aware of how to manipulate emotions to get what they want. Couple this with the intense feelings you have when it comes to protecting your loved ones, and it can create a situation when enabling feels more normal than just supporting.
How To Stop Enabling
Just knowing the difference between enabling vs supporting is often not enough for someone to stop enabling. By the time this problem surfaces, it is often ingrained into the relationship, and any deviation is met with backlash. This means that breaking the cycle is difficult and doing so requires that you get support.
One of the best ways to stop enabling a loved one is to attend a fellowship like Al-Anon or listen to speaker tapes. In Al-Anon, you will hear from people who were in the same situation as yourself and have learned how to deal with their loved one’s addiction properly. This support is integral if the enabling behavior is to be stopped and it will give you an outlet for your pent-up frustrations.
Besides joining a support group, another way to stop enabling is to allow your loved one to deal with their problems. If they are in financial trouble, allow them to deal with it. Don’t give them money to make it easier. If they are in legal trouble, allow them to experience it. Although it may mean they have to go to jail, sometimes that is necessary for someone to get sober. If you stop cleaning up their messes, they will more likely hit their bottom quicker.
Doing these things can seem counterintuitive at first, and many people fear that if they stop enabling, then the person may die. This is a fear shared by almost every person who has a loved one who suffers from alcoholism or addiction. The reality is that nothing we can do will save a person from themselves. The best we can offer is our love and support and try to help them find their way.
Sunrise Detox Can Help Stop Enabling With Family Counseling
Enabling vs supporting an addict can be difficult to determine. It is important to recognize the difference between these actions to help our loved ones who are struggling with addiction. The main difference is that enabling protects them from the consequences of their actions while supporting helps them face those consequences and overcome their addiction. It is also important to recognize the signs of enabling, such as making excuses, giving money, and covering up problems. To stop enabling, it is recommended to seek support from a fellowship like Al-Anon and to allow the addict to deal with their problems without intervention.
If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with addiction, getting help from Sunrise Detox can be a crucial step in their recovery. Sunrise Detox is a trusted and reputable facility that offers a safe and comfortable environment for individuals to detox from drugs and alcohol. If you or someone you know needs help, don't hesitate to give us a call at 561-621-2517. We are here to support you and your loved ones.