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Am I Enabling An Addicted Relative?

Those who are enabling an addicted relative think they are helping them and are not aware of the negative implication. Therefore, learning about enabling and how to support a loved one positively and helpfully is essential. In addition, dysfunctional family relationship habits exist from never learning about healthy and positive relationships. Consequently, when a substance use disorder occurs within the family, it is time to reevaluate contributing behaviors. 

Enabling an addicted relative may begin as well-intended support for a struggling loved one. But, first, educating the family support team with positive and healthy behaviors to encourage is essential. Secondly, avoiding blaming each other for contributing to the addiction is paramount for positive progress. Finally, now is the time to bond, being a positive and healthy force for a loved one to build healthy relationships with. 

What Are Enabling Behaviors?

The critical starting point to making behavior change is understanding what enabling an addicted relative can do. First, enabling behaviors support and encourage destructive behaviors in those with a substance use disorder. In addition, while family and friends believe they are helping a loved one with a substance use disorder, they are prolonging the period of addiction. Finally, enabling behaviors can fuel the ability to obtain the illicit substance.

Examples of how someone’s behavior allows a loved one with a substance use disorder to continue the self-destructive pattern of conduct include the following:

  • Allowing a loved one with a substance use disorder to live rent-free at home without any responsibility or contributions to the household.
  • Paying the bills for a loved one who is unemployed and spends the money they do have on illicit substances or unessential items. Offering funds to the loved one to stay somewhere unknown. 
  • Giving the loved one money, alcohol, or drugs to keep them from obtaining them illegally.
  • Bailing loved ones out of jail and paying their fines or legal fees.
  • Making excuses for the substance abuse disorders, and blaming others for the addiction. Firmly downplay the intensity of the habit. Lying to people about the situation. 
  • Completing denial of the substance use disorder by family and friends, ignoring the substance use disorder, and proclaiming the problem is not that bad.
  • Tolerating mental, verbal, emotional, or physical abuse because the addicted loved one doesn’t mean being abusive. 

Types of Enabling Behaviors

Therapists look at enabling behaviors as helping a loved one with a substance use disorder by doing things for them they could do themselves if they were sober. Therefore, reasons for enabling an addicted loved one are honestly good intentions. But unfortunately, as a result, the addiction thrives. Consequently, the loved one with the substance use disorder learns how to fuel the enabling behaviors. 

There are 4 types of enabling behaviors. They reflect why the support system remains unaware of the enabling behavior and continues contributing to the addiction. 

  • The addicted loved one will make threats to get what they want. In response, the family and friends become afraid. So fearful something will be their fault if they do not comply, they continue using enabling behaviors to avoid further problems.
  • Those feeling trapped and unable to get the substance fueling their addiction will guilt their loved ones into enabling behaviors. Blaming and faulting others for their decision to use an illicit substance fuels guilty feelings for family and friends. 
  • An addicted loved one will fake being on the verge of kicking the habit. But unfortunately, the family and friends are so hopeful of positive progress toward treatment that they lose sight of the truth.  
  • Victim-based enticement of enabling behaviors can be a last resort. False comparisons of being a blameless victim who has been hurt and injured by many people for many reasons can spark additional enabling. 

Practice Healthy Supportive Behaviors

Once the family and friends enabling an addicted loved one become aware of the cycle produced through their behaviors, it must end. First, a treatment center can offer educational programs to teach the support system of the addicted loved one how to provide positive and healthy support.

Secondly, part of the education can include learning about codependency and a dysfunctional family dynamic. Lastly, understanding the importance of setting boundaries will send a new message to the loved one with a substance use disorder. Addiction education prepares the family and friends in a support system about the guises used by those caught up in an addiction.

In addition, learning that enabling an addicted loved one only fueled and prolonged the addiction proves the need for change. Furthermore, enlisting help from a professional can lead to intervention and the establishment of healthy boundaries. Above all, practicing tough love will help end the ease of staying addicted, and the loved one may realize it is time to get help. 

Practice Tough Love

Intervention is a practice of presenting the effect of the addiction on the entire support system. Therefore, a therapist or an experienced interventionist can help improve the family dynamic by teaching how to build a foundation to set boundaries.

Then, when the support team agrees to stop enabling an addicted loved one and form a plan, change begins. As a result, their loved one can become responsible for their actions and accept treatment, or the support team will no longer let the addiction affect them.  

Examples of healthy and productive boundaries to set are any of the following:

  • Drug use or alcohol use is not allowed around the family, friends, home, or on the property. 
  • Mental, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse is unacceptable. 
  • The support team will not provide bail or pay fines or a lawyer in a crisis.
  • There will be no more financial support from friends and family.
  • No support team member will make excuses, lie for, or cover for the addicted loved one. 
  • Drug paraphernalia will not be tolerated around the support team or in their homes. 
  • The support team loves the addicted loved one and will support their recovery and help find a treatment program. 

End Enabling Behaviors In a Supportive Enviornment

When the support team for an addicted loved one becomes educated and learns how enabling behaviors have a negative impact, they need help to move forward. Freeman Recovery Center in Tennessee offers professional therapists and interventionists to assist in setting healthy boundaries.

Contact us if an intervention may be vital for your loved one to accept treatment. As a result, you can learn how to form a strong support bond and stay true to the boundaries you set. 



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