The Difference Between Caring For and Enabling an Addict

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The Difference Between Caring For and Enabling an Addict

Having a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is challenging. No one wants to find themselves in that situation, no matter who they are – a mother, brother, spouse, child, or friend. When living with or loving an addict is your reality, it is important to tread lightly and make sure you don’t cross over from caring to enabling an addict.

What Does Enabling an Addict Mean?

It’s easy to cross the line between caring for a person in addiction and enabling them. Enabling an addict means that you are supporting their habit by continuing to offer them things like a place to live, food to eat, and maybe even giving them money to spend. You think you are helping them when in fact you are enabling them to keep up with their addiction with no repercussion.

A drug or alcohol addict has one priority only, and that is their substance of choice. As far as people like you who love them, they will continue to take advantage until they are cut off. Your time, money, and energy will all be spent on them, while none is given in return. Also, without stopping the cycle, you will continue to allow them to go down the destructive path they are on.

How You May Be Enabling the Addict in Your Life

Without realizing, you may be enabling the addict in your life. Here are some common ways people enable addicts:

  •      Giving an addict money. An addict will always use the money to obtain more drugs or alcohol, no matter what they say. Continuing to give them money is like purchasing and providing their substance of choice. An addict spends a tremendous amount of money on drugs and alcohol and will use every last penny they can get their hands on towards it.
  •      Turning a blind eye when they steal. Addicts get desperate and will likely steal from you. They will go into your wallet and take any cash they see lying around. They may also take your favorite clothing or jewelry and pawn them for cash. Without consequences, they’ll think they got away with it. You’ll be the first person they call when they need a hand-out.
  •      Giving them a place to stay. It may sound harsh to kick an addict to the curb, but tough love is a necessity in this kind of situation. It may be just what the person needs to wake up and straighten up their act. If you continue to give them a place to stay, they’ll know they can always count on that, no matter how horrible their actions are.
  •      Ignoring their addiction. The longer you ignore their addiction, the more they will think they are getting away with. On the flip side, if you continue to call them out on their drug or alcohol use, they know it is an issue and be more inclined to stop or get help. Never ignore an addiction if you want to help the person.
  •      Taking care of the addict’s responsibilities. Car payments, rent, animals, kids – you name it – addicts overlook responsibilities in favor of substance abuse. If you step in and save them every time, they will continue to dump more responsibilities on you.

How to Care without Enabling

Wondering how you can care without enabling after all that? It’s not easy, and it requires you to stand strong and hold your own ground. First of all, you can never turn a blind eye to the situation and hope that it will resolve itself. It won’t. The addict needs someone to remind them how low they have gotten and that it is a necessity to fix it and get help as soon as possible.

To stay strong you have to care for yourself. Also, Keep a healthy distance between you and the addict, no matter how difficult it may seem. If you make your life all about them, you will end up engaging in the enabling behavior. Additionally, do things for yourself. Participate in activities you like. Treat yourself well. 

Invite the addict to partake in healthy activities with you where there is no access to drugs or alcohol. Explicitly tell them that they are not to bring any. If they don’t honor your wishes, don’t invite them again. With addiction, you need to stick to your guns no matter what.

You should consider staging an intervention for your loved one to get the point across to them. During an intervention, an addict’s loved ones come together and jointly express their concerns about the addict. It should be done calmly, and a plan should be in place in case the addict actually agrees to go to treatment.

Getting the addict the help they need is the best-case scenario! Enabling will only prevent that from happening.

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