Am I Enabling My Loved One’s Addiction?
It is always difficult to watch a loved one suffer from discomfort, pain and distress, whether physical or psychological. People suffering from alcoholism and substance abuse disorders typically have complicated health, financial, and interpersonal problems resulting from their substance use. Even with the knowledge that many of these problems are self-made, those who love them will need to learn new ways to express their love.
Love as an act of caring about another’s health and happiness as much as one’s own can often be manipulated by those in the grip of addiction. Emotional manipulation by the user may be unintentional in the beginning; however, intentional manipulation is quickly and easily learned, especially when it proves to be effective. For an addict, effective manipulation supports their current cycle of behavior by providing them with opportunities, financial means, or access to their drug of choice; the other desired outcome of effective emotional manipulation is reality distancing. Reality distancing is an active form of denial, by which an addict blames situations or others for their current problems, and refuses to acknowledge the role addiction plays as the common denominator in the negative aspects of their life. When friends and family do not disengage themselves from their loved one’s emotional manipulation and when they help him or her maintain distance from their reality, they become enablers. Until the people closest to the addict stop enabling him or her, meaningful and life-saving interventions will not be effective and the addict’s behaviors will not change. Signs of Enabling Do you find yourself…
- rationalizing your loved one’s behaviors by blaming yourself or situations (past or present)?
- cleaning up “messes” (physical or social) left by your loved one after he or she was intoxicated?
- ignoring your loved one’s new constellation of bothersome behaviors that includes lying, being late, not following through with plans or looking unkempt?
- fearful of upsetting or angering your loved one, leading you to keep thoughts and feelings unspoken?
- putting your loved one’s financial or emotional needs ahead of your own?
- excusing the behaviors of your loved one to other important people in your life, including family, friends, and co-workers
- becoming resentful towards your loved one for negative aspects of your life, such as increased stress and anxiety that he or she does not appear to be experiencing with you?
- physically and emotionally drained of energy, exhausted, and overwhelmed?
- easily angered or increasingly impatient or oversensitive in your other personal relationships and friendships?
- unable to find time to do things you love to do, such as hobbies and other autonomous activities ?
- lying to others to cover your loved one’s addiction ?
- loaning or giving money, paying bills, lending cars or providing rides and offering other accommodations for your loved one
- always coming to the rescue of your loved one when he or she is in a jam, such as when he or she needs to be bailed out of jail, provided financial help for legal fees,or other emergencies?
- giving ultimatums that you cannot or do not want to follow through with?
- always giving “one more chance”?
- Talk openly and honestly about your own feelings regarding your loved one’s addiction
- Do not lend money, provide rides, or pay your loved one’s bills
- Avoid blaming yourself, others, or situations for your loved one’s addiction
- Do not engage in the behaviors of your loved one that you do not support