The toll addiction takes on our loved ones can be absolutely devastating.
It’s no secret that addiction spreads like wildfire, devouring everyone in its path. Addiction affects the family’s emotional health, physical health, financial stability, and the overall dynamics. The normal routines are often interrupted with chaos and an enormous amount of stress. Looking at how far down the scale your child has fallen, you may begin carrying a load of anger, guilt, and shame. You may find yourself angry and neglecting your child, falling into debt wrapped into overcompensating because of guilt, or maybe you find yourself running to rescue your grown child. No matter how you respond, if you begin to assume responsibility for your child’s addiction you will find yourself subconsciously enabling them and making matters far worse. The following are 4 signs you may be enabling the addicted loved one in your life.
No matter what substance(s) your loved one may be abusing, addiction is expensive. Many addicts will exhaust all available finances to achieve their next high. Employed or unemployed, lack of money will usually cause the addict to beg, plead, and guilt trip the family for money. More often than not, the addict will come up with an elaborate story as to why they need the money. He/she may say they need the money for an emergency repair or blame an existential crisis on their lack of self sufficiency. The addict will often make the circumstances seem like a matter of life or death. Perhaps in his/her mind it truly is. However, if you give your loved one money you are only enabling him/her to buy more drugs or alcohol and ultimately continuing the cycle of addiction.
Another sign of enabling your loved one is paying their rent or mortgage and even simply providing a place for them to stay. As stated above, addiction is expensive but this becomes the top priority for your addicted loved one and he/she will most likely not have money to pay for a place to live. There are times that your loved one may need a helping hand, and that’s okay. However, if you are constantly paying for your loved one’s rent or mortgage, you are engaging in enabling behavior.
As crazy as this may sound, the same goes for providing your loved one with a place to stay. Again, it’s understandable that you may temporarily provide a place for your addicted love one to stay in the case of an extenuating circumstance. However, it is important to be mindful of the fact that you are dealing with an addict. The reason he/she is coming to stay with you is because all of their money is going towards drugs or alcohol and they are not able to pay for a place to live. Addicts can be master manipulators and if you allow the individual to live with you with no real plan of action – you are enabling the addict to continue his/her behavior.
An additional sign of possible enabling is proving transportation for the addict. Whether you are paying his/her car insurance, loaning a car to drive, purchasing him/her a car, or even providing a ride to and from – you are enabling your addicted loved one. This allows the individual to make a run to the liquor store and even to meet the local drug dealer. Not only is this enabling behavior, but you are also taking a huge risk at the individual driving under the influence, harming themselves or others and potentially going to jail for possession.
Providing your loved one a phone may seem like the safest and best way to be in contact with him/her at all times – especially in case of emergency. In all honesty, your addicted loved one will rarely call anyways, unless they need something from you such as a ride, money, or even a place to crash for the night. When you provide a phone for an addict, you are making communication with drug dealers accessible and convenient. The only real means of communication will only be so he/she can contact their dealer and continue down the road to self destruction.
Individuals struggling with substance abuse often face serious consequences for their addiction such as legal consequences. From DUI, possession, drunk and disorderly, assault, and theft, addicts must fall hard and face the reality of their consequences. Watching someone you love, that is sick from addiction, get arrested and facing serious charges can be absolutely heartbreaking. You may feel like you need to bail him/her out once you feel they have “learned their lesson.” The truth is, bailing an addicted loved one out of jail gives the individual the impression that they will always escape their consequences and they can rely on you to rescue them. This cycle will continue to happen until the addict eventually finds they cannot be bailed out any longer. Pain is the greatest motivator.
These are 4 of the most common signs of enabling behaviors of the family of a struggling addict. Addiction is a three-part disease, one that affects the addict physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If the problem is spiritual in nature, this must mean the solution must be spiritual in nature. It’s much easier to not enable your addicted loved one, if you are aware of the signs and ultimate consequences of enabling. The only enabling that is acceptable is enabling your loved one to whole-heartedly seek sobriety.