Drug and alcohol addiction is a messy process, and being in a relationship with someone who struggles with drug and alcohol addiction is even messier. You see a slippery descent into patterns, habits, and routines that erode and destroy life as you know it, but you are powerless to stop what you see happening before your very eyes.
Millions of Americans struggle with drug and alcohol addiction daily; when you consider the fact that loved ones are witnessing and experiencing the consequences of addiction right alongside the one using, the consequences of addiction are long-reaching.
What to do?
Figuring out how to act and behave around those with addictions, particularly if there are patterns of abuse in the home as well, can be devastating for those watching the drama play out. One common behavior that many family members pick up to keep the peace is enabling, the process of making it easier to engage in addictive patterns and behaviors.
What is enabling?
Enabling includes those behaviors that allow a person to continue using and abusing alcohol and drugs. Often, those who desperately want to see health and vitality for a loved one are those most responsible for facilitating the enabling behaviors. Some of these behaviors include:
- Providing financial support for someone who is not actively seeking treatment
- Making excuses or blaming others for the substance abuse
- Ignoring or minimizing the problem
- Using drugs or drinking alcohol with them
- Giving or lending money for the purpose of obtaining drugs and alcohol
- Hiding the abuse from others
Although these behaviors initially come from a place of love, their consequences result in conditions that are not healthy for anyone involved. One of the best ways that you can support someone in your life that is addicted to alcohol or drugs is to stop the enabling behaviors and refusing to support the addiction in any manner. While this is difficult at first, in the long run it will be best for all involved to set up healthy boundaries and seek individual health and protection from the consequences of addiction. If you suspect that you may have been enabling or contributing to the addition of another, consider adopting the following actions as a means of seeking health yourself, and helping the addicted individual see the truth of his/her situation.
Stop the enabling by taking the following steps:
1. Set some boundaries
Setting up boundaries and expectations for behavior will help you to reclaim some of your power in the relationship while working toward your own health and wellness. You could begin by telling your loved one that they are not allowed to use in the home, refusing to give them money for drugs and alcohol, and not allowing others who use into your home. If you don’t feel safe setting these boundaries by yourself, consider enlisting the help of friends and family who can rally around you and keep everyone accountable. The sooner you do this, the more likely it is that you will begin to move in positive steps toward extricating yourself from addictive patterns and seeing the situation for what it really is.
2. Examine your relationship for signs of codependency
Codependency involves a level of entanglement between people that requires one to take care of the other in order to feel safe and secure in the relationship. Often, the behavior and attitudes of one will dictate the happiness of the other, and vice versa. This cycle of destructive behaviors takes both an emotional and physical toll on all involved parties, for they cannot imagine life without the relationship, regardless of how destructive it is.
If you see signs of codependency in your relationship, it’s time to take a good hard look at what you are getting out of it versus what you put into it. It may be time for a relationship overhaul if you notice that you have been putting more into keeping things afloat than would be considered healthy and balanced.
3. Refuse to accept or make excuses for addictive behavior
You may want to protect your loved one from financial, legal, and physical consequences of abuse, but is it really the best thing to do? Cycles of addiction can go on for years longer than they need to if an enabler hides, covers up, and makes excuses for bad behavior. It may be uncomfortable to see these mistakes being made by your loved one, but they will learn far faster through natural consequence than any attempts you make to rationalize pursuing treatment. If the boss calls wondering why your loved one didn’t show up from work, refuse to answer the phone, or consider telling the truth to blow their cover. The sooner you can put these boundaries in place, the less likely it will be that the addiction will continue. Sooner or later, the consequences of his/her actions will catch up, and there will have to be a reckoning and repairing of the damage that has been done.
4. Plan time for an intervention
Let’s face it—enabling habits are hard to break. You’ll need to plan time for an honest conversation where you lay out all of these new rules. It will most likely not be a pleasant conversation, but if you stand firm in your new actions and refuse to back down, there will be a resolution. Be prepared for some hard times, though, especially if the addicted is used to your enabling behavior as a means of justifying their habits and actions.
5. Get support!
Addiction affects not only the addicted, but others around who are watching and participating in life with that individual. You will need the support of family and friends to help break destructive cycles and learn to stand on your own once more. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and speak up for your needs, learning to care for yourself once more. In time, you’ll see that you made the right choice for you and for those who depend on you for their health and well-being.
You can do it! You deserve to live a life free from trauma, stress, and addiction. If you or any member of your family is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Call us today at 772-934-6580 to see how we can help you to break destructive patterns and begin a new path to life free from enabling behaviors and addictions.