Are You Enabling Drug Addiction?

enabling drug addiction

Addiction can be a very stressful and painful situation for everyone involved. Not only does it affect the person but everyone around them as well. One of the biggest problems that many people fail to notice is enabling behavior. While close friends and family might have the best intentions, they may be enabling the person to continue using. Enabling drug addiction can cause a vicious cycle of drug use and continued addiction.

It is important to know the signs of potential enabling. When it comes to addiction, sometimes the best intentions can do more harm than good. While they may be trying to help a person struggling with drug use, they may end up enabling drug addiction further. If a loved one is struggling with addiction it may be time to get help. At Sana Lake Recovery, our passionate clinical staff is here to help you towards sobriety. Don’t wait, get help right now. 

What is Enabling?

Enabling occurs when a loved one or friend covers up or takes the blame for an individual’s drug use. Enabling also comes in the form of having no consequences for the individual’s actions. Enabling comes in many different forms and can be very negative in the long-run. Additionally, anyone can be an enabler, even if they mean well. 

Guilt and denial may be driving factors for an enabler. Oftentimes, loved ones may deny claims or protect their loved ones at all costs. A family member may take up the individual’s responsibilities or help them in times of need (drug-related). Sometimes helping a person who’s intoxicated or under the influence of drugs gives them enough leeway to use again in the future.

Getting rid of consequences and not doing anything to get the individual to stop using is enabling. It’s important to stop enabling the individual no matter the cost. Enabling only reinforces their drug use and will only lead them deeper into addiction. There are much better and effective ways to get help for a loved one without enabling them further. 

What are the Signs of Enabling Behavior?

As mentioned, there are many different signs and feelings that are associated with enabling behaviors. While it may be a loved one’s best intentions, over time, these behaviors end up hurting the individual and everyone in the family. If any of these behaviors sound familiar, it may be time to change up your game plan and get more comprehensive help for the person

Feelings of Resentment

Over time, a person may start to feel resentment towards the struggling individual. It’s possible to feel this way while still enabling the person to continue using it. The individual’s continued addiction can fuel these feelings of disdain further. Eventually, a negative and vicious cycle is created.

Many times, people remain quiet about these feelings and worries Hiding and ignoring these feelings will not bring about change. These suppressed feelings of resentment and worry only continue the cycle of enabling. Real action must be taken through intervention or sitting down and talking with them (openly and honestly).

Ignoring their Shady Behavior

More often than not, a family member who’s using drugs will act guilty or try to hide their addiction. Most people don’t fall into drug use willingly or proudly. Many times, a person may sneak out during different hours of the night or hide their drug use from loved ones. As much as they try to hide it, the signs end up being apparent and obvious.

Enabling occurs when loved ones ignore this behavior and even deny the problem altogether. Fear, denial, pride, and other factors may fuel this behavior. If more severe situations like getting fired or failing a class happens, it’s important to address these and not ignore them. The sooner you take time to talk with the person the faster you can actually begin to help them.

Lying or Covering Up Their Addiction

It is not uncommon for enablers to lie and make up excuses on behalf of the struggling individual. They may know the reason why the person is late or not present to a family gathering yet will just make up an excuse on their behalf. Making up excuses and lying about the situation is a bad sign. Enabling drug addiction occurs from excuses and lying. 

This type of enabling occurs from the need to control the situation. A loved one will do anything to protect the struggling individual and maintain control. The person struggling with addiction will see this as an easy excuse to continue using. If a person continues making excuses on behalf of the struggling individual this may impact their relationship later on. When a person decides to get the help they will see the lying and covering up as a negative instead of a positive. This can make a big impact during recovery. An enabler may have the best intentions but might unintentionally be enabling drug addiction. 

Passing Blame Onto Others 

Along with enabling drug addiction in a loved one, a close family member might place blame onto other people. They may blame others for the individual using drugs, to begin with. This is combined with the constant ignoring of addiction signs and excuses on their behalf. The enabler may try to externalize the situation to others. 

The truth is that the enabler knows that their loved one is struggling with addiction. They may try to cope with the situation by denying it exists and turning the blame on others. Naturally, a person will want to keep hold of their loved ones, even if they are using substances and drugs. Sadly, enabling drug addiction only makes things worse over time. If you notice an enabler in the family and can’t take care of it alone, a professional interventionist may be able to help. 

Letting Fear Play a Factor

When it comes to enabling, fear can play a massive role in the process of addiction. Many of these enabling behaviors stem from fear. Particularly, fear of losing a loved one to treatment or conflict. This fear can make it almost impossible for the person dealing with addiction to get help. Close loved ones can end up enabling drug addiction and can end up being the wall between the person and treatment. 

Assuming Responsibilities and Prioritization

Enablers usually put the priorities of the struggling individual over their own. They will go out of their way to make sure they are taken care of. Whether it is rent or cleaning their room, an enabler will make sure they’re taken care of. This usually includes the enabler picking up responsibilities that are not their own just for the sake of ‘helping’ the person. 

It is also a common act to give the person money, even knowing that the person will use it for drugs. Continuing to enable the person will only do more harm than good. It’s important to not give in and set some boundaries. Additionally, you can’t wait to speak up. If you are uncomfortable or unable to face your loved one’s addiction, there is always professional help available. 

How to Get Help and Stop Enabling A Loved One

If any of these behaviors sound familiar to you, it may be time to change your behavior as an enabler and help your loved one get help. By changing your behaviors and attitudes you can stop enabling drug addiction and start focusing on long-term sobriety. Here are some steps you can take to help a loved one recover from addiction.

Do you have a loved one that is struggling with addiction?
  • Set boundaries – It’s important to set the framework when someone is struggling with drug misuse. Set boundaries to minimize drug use and stress on the family and friends.
  • Attend Meetings – Be a supportive element in the person’s recovery process. Attend alcoholics anonymous meetings and stay by their side.  
  • Enroll in Family Therapy – Family therapy can be an excellent tool to create unity and relieve stress in a dysfunctional family. By understanding and focusing on the root of the problem you can address underlying issues that have been festering.
  • Stop Making Excuses – The more you continue to make excuses and lie to yourself and others, the more you are enabling drug addiction. It is time, to be honest with yourself and your loved ones about addiction. 
  • Consider an Intervention – If you think you may not be able to honestly open up to a struggling loved one, then professional help may be a better choice. There are many professional interventionists that can help set up and conduct an intervention

Getting Addiction Help

At treatment centers like Sana Lake, there are many different types of treatment (depending on the drug at hand). We understand the rippling effects that drug addiction can have on a person’s body, mind, and life. At Sana Lake, we evaluate your situation before moving on to comprehensive treatment.

Addiction typically consists of a combination of therapy, detox, and professional help from our wonderful staff. Certain addictions can have permanent and sometimes fatal effects on a person. This is why it’s important to get help sooner rather than later.

Get Help Today

Enabling drug addiction can be a very unproductive situation. With this in mind, you can still change your behavior and get help for your loved one. At Sana Lake, we want you to know that you’re not alone. Our passionate staff is ready to help you towards a better future, for you and your family. Contact us today for more information on drug treatment and addiction resources.

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.