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The road to recovery from substance abuse is often blocked by a loved one. In many cases, this is a simple matter of pride and denial. In others, family members and friends doing their best to keep a loved one alive may in fact be delaying a life-saving recovery.
At Family First Intervention, we’ve carefully considered the complex dynamics at play when a substance use disorder begins to pull a family apart. That’s why we believe that an intervention with the entire family needs to take place before the intervention with the addict.
This informative resource explains what it looks like when family members enable their loved one’s addictions and explores why this pattern happens in the first place. The path to a stable recovery opens up when all family members learn to hold themselves accountable.
How Do Family Members and Friends Enable Addiction?
Family First Intervention has served hundreds of families affected by a substance use disorder. During this time, we’ve observed very consistent patterns regarding enabling in the family.
There are three major categories of enabling behavior: providing comfort (passive), limiting consequences (active), and encouraging abuse. Understanding each scenario in greater detail will help families avoid falling into enabling traps.
Family Members Must Set Limits On Themselves
If you suspect that your loved one has an unhealthy relationship with drugs or alcohol, your next thought might be, “Am I an enabler?” Consider the following questions offered by Karen Halegi, Ph.D. in clinical psychology,
in a conversation with Psychology Today:
- Do I ignore behavior in one loved one I would found unacceptable for another?
- Do I resent that I have to help the family deal with a loved one’s addiction?
- Do I struggle to honestly express how I feel about a family member’s drug or alcohol use?
- Do I find myself lying to family members to cover for another loved one’s behavior?
- Do I continue to help out a loved one struggling with alcohol even as they becoming increasingly unfriendly?
- Do I find myself giving my loved one rides to strange places during the middle of the night?
Why Do Family Members and Friends Enable Addiction?
We’ve discussed at length exactly how family members enable one another. We’ve also begun to explore the motivations fueling those enabling behaviors in the heat of the moment. But why exactly do family members enable in the first place? Why would a loved one do anything that might keep their family member addicted for a second longer?
According to the American Counseling Association, these are all common examples of what leads a loved one to enable their addicted family member:
- Families blame themselves for the addiction so they don’t want to “further punish” the addict by putting them into treatment
- Family members try to solve the addiction by bribing the loved one with guilt, gifts, and favors
- Families refuse to believe that their behavior is a contributor to the problem and refuse to adjust their behaviors
- Family members don’t want to deal with the social consequences of getting real help for their loved one and put off treatment
- Families don’t see the addiction as a serious problem, perhaps due to other substance use disorders
Furthermore, family members in denial typically adopt specific, problematic roles based on existing social dynamics. Learning more about these roles is another way for family members to set healthy boundaries and correct their own enabling behavior. Visit this resource for more information about these harmful family roles.
Putting An End To Enabling And Addiction?
The entire family needs to be on the same page before they can successfully confront an addiction. Family First Intervention can help. We have the experience and know-how necessary to help a family move past their own hang-ups and become a team that is focused on recovery.
Contact us directly or get a copy of your free eBook today if you’d like to know more about the right way for family members to respond to a drug or alcohol problem.
*This post was updated Dec 08, 2019