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If you are dealing with a family member who is struggling with addiction, it affects everyone he or she meets. The illness causes stress in relationships, and can make for difficult times in even the strongest family units. Whether the issue is with alcohol or drugs, it often starts in such a subtle manner that the addiction is quite firmly established before the family is aware the problem exists.
At that point, you and your family members may have started developing certain strategies for dealing with your loved one that may not, in retrospect, have been the best way to deal with the situation. Often, families try to help or rescue a person who they see struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, but end up enabling him or her instead.
How does a family enable the addict? Enabling is when a friend or family member does things for an addict that he or she could do for him or herself. It prevents the person from experiencing the consequences of his or her addiction.
What Enabling an Addict Looks Like
You could be enabling your addicted family member by doing any or all the following:
- Ignoring the problem
- Pretending it’s not all that serious
- Hoping the addiction will get better on its own (it won’t)
- Blaming yourself for your loved one’s addiction (It’s not your fault)
- Raising his or her children
- Believing your loved one’s tall tales about why financial support is needed
It’s a very common pattern. If you or your family has behaved in these ways, you’re not alone. Here is a great resource on families who enable and why they do it.
How to Stop Enabling an Addict
Once you realize you have been enabling an addicted family member, stopping the pattern is not as easy as it sounds. These behaviors have been built up over many years. It’s going to be challenging to stop the initial instinct to “help” and “rescue” your family member. There is a difference between helping and enabling, and you can learn how to focus on your own needs by getting professional help.
An intervention is a way for an addict to admit that he or she has a problem and start taking responsibility for it. You need to look after your own needs, instead of worrying about the addict in your life. This Intervention Video will provide more information about the process.
For your loved one to get well, he or she needs treatment. Substance abuse is a disease, and waiting for someone in the throes of addiction to decide to go for help is not the answer. You need to make the right decision for the person who is ill and get them the help they need now. Check out this intervention and FAQ resource to learn more.