It is well known in the area of addiction that the disease does not thrive in a vacuum. Rather, addiction can best be understood as a family and communal problem where interactions and ways of relating either strengthen (enable) or diminish addictive behaviors. The saying “no man is an island” applies greatly to the disease of addiction in which every member of the addict’s life is in a reciprocal toxic relationship with the affected loved one. However, it is important to caution against blaming or imposing guilt on oneself. Instead, the enabler would benefit from empowering him or herself to bring enabling to a halt and work towards developing healthy relationship patterns in recovery. The first step is awareness of enabling.
5 Signs You Are Enabling:
- Placing the addict’s needs before your own. Your priority is worrying about how the addict is feeling while neglecting your own needs and wants.
- You ignore the problem. You overlook the negative consequences, hoping by ignoring them, they would go away.
- Lying to others in order to cover up for the addict. You make excuses for their behavior or call their work to call in sick for him.
- Difficulty expressing emotions or identifying your own feelings. Because covering up has become habitual, you have forgotten how you feel. You also hide your feelings out of fear that expressing them may upset the addict.
- Blaming. You blame other people on the addict’s behavior. You avoid confronting the addict but the frustration remains. You choose “safer” targets to blame and ventilate anger.
Here is how you can begin to break the cycle of enabling:
- Do not clean up after the mess. Refusing to tend to fixing the consequences communicates responsibility and urgency in the addict.
- Empower yourself. Do not allow the addict to place you in compromising situations. Set boundaries and make a list of healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Strive for the healthy and avoid the unhealthy behaviors.
- Set bottom lines. Write down what you will support and will not support. Reiterate often why you need to do this for yourself.
- Obtain accountability and support through attending support groups (AL-ANON). It is important to always know you are not alone.
Enabling can be a very difficult habit to break. Recovery highly depends on the addict’s loved ones ending their enabling and communicating the need for treatment. If you are struggling with enabling, we are here to help you find ways to help your loved one. Call us now.