Addiction is a disease, but not everyone understands this. Many people misunderstand what addiction or substance abuse is, and this misunderstanding could be enabling a close family member or friend to continue their destructive behavior. The classic enabler makes decisions in response to the effects of addiction that either unwittingly or intentionally allow the addicted loved one to continue their substance abuse.
Dealing with the enabler in your family can be difficult, because you may be trying to help a family member who is addicted to alcohol or drugs at the same time. Enablers might minimize the severity of the loved one’s
abuse or provide the wrong type of support that allows the substance abuse to continue. By learning to effectively deal with the enabler in your family, you can help the whole family unit to begin to heal.
What’s an Enabler?
In essence, the enabler in your family helps to make the addiction possible. An enabler either permits or actually encourages self-destructive behaviors in their loved one. For instance, they may provide their addicted loved one with money which, in turn, is used to buy drugs or alcohol.1 They may invite the loved one to go have a drink or give them a few of their own pain pills if asked. They may repair items around the house that were damaged by the addicted loved one, call in sick to work on the loved one’s behalf or bail them out of jail.
Although many enablers don’t realize that their own actions are having a negative effect on their loved one, their behavior must change in order for healing to begin.
Confronting the Enabler in Your Family
Use knowledge as your first resource to help educate the enabler in your family. Talk to them about the nature of addiction. Help them to understand that their loved one is, indeed, suffering from addiction. Many enablers will deny the fact that their loved one is addicted or will minimize the problem as nothing serious.
Enablers can benefit from education in the same way that many people suffering from addiction can. It’s essential to confront an enabler with evidence of their harmful behaviors. You can help to educate the enabler in your family about how their own actions contribute to the problem. Discuss what an enabler is and how their behaviors fit the enabler mold.
Empower Your Loved One
Helping an enabler to change begins with empowering them through education. The goal isn’t to make this person feel overwhelmed with guilt. The idea is to encourage them to learn new ways to cope with their loved one. It’s hard to cope with someone addicted to alcohol or drugs, but enablers can change. It often takes a sense of empowerment to spur these changes.2 By providing helpful tips, you can teach an enabler to recognize unhealthy behaviors in themselves so they can begin to provide the type of support the addicted loved one actually needs.
If you have an enabler in your family, it’s important to educate them. Otherwise, they can continue to exacerbate an already difficult problem. For more help dealing with the enabler in your family, speak with an addiction specialist soon.