It is hard to face the fact that a beloved member of your family may have a problem with drugs or alcohol. However, it is important to remember that in a family unit, what affects one person affects the family as a whole. Drug and alcohol abuse affects family members in several ways. Oftentimes, family members do not want to face that someone they love has an addiction. These family members pretend the problem is not that bad and refuse to face it or talk about it with the drug-abusing family member. Thus, they totally refuse the idea of going to addiction treatment services.
This is referred to as enabling. The family members rescue the alcoholic or addict when they get into trouble or are unable to function, thus allowing the addict to continue their behavior. The addict never has to face the consequences of his or her actions because someone else in the family is always there to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, enabling an addict also has negative effects on the enabler because the addict comes to expect them to continue enabling. If the enabler doesn’t assist the addict, they receive the brunt of the addict’s abusive behavior. An enabler, while not an addict, has as many emotional problems as the addict. The first step in breaking the behavior of an enabler is to recognize it for what it is.
Let’s see a few points to know if you are an enabler:
- An enabler creates alibis, makes excuses, and completes important tasks for an addict so that the addict will not find themselves in trouble
- An enabler rationalizes the addict’s continued drug use as being understandable
- An enabler avoids confrontation with the addict
- An enabler throws out the addict’s drugs rather than focusing on a treatment plan
- An enabler makes threats but does not follow through
An enabler can actively or passively allow the addict to continue their drug use. Even by saying nothing, an enabler allows an addict to continue their behavior through their silence. Sometimes this passive approach is a defense mechanism that the enabler has adopted to avoid having the addict lash out at them in a verbally or physically abusive way. However, fear, while a great motivator, does not make for a strong family relationship. The best way to protect your family from an addicted family member is to face the addiction head-on.
The enabler must desist from being the rescuer for the addict and instead be the rescuer for the family. By detaching themselves, enablers force the addict to face their addiction head-on. While this may be difficult and incredibly painful for the family, forcing the addict to rely on him or herself is the first step in getting them to realize the strength of their addiction. Once they must face the consequences of their addictive behavior, they may begin to see themselves in a new light and be ready to seek help to end their addiction. Once the addict has reached this critical step, the family can come in with solutions such as drug treatment plans. The family can once again become a support structure for the addict, but this time in a healthy way that does not enable the addictive behavior but seeks to reform it.