If you’ve been labeled an enabler by an interventionist or someone else, it’s important to grasp the meaning behind it and take steps to address the issue. Being an enabler implies that you may inadvertently be prolonging your loved one’s substance use disorder, preventing them from hitting rock bottom and seeking the necessary treatment.
What Does It Mean to Be an Enabler?
First and foremost, it’s crucial to clarify what being an enabler is not. Being an enabler does not imply that you want your loved one to continue their destructive behavior or that you support their unhealthy habits. In fact, being an enabler is a reflection of your genuine care and concern for your spouse, sibling, or adult child. Unfortunately, it also means that you inadvertently contribute to their addiction by making their life easier.
Enabling someone entails facilitating or unintentionally supporting their continued substance abuse. This support may not be direct, such as supplying them with drugs or alcohol, but rather indirect, by shielding them from the consequences of their addiction. Most individuals struggling with addiction need to reach rock bottom before they can recognize the need for treatment. Rock bottom can involve losing their job, home, driving privileges, custody of their children, or damaging relationships.
By enabling someone, you prevent them from reaching rock bottom. For example, instead of running out of money to sustain their addiction, your financial support allows them to afford bills, rent, and substances. Instead of losing their job, you intervene on their behalf and make excuses for their irresponsible behavior. Being an enabler means inadvertently allowing the addiction to persist.
Signs that You May Be an Enabler
The first step in breaking the cycle of enablement is acknowledging your role in the problem. Many individuals who enable addiction are unaware of the impact of their actions. It’s crucial to honestly assess your relationship with the person struggling with addiction. Even though your actions may stem from a place of love, they can have serious consequences. Consider the following signs that you may be an enabler:
Ignoring bad behavior: If you observe signs of substance use disorder in your loved one, such as recreational drug use or missing work due to drinking, but choose to ignore these behaviors, you might be enabling their addiction.
Providing financial support: Financial problems often motivate individuals with addiction to seek help. If you’re covering your loved one’s bills, paying off their debts, bailing them out of jail, or fixing property damage caused by their actions, you could be enabling their addiction.
Making excuses: If you find yourself making phone calls on your loved one’s behalf, whether to employers, family members, spouses, or others, to justify their addictive behaviors, you might be an enabler. Making excuses prevents them from facing the consequences of their actions.
Breaking the Cycle of Enablement
Breaking the cycle of enablement is challenging but necessary for the recovery of your loved one. It requires unwavering conviction on your part that you are taking the right course of action. You may encounter moments of weakness where you’re tempted to revert to your habit of saving or protecting your loved one. However, you must remain strong and steadfast in your decisions. Follow these steps to stop enabling your loved one’s addiction:
Stop cleaning up their messes: Recognize when you’re taking responsibility for cleaning up after your loved one’s actions. Whether it’s dirty dishes, soiled clothes, spilled drinks, or friends passed out on the couch, hold them accountable for cleaning up after themselves.
Refrain from offering rides or money: Make it their responsibility to fulfill their obligations, such as getting to work, without relying on you for rides. Avoid providing transportation when they are under the influence.