When you enable someone, instead of teaching them how to face challenges, you take on their challenges. If you are dealing with your child or a sibling, you might have become accustomed to being an enabler for them without even realizing it.
One way to determine if you have been enabling is to examine how you approach their challenges. Do you always step in to do things for them that they should be able to handle — meaning do you make it easy for them to put off their responsibilities?
Have you made it easy for them to get things? Buying them a cell phone and putting it on your plan? Driving them around and even allowing them to live with you when they are capable of living on their own?
You might feel guilty because the alternative seems harsh. You might feel that you would be pushing them away. However, you might be doing more harm to them by taking charge of their responsibilities. This is the time to become someone who empowers, instead of enables.
Why Enabling is Harmful
Often, when you are enabling someone going through addiction, you do it because you think that they cannot control themselves. Therefore, your constant intervention is a way to assure yourself that you can prevent them from abusing drugs or alcohol.
This kind of relationship can become very harmful for you and your loved one, because you have established a relationship built upon distrust, denial, and false security. You are not allowing the person to grow and face their problems — instead, you are sheltering them and keeping them in arrested development.
This is damaging for you because as they continue to abuse drugs or alcohol, you begin to adopt a negative portrait of your life and theirs: what you should have done and what they cannot and will never do. This mindset can further distance you from your loved one while also pushing away other family members and friends who have grown impatient.
Empowering is Powerful
To empower is to teach the one you love to face and handle challenges themselves. Addiction recovery is all about discovering true potential and gaining self-confidence to break away from addiction and to face the challenges the world creates.
It takes hard work, patience, and consistency, but the path of finding empowerment is far more constructive than being in denial and trying to protect your loved one by sheltering them from the world. If you have been an enabler, it might be time to give some control to your loved one to begin to empower them to take responsibility for their behavior.
Respect Them, But Set Boundaries
If you constantly intervene and interrogate your loved one afflicted with addiction, you create distrust and low self-esteem in them. They will adopt these thoughts and continue to validate them with poor behavior. When you respect their space and give them the benefit of the doubt, you start creating trust, and this trust becomes trust in themselves.
You move away from being a person your loved one is afraid to disappoint to being a person they are motivated to come through for. Correcting the habits created from enabling will take time and effort. Where most fail is when they meet their first bump in the road and revert back to old ways.
This is because they have not created a way to either prevent or get through a tough situation. Establishing boundaries at the beginning of your new journey together is a great way to start a lasting effort.
You first need to accept that you cannot fix this person, and you need to meet them where they are. Recognize that their behavior and attempts to continually use come from a cycle of negative thoughts and behaviors. There should be no shame in how they feel.
Share Your Feelings
Meeting someone where they are takes listening. You might have dismissed their opportunity to have a voice in the past because you thought you were handling their life — and though it came from a place of love, you both need to communicate your feelings moving forward. Sharing feelings will help you both express your fears and concerns. It can establish your bond by reminding each other how much you care.
How you feel might not be how they feel about their addiction, but you need to be open to allowing them to express this so you can know where each other stands. Remember to offer help, not a solution. It is ultimately up to them to get better — you are just there for support, and this needs to be established.
More often than not, people want to solve their problems as quickly as possible and move on. This is not how recovery works. Problems occur as a result of circumstance and behavior. You might move past a problem, but another is sure to come along.
You and your loved one need to understand that you can’t be perfect and that you will never create the ultimate plan to avoid problems — life happens. The goal should always be supporting sobriety.. With that common goal, you can work within these parameters to achieve that. Allow yourself and your loved one to make mistakes.
Sobriety is not the end result — sobriety actually begins on day one. Be a support pillar for their needs, stay in contact, help hold them accountable, and remember that ultimately, it is up to your loved one to do the work. When you need to intervene, do it from a place of love — not control.
If you are struggling to let your loved one face their addiction and continuing to enable them, it’s time to seek professional intervention. True Recovery offers 24/7 support for families trying to help their loved ones who are fighting addiction. We’ll show you how to help the right way, so you can all heal together. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.