At our addiction treatment centre, we regularly meet families of patients who are struggling to stay behind the invisible line that separates “supporting” a loved one from “enabling” territory.
The truth is, no one likes to see their loved ones in any pain or distress, and our need to alleviate their discomfort is only natural.
Addiction is a selfish disease that affects the entire family, its effects are never isolated to just the addict.
Often the families of addicts are left with making conflicting decisions, leaving them uncertain about what action to take.
Enablement is what happens when you help your loved one either avoid the consequences of their using drugs or drinking or by helping them, they are put in a position where they are able to make bad decisions.
E.g. Lending money to an addict to pay for personal expenses – after they have spent their own money on drugs.
Addiction is the addict’s disease; co-dependency is the family’s disorder.
Co-dependency occurs when the loved ones of an addict becomes preoccupied with the addicted or dysfunctional behaviour of that addict.
Although you may not be the one needing addiction treatment, co-dependency also requires its own recovery in the form of detachment.
We will be discussing co-dependency in detail in our next article.
It may seem as if you are attempting to help your loved one through their addiction struggles and woes, however your kind-hearted gestures and “support” may actually just allow them to continue on their path of self-destruction and further into addiction.
Moreover, enablement sends a dangerous psychological message from the ‘enabler’ to the addict – conveying that there will always be someone there to pick up their pieces whenever they slip up.
People addicted to substances are often very manipulative and therefore enabling can easily be disguised as helping/supporting.
In times when you may find it difficult to distinguish between the two, the following questions may be used to help find clarity:
Often the families influence on their addicted loved one’s life is over-looked or avoided.
Successful addiction rehabilitation not only requires change from the addict but also from the family.
For more information, please contact us.
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