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Am I Enabling My Addicted Loved One?

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

Am I Enabling My Addicted Loved One?

What happens when supporting an addict goes wrong? Are you an enabler? Find out below.

There is an age-old question in the world of addiction. When supporting a loved one suffering from this disease, are we enabling them?

If we give them spare change for the bus home, will they use that spare change to support their addiction and walk home? Or does the money go to the bus driver, after all? Enabling can look like many different things. Let’s discuss.

What is Enabling?

Enabling is the term we use to describe the act of “enabling” your loved one to use drugs or alcohol. It takes many forms. The best way to describe it is through using examples. Asides from our money-for-the-bus scenario, let’s pick out a few others.

Examples of Enabling

Janey has a son who is heavily into cocaine. She knows he takes it every time he has a drink. Money has become tight because he spends his spare cash on cocaine or crack cocaine.

One day, he comes to his mother to ask for money for food. She doesn’t want her son to starve, so she gives him the money. The next day, upon visiting his home, she sees his cupboards and fridge are empty. She asks if he spent the money on drugs and he lies and says no.

He tells her the car broke down, or the rent was due, or that his partner needed it. All lies. Janey gives him more money, this time for food. Do you think he will buy food this time? Does this story sound familiar? Let’s take a second example. Scott lives with his wife of 20 years.

Recently, he’s noticed she’s drinking an awful lot more than she used to. He asks her about it and she says it’s his imagination. Her drinking seems to stop. A few weeks later, Scott is cleaning out the garden and finds a black bag full of wine bottles. He doesn’t tell her he has found them because he is non-confrontational.

He disposes of the bin bag and says nothing. His wife knows it’s gone, but she also knows he didn’t say anything, so she thinks its ok to repeat the process. Enabling takes many forms. Sometimes, turning a blind eye is enabling in itself.

How to Make Sure You’re Not Enabling

Making sure that you are not enabling a drug or alcohol addicted loved one is a difficult process. You will make the odd mistake, but you should stick to it.

It’s not easy to watch someone shout and scream at you because you won’t give in to their negative behaviours or demands. Not giving in, however, is the best tool you have to help them break free of addiction.

To make sure you are not enabling your addicted loved one, ask yourself if they are lying to you. Ask yourself what the likelihood is that they will take the money and use it to feed their addiction. Ask yourself what you would do in their situation – although it can be hard to put yourself in the mind of an addict.

If there’s the slightest chance that your aid leads to further drink or drug use, then don’t extend help. It’s tough, but it’s the best way to push them towards help. Here’s what not giving in to enabling looks like in our three examples above. Instead of giving your loved one money for the bus, a taxi, or a train, take them to the station yourself.

Place them on the service yourself, then pay for the ticket. Put the ticket into their hands instead of the money. You might even go online and buy the ticket home, then send them a QR code. All of these solutions mean you have helped them get home, but you haven’t given them cash.

They may fight you but stick to your guns. In example 2, Janey might take her son shopping herself. Similarly, she could order online groceries and send them to his home.

She might just drop off some food parcels for him. All of these solutions mean she’s not giving him the cash that he might spend on drugs or alcohol. It means he gets the food he needs and no enabling has taken place.

Enabling someone to continue living is different from enabling them to take drugs. In our final example, Scott should confront his wife about the bag of bottles. You can be non-confrontational, encouraging, and supportive, without ignoring the elephant in the room.

Further Help to Stop Enabling

If you need further assistance to stop enabling a loved or if you want to encourage them into drug rehab or support them through alcohol rehab, Help4Addiction are here to aid you. Contact us today on 0203 955 7700 for more info on rehab clinics and what you can do to support a loved one through addiction.

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