Your family member, friend or significant other has a substance use issue. Consistently, it has interrupted both of your lives. You want them to overcome this issue so badly that you would do anything for them. But what if the efforts you are making to help them overcome it are enabling them further?
You know what it means to be an enabler, but you never thought you would become one yourself. You have always told yourself that you would never be manipulated, or weak enough to fuel someone’s unhealthy behaviors. But when you truly love someone that is struggling with substance use issues, everything changes. You’re emotionally invested. You find you weren’t so steadfast against being an enabler as you’d thought, and your emotions are strongly affected by your loved one's illness.
So how do you know when you have fallen into the role of an enabler? There is no precise event that will tell you that you are an enabler, as each substance abuse case and relationship is unique. But there are some telltale signs to be aware of if you are wondering whether or not you are enabling your loved one's addiction. It is crucial that enablers recognize the role they play in their loved one's behavior.
Are you making excuses?
Are you constantly making excuses for your loved one's behavior? Or maybe you take steps to cover up the signs of addiction to help keep it hidden. You might even tell yourself that your loved one is just going through a phase and that the problems will probably resolve themselves on their own over time. This is a dangerous path to go down, and even though you may feel like you are helping, you are only perpetuating your loved one's problem and not being true to yourself.
Do you have to cover?
Lately, you have started taking care of your loved one's responsibilities. Whether that is paying bills, doing schoolwork or even bailing them out of jail, you have been covering their bases so they don’t have to. You don’t want them to sink further into their addiction, so you take care of their responsibilities to keep them on the right track. Even if you are covering for your loved one because you care about them, taking these actions could prolong their substance abuse.
Are you being manipulated?
Do you find yourself enjoying the feeling of being needed by your loved one? Or maybe you fear that you will lose them if you confront their substance use. Your loved one recognizes your dedication to them, and will sometimes use that to fuel their bad behavior.. Maybe they make you feel guilty for being a nag, or not buying their alcohol or drug for them. Why can’t you simply stick to your guns, and not be manipulated by them? You feel like it’s terrible to leave your loved one in pain. If they ask you to do them a favor by picking them up some alcohol (or whatever their drug of choice may be), and then they make you feel guilty for not following through, you are being manipulated emotionally.
To move forward and ultimately help your loved one overcome their substance abuse problems, you must recognize the signs of being an enabler. Be self-aware, and remember that your love and relationship can make a huge difference in your loved one's recovery. Remember that being an enabler is not about being weak. It is a reaction that stems from your love and concern.