Being an enabler of an addict means supporting the addiction rather than the addict. You might think that you’re helping the person you love, but you’re really just helping him remain an addict and avoid making positive changes. Chief enablers in families are the ones who are doing the most damage, even when they mean to be helpful and loving. Learn to recognize your enabling behaviors so you can stop doing more damage and start really supporting the addict in your life.
What Is an Enabler?
By definition, a chief enabler is a person whose actions and words help an addict make excuses to continue using and avoid changing. The main way in which an enabler promotes the addiction is by preventing the addict from experiencing consequences. When the addict doesn’t experience the consequences of his substance abuse, he can’t feel the full effect of his actions. Without that, he will never find the motivation to change.
Characteristics of the Chief Enabler
How do you know if you are enabling the addict in your life? Until you really stop to consider what acts and words could be enabling, you probably think that you are helping your loved one. If you’re worried about him and you think he needs to change, but he doesn’t listen and refuses to admit needing help, it may be time to consider your own actions. Here are some characteristics of the enabler:
- Hides the negative consequences of the addict’s behaviors.
- Makes excuses to other people for the addict’s actions.
- Lies to the addict about how bad things are.
- Takes care of responsibilities for the addict.
- Puts blame on other circumstances instead of the addict.
Stop Enabling Now
Making the transition from enabling addiction to supporting positive change can be difficult. At first it will feel like you’re being mean or unfair. Your loved one has always relied on you to support him in unproductive ways, so stepping back and refusing to lie, make excuses or pick up after him will be tough. When you stop doing these things, though, you’ll find that he makes some pretty quick realizations. To stop being the chief enabler, start with a serious conversation. Sit down with your loved one and explain to him that you will no longer be giving him money, taking care of his responsibilities, making excuses for him or anything else related to his addiction. Make sure you include other family members in the conversation so that you have people to keep you accountable. If you slip up and go back to your old habits, you’ll have other people to remind you of the commitment you made. The next thing you need to do is to be prepared to help your loved one get real help for addiction. Research options for professional addiction treatment so that when he finally realizes that he needs to make a change, you’ll have some choices for him. When you stop enabling and actually start helping your loved one, you will start to see positive changes happening.