10 Classic Signs of Enabling an Addict

The mysteries of life! We are all shot out into this world without the slightest inkling as to what’s ahead and the mistakes to come. Life is one of those things that just comes to you slowly where it’s best just to experience something for yourself rather than to be told about it. In this seeing is believing type of world, first-hand familiarity always trumps. It’s kind of like where you draw the line between fiction and non-fiction. It’s not reality unless it actually is.  For instance, as children, we are told that fire is hot and that it will burn our hands when touched, yet at some point in time we all stick a finger or two into the flames out of disbelief almost- and then we are proved wrong thus learning from the situation. We have to experience life in order to get a grasp on it.

For the record, I’m still like this. Somebody tells me something is hot and I want to touch it just to prove them wrong. Stubborn stubborn stubborn. Needless to say, this is all an excellent metaphor for addiction and enabling an addict of course. What if somebody was there every second of the way and would slap your finger away from the blaze or made sure it was cooled off first every time you were to reach for the scalding hot torch? Nobody would ever learn a damn thing. Coddling your addict or alcoholic will help them to continue their destruction and chaos. Often times, we need the pain in order to learn from the burn.

Just Because We Didn’t Start the Fire…

If you don’t work in a fire department, then stop helping put out fires for people. We do the things we do- enabling an addict or alcoholic out of love, but through this love, we are feeding the flames and allowing the devastation of addiction to grow into a great wildfire that cannot be controlled. We’re doing the opposite of our intentions by going to such great lengths to save our addict or alcoholic that’s hurting. Most addicts and alcoholics in active usage are in denial about how severe their chemical dependency has gotten. So we take on this role as the rational support system for them but often end up taking on their responsibilities for them as well. It can be so very tiring, but we continue enabling an addict out of fear manifested through their actions. So then when we get to our wit’s end, we begin making empty threats. We’ll much of the time say, “If you do this again- then blah blah blah.” For the addict, these words turn into the sound the teachers make in Charlie Brown. Womp womp womp womp womp. Scolding and punishment are justified when it comes to these types of situations. If we don’t follow through on what we say we’ll do, then our addict/alcoholic will never take our preemptive words seriously.

Not being taken seriously can and will bring frustration out of anybody. Yet, growing resentment toward this person won’t solve anything. Aggravation may rise, but it’s important to remember it’s out of love. This resentment is built on a foundation of our attempts to save this person and stop the hectic world they live in. We’re not necessarily angry at them but discouraged that they don’t see the same thing we do. They don’t see the overbearing slavery that chemical dependency is- or they choose to ignore it. Either way, not acting on this resentment and treating everything as it should be is really the key here. By resenting them, we are giving them power and enabling an addict even if it doesn’t seem like it. We forget at times how sick they can be and where we actually have to draw our line in the sand.

When enabling an addict, it seems like they are always a few steps ahead to prevent their addiction from being prevented. They know of the sand and are actively looking for ways around it before the line is completed. They will justify everything they do, but we cannot let that be enough. As exhausting as the lies and manipulation can get, ignoring these addictive and/or harmful behaviors will only make things worse. Yes everybody has to live their own lives and nobody can do it for them, but overlooking their destructive ways can be even more hazardous in the end. Being this healthy support also means not holding back. After a few angry outbursts and unpleasant conversations, we start reeling back some of the things that we want to say to the addict. We end up cleaning up their messes because we think asking them to do so will be a fruitless endeavor. We slowly but surely begin walking on eggshells afraid to say or do the wrong thing in anticipation of an unwanted reaction. We must express ourselves and continuously do so. The disease of addiction doesn’t like the truth, and we shouldn’t hold back that truth because alcoholic thinking has our loved one on puppet strings.

It’s almost like we try to become their guardian angel and are always constantly afraid we missed something and they’re going to pull the wool over our eyes at any minute. Sometimes we become so invested that we live in anxiety while anticipating for the next problem to occur. We cannot live in fear and second guess every decision we think is fertile because of previous experiences and mishaps that have happened through enabling an addict. We can help to extinguish these fires, but in the end, we can’t be afraid to just let them burn from time to time. Once something is devastated enough, it’s either gone for good, or it starts over from the burnt soil all around it.

Holding this person accountable is one of the best things we can do. Covering their behaviors in many ways is a definite sign of enabling an addict. This can be through lying to others to cover their ass as we try and prevent more problems appearing. This can be blaming others for whatever ugly situation it is that has transpired. Or this can be putting that person’s needs before your own and letting your sanity and health fly out the window. Sadly, dealing with and enabling an addict is a catch 22. We want so much to help them, but the best help we can give is usually none at all until they are ready to enter recovery and see what life is like when it’s not burning to the ground.

Allowing the Discomfort?

Being trapped in the fires of active addiction is a life consisting of bad choices and tons of ashes from things that were once promising. There isn’t a fire department that can put these out besides that of fellowship and recovery for the true addicts and alcoholics. Sometimes it takes some simple changes and it’s amazing how different of a life can be conjured up. If you or a loved one is struggling with chemical dependency and are ready for help, call 1-866-433-1992 or visit www.anylength.net. We are ready to explore your options of treatment and set you or your loved one on a path that we can all be proud of.