Enabling Addicts and the Dangers of Doing So

Accepting addictions

It can be incredibly difficult to watch someone in your life suffer from a substance addiction. You want to help them any way you can, but figuring out the best way to do so is not always easy. In addition, it can be tough to initiate a conversation about finding help.

It’s not uncommon to accidentally enable an addict while trying to help them. Here are a few common behaviors that may seem harmless at first but actually enable the addict:

Lying or “covering” for them – You might want to protect the person’s pride. When friends or family members ask why he or she seems to be acting differently or has missed a few recent gatherings, you may make excuses for their behavior or absence.

Indulging alongside them – Perhaps your loved one drinks a bit less if you’re around. Maybe you tag along on a night out so you can keep an eye out for them.

Lending them money – It’s not uncommon for addicts to prioritize getting their fix over being able to pay for things like groceries or rent. Perhaps you’ve lent money to him or her a couple of times so their landlord won’t come after them.

Ignoring their negative behavior – It’s natural to want to give your loved one the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you’re trying to believe that ignorance is bliss, and if you stop paying attention to it, you can make it go away.

Why It’s Dangerous to Enable Your Loved One’s Addiction

Even though you may be acting with the best of intentions, these actions signal to your loved one that what he or she is doing is okay. They may assume that you have no problem with their substance use, or that you’ll always be willing to cover for them when they need it.

Their behavior may worsen if you aren’t holding them accountable. Addiction is a slippery slope, and the consequences of allowing it to go on could be deadly.

Establishing firm boundaries with this person is important for salvaging your relationship, protecting your own mental health, and encouraging them to get help.

Lifelong recovery is possible for every addict, your loved one included. The first step to helping them get better is letting them know that you don’t support their addiction and that you’re there for them, but you’re only willing to help them in ways that will help them recover.

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