Enabling and Addiction: Warning Signs

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If you have someone in your life who struggles with a substance use disorder, you naturally want them to get better. Sometimes loved ones mean well but end up contributing to the problem without even knowing they are doing it. Enabling and addiction are a common enough occurrence that it’s important to recognize the signs. Some of the most common ways to enable a person in their addiction to drugs and alcohol include the following:

Making Excuses For the Person

A person who struggles with a substance use disorder lives in chaos but they are still responsible for their behavior. Many loved ones find it difficult to hold someone accountable for their addictive actions, and instead, come up with excuses. They may rationalize the behavior by saying something caused the person to drink or use drugs. It might be a person or an event, such as a fight or a tough day at work. Rationalizing behavior isn’t fair and it only serves to prolong the person getting help.

Making excuses also allows a person to get away with what they say and do, when they should be experiencing the consequences of their choices. For example, a person may tell their addict if they drink or use drugs, a consequence will take place. When the addict engages in their addiction, their loved one may be tempted to make an excuse for it. This only serves to enable the person and show them they will not be held responsible for what they do.

Covering Up Behavior

Lies and secrecy often form the heart of allowing addiction to go on long-term. Enabling and addiction often involve lying with the intent of protecting a person. Instead, this only allows them to stay sick longer. Covering up for someone can involve:

  • Lying for them by saying they did not drink or use drugs when they did
  • Hiding evidence
  • Taking the viewpoint that their problem isn’t severe

Covering up for someone does not truly protect them but just protects their secret, which keeps them rooted in illness.

Providing Money, Drugs, or Alcohol

While it may seem obvious that supplying an addict with drugs or alcohol is a terrible idea, some loved ones justify it for various reasons. They might feel like they will do it just one time in order to help relieve the other person’s stress or other negative feelings. They may feel that giving them a small amount of alcohol or drugs isn’t that bad, even though any amount for an addict is unwise and potentially dangerous

Providing money that can be used to purchase drugs and alcohol is a big part of enabling and addiction. Handing over money a person knows will go directly towards supporting the addiction should never be an option. Sometimes a person with a substance use disorder will ask for money, assuring their loved one that it will be used for a legitimate expenditure, such as buying groceries or paying a bill. In this case, the loved one has two choices: refuse to give them money or provide it only if they make the direct purchase themselves. This could include going online and making a payment for a bill or shopping for groceries and handing them over.

Pretending the Addiction Isn’t Happening

Some loved ones simply give in to the temptation to deny that anything is wrong. This may be the action of one individual or an entire family. Or it can be friends who decide to pretend the person isn’t really suffering from a substance use disorder. When this happens, it signals to the addict that they can continue to use and not have anyone hold them responsible. They may also embrace the lack of action as proof that they have everything under control and don’t need treatment.

Buying Empty Promises

An addict spends a lot of money procuring drugs and alcohol. But they also attempt to buy something that doesn’t cost money. Someone with a substance use disorder always wants to buy time: time to keep using, time before they seek help, time in which people will still buy their excuses. 

Promises people with addiction often make can include things like promising to look for treatment next week, only asking for money one more time, or making their next drug or alcohol binge their last one. Part of ending enabling and addiction involves no longer believing yet another empty promise. It’s important to tell the person they have made many similar vows in the past that either did not come true or only lasted a short amount of time. Trust with someone’s words must be earned over time.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment in California

At Launch Centers, we understand how difficult it is to admit you need help and reach out to get it. Our treatment professionals understand how to provide individualized care for each of our clients that helps you put addiction in your past and manage any accompanying mental health symptoms.
If you have any questions about how our treatment program can help you or a loved one, please contact Launch Centers today

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