Having a loved one who is involved in substance abuse can be draining, and understandably so because you can’t turn your back on them when they need you most.
Whether a spouse, family member, or friend, addiction not only affects the individual, but the people close to them too. People who suffer from some kind of substance abuse will always put their relationship with the substance first. This means other relationships they have with people will end up suffering for it. In severe situations, it ends up destroying it if not treated on time.
Support, Not Enable
As somebody who cares, you could prevent the situation from worsening by loving the person and supporting them in getting the help they need. Many people make the mistake of enabling the addicted person out of love. This only makes it worse, and sets the relationship for a bleak ending.
What is Enabling?
Enabling a substance abuser is the process of helping them to the extent that they don’t need to be responsible for the consequences of their actions. In most cases, people enable an addict out of love.
An enabler often believes they are helping the addict by ‘managing’ their problems for them. Notable Addiction Helper Daniel Gerrard says, “Enabling an addict compounds the problem because instead of finding resolutions, it feeds into its continuance.”
Signs You May Be Enabling
Here are some common signs that you may be enabling an addict:
- Giving them money to buy drugs, especially for “just this one fix”.
- Allowing them to get away with it, after they have failed to quit as promised.
- Paying their outstanding bills because they have used the money for drugs.
- Rationalizing or making excuses for their unacceptable behaviour.
- Dealing with it alone, or hiding it from their family members.
All of these are mainly done out of love, but are they really helping? It only serves to dig the user deeper into their situation because they don’t directly suffer the effect of the problems they have created.
Most times an addict will agree to seek professional help only when they have truly reached a dead end. For example, something as severe as a job loss and inability to buy more drugs. However, by covering up for them at work or providing money to buy the substance, you are ensuring that they do not reach this point.
If losing their job might be the trigger they need to get better, then it’s a more effective option. Lost jobs can be gotten back, but addiction could result in permanent losses. For instance, loyal friendships, some family relationships, health conditions; all these could be lost.
So How Do You Help Without Enabling?
Loving an addict and maintaining a healthy relationship requires that a boundary be put in place for them to take responsibility for their problems. It means ensuring that they are liable for their own life and those of the people around them.
Ways to Love and Help Them
- Educate yourself about the addiction: Try to learn all you can about the addiction. Demystifying it makes it easier to correct. Sometimes this requires going beyond online resources. Reach out to support groups and people who have recovered. They can help you fight the battle. If you are struggling, don’t go through it alone. Seek help from those who have had similar experiences.
- Don’t provide financial support: Allow the abuser understand the repercussions of their destructive habits. Avoid giving them money to fuel their addiction even if they claim it’s for “just this one time”.
- Don’t accept any blame: Substance abusers are responsible for their actions. However, they often tend to accuse the people around them for their situations. Don’t blame yourself either, even though it’s easy to. You are not the cause of their situation.
- Carry on with your life: You can help an addicted loved one without pausing your own dreams, career, or personal endeavours. Your whole life shouldn’t be dependent on the welfare of one person. So, while you provide support in your own way, go ahead with your job, school, or family relationships.
Interventions have been made popular by movies on TV, but they are not as easy as they look. Where all your efforts to get help have come to nought, it is time for an intervention.
An intervention is a guided activity that helps an addicted person see the effect of their habits on their own life, and more importantly the lives of the people around them. It is often moderated by an intervention specialist, and attended by family and close friends of the addicted individual.
The goal of an intervention is to get the person to receive professional help and enter rehab.
As a last resort, where all actions to provide help have been ignored, it is advisable to move on. You can give the addicted person an ultimatum to seek professional help or cut off contact with them.
Tough love isn’t to punish the person, it is to help them make a choice; the choice to improve themselves. Sometimes, they may make the right decision, other times they might not.
Do you know anybody suffering from an addiction? You can get them help from addiction specialists in your area.