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Am I enabling drug use?

Enabling drug use

When it comes to people suffering from addiction, seeing your loved one suffer and expected to do nothing about it must be a very hard thing to do. However, it is something one must learn to do. Sometimes our constant ‘help’ may actually be detrimental to their healing and hence becomes enabling.

So can’t I help my loved one anymore?

Help is different from enabling. Helping does not spare the person from the consequences his using habits. E.g. driving them for their doctor’s appointment, teaching them a skill.

Enabling is defined as doing things for a person with a drug problem that the person normally could and would do for themselves if they were sober. E.g. paying their rents, buying them food, loaning money

The enabler thinks he is helping, but in actual fact is making things worse by shielding the user from the consequences of their actions. This delays recovery.

It is important to identify some of the reasons why people enable drug use.

  • They feel guilty and blame themselves for being the cause of drug use in victim
  • Fear that something bad may happen: threats of self-harm, desolation etc if they do not help
  • The person with the drug problem plays the victim card
  • Lied to that some progress is been made from the supposed ‘help’

Signs that you may be an enabler

  • Making excuses for their behavior
  • Lying on their behalf to protect them from the consequences of their actions.
  • Constantly bailing them out of legal issues
  • Taking over some of their responsibilities e.g. rents
  • Prioritizing their needs over yours
  • Loaning them money (meanwhile you know they always misuse it)
  • Ignoring or denying there is a problem
  • Not following through on the consequences
  • Resenting your loved one
  • Frequent emotional or physical exhaustion

Now that you know what next?

Do you see yourself above? Most likely you did not know what you were doing was enabling. Enabling helps the person stay longer with the problem. Here is what you can do instead:

  • Have a discussion where you table out the issue (when they are sober)
  • Set healthy boundaries and follow through, making sure to explain why e.g. do not drink while in my house
  • Help them get help
  • Don’t clean up after them
  • Learn to say no
  • Practice self-care

When you stop enabling drug use, the person may or may not seek professional help and get their act together. Keep in mind that the long-term benefits of stopping to enable outweigh the short-term cries of discomfort.

Substance use doesn’t just affect the user, but loved ones as well. Try seeking professional help for yourself as well.

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