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Tips for Breaking Enabling Behaviors in Addiction

What is enabling?

Enabling is defined as giving someone or something the authority or means to do something. More specifically with addiction, enabling is seen as assisting an addict with something that they are capable of doing and by all means should be doing themselves. Drug addiction is a complex disease that affects the user, their family, and friends. Enabling can be a difficult situation to face when dealing with a recovering addict. The line between helping and enabling is extremely fine and can be difficult to decipher. No one ever means to enable nor do they want to be accused of enabling a loved one. The truth comes down to the fact that sometimes what may be viewed as helpful can actually be causing harm to the addict. When discussing enabling in the recovery community, often times we are talking about codependency and enabling that occurs in relationships with recovering addicts. A codependent relationship often involves the enabler struggling with the stress of a loved one’s addiction. The addict at the opposite end of the relationship typically knows exactly that to say, often through manipulation. Typically the enabler neglects their own needs and responsibilities to help others.

The consistent need for an enabler to please others will often lead to the following behaviors:

  • Obsessiveness
  • Controlling behavior
  • Resentment, guilt, anger
  • Low self-worth
  • Making excuses for other’s behaviors
  • Struggles with setting boundaries
  • Care-taking
  • Self-abandonment

The first step to take when trying to break enabling behaviors is to recognize that there is a problem and many behaviors must be changed.

Below are some tips to keep in mind when making changes to enabling behavior.

  • Begin by not covering up the fact that your loved one may have an addiction problem. Make sure that your loved one sees the consequences for their substance abuse, this is the only way they will see that change needs to happen.
  • Stop with the control and manipulation. Do you see yourself trying to control your loved one? Attendance in AA, NA, or CoDA (codependency anonymous) will help you understand and accept that there is nothing you can do to control your loved one’s addiction.
  • Stop giving your loved one money, clothing, and other gifts. Addicts are known for taking advantage of the people that love them. At first this can be difficult, but clear boundaries need to be established in order to avoid having this continue in the future.
  • Your loved one needs to stay true with obligations. Stop making excuses on why they act the way they do, or why they blow off important dates or meetings. It is important to hold your loved one responsible for their obligations so they can go out into society as a contributing member. A hand-off approach can sometimes be beneficial when you are no longer available to be a crutch in times of need. This can show the addict that their actions are hurting themselves and everyone around them.
  • Below are some tips to keep in mind when making changes to enabling behavior.Don’t be concerned with your loves one’s reaction. Your loved one will be angry once they notice a change in your responses to their behavior. Once they realize that you are not paying their way or covering their lies it will be difficult at first. Stay strong and keep these tips in mind when breaking out of those codependent ways.

Getting your loved one into treatment is the best way you can help a loved one struggling with alcohol or substance abuse problems. Silicon Beach Outpatient Center is a substance abuse treatment center in Los Angeles providing intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Call us today for more information about our IOP and OP treatment program at 310.846.8215.  

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