Learning at least five ways to stop enabling an addict can help parents, family members and friends understand how their own actions may actually play a role in a loved one's continuing addiction. Identifying these behaviors and making a concerted effort to change them may lead the addict to acknowledge her addiction and seek help for recovery.
Five Tough Love Strategies to Help Addicts
Here are five "tough love" strategies that people who care about a person with an addiction can adopt to stop enabling that person:
1. Educate Yourself About Drug Addiction.
The first step in dealing with an addiction is to learn as much as possible about this condition. There are support groups for friends and family members of addicts, and they can be a valuable source of information and help. Everyone attending the meetings has personal experience with dealing with an addict, and nothing that a new member can share with the group will be shocking or surprising to them.
Your doctor or local public health agency can also direct you to good sources of information. Visit the public library to look for books about drug and alcohol addiction. Visiting quality websites dealing with the topic of addiction and recovery will also help.
2. Stop Providing Financial Support.
Giving the addict money is one way that friends and family members inadvertantly support the addiction. A person who is in the throes of addiction becomes very good at using various means to manipulate others into giving her cash. No matter what the addict says the money will be used for, chances are very good that any funds she receives will be used to buy drugs or alcohol. If you wouldn't consider buying the substance for the addict yourself, don't support the addiction by giving her money.
3. Allow the Addict to Experience the Consequences of Her Actions.
When you support an addict by giving her a place to stay or providing her with food, you are acting as an enabler. Paying an addict's rent or car payment, buying her groceries or bailing her out of jail may seem like kind gestures, but it only serves to help the addict avoid the logical consequences of her actions.
For a person who is an addict, getting the next drink or fix will always come first. If someone else is willing to pay her expenses, she is better able to continue using whichever substance feeds her addiction.
4. Don't Take Responsibility for the Addict's Disease.
You are not responsible for making someone else an addict. If you choose to confront her about the addiction issue, she may try to blame the behavior on something you did or didn't do, or on past events. Don't get drawn into feeling guilty or that the addiction is your fault. It isn't.
5. Get On With Your Own Life.
Over time, a family dealing with an addict begins to change their habits and behavior to accommodate the disease. For example, they may be reluctant to invite people over because they want to avoid being embarrassed by the addict's behavior.
It's healthier for everyone in the family to focus on school, work and hobbies, rather than constantly focus on the addict and her issues. Getting counseling will help the family members stay on track and stop enabling the addict.
The Most Important Thing to Remember
Along with the five ways to stop enabling listed above, there is another important factor to keep in mind: Don't base decisions about your behavior on feeling sorry for the addict. A person who is living with an addiction will use feelings of pity to her advantage. If you want to stop enabling and move forward in getting help for your loved one, consider holding an addiction intervention instead.