A recent study quoted in USA Today from the Surgeon General estimated that 1 in 7 people in the US will be suffering from some sort of substance addiction. There are many other types of addiction gambling, sexual addiction and compulsive lying. With this is mind many people who are not addicts themselves will be living with or interacting with an addict. When the addict is a loved one we want to do everything that we can to help them.
Loving an addict can often turn the unsuspecting into an "enabler". If someone we care about is in trouble, needs money or is in danger of losing their job or career, an enabler will go out of their way to protect the addict. It is a natural instinct to protect those that we love. You may be the child of an addict suffering from physical or verbal abuse, afraid to ask your friends to meet your parent, you may be the spouse of an addict fooling yourself into thinking that the sober person who wakes up with you in the morning loves you enough to quit their habit.
As an enabler, you give money to the addict, make excuses for their behavior, lie to your friends and family and sometimes isolate yourself. You may feel guilty about the addiction and blame yourself for their behavior and you sacrifice yourself to make them happy.
STOP! Stop enabling, stop giving them money, let them lose their job, let them be embarrassed, let them clean up their own mess. You may think you are being kind by helping them but you are in reality exacerbating the problem and allowing it to go on for longer. The addict may never seek help but if you are enabling the behavior then their addiction becomes acceptable and they are less likely to seek professional assistance.
How do you stop being an enabler? The important thing is to set some rules, ask yourself what you will or will not do for the addict.
Here are some potential rules, it is up to you to decide which ones would work for you.
- The addict cleans up their own mess.
- You tape or record the addicts worst behavior to show them later on, this is not a good idea if they are violent.
- You avoid conflict with the addict when they are under the influence.
- You avoid contact with the addict at times when you know they are exhibiting unsociable behavior.
- If the addict misses work they must call in themselves.
- You continue to live your life and socialize with your friends and family even if the addict does not approve.
- The addict pays for their own addiction, they do not need money from you.
- If the addict asks for professional help, you encourage them to follow through with it.
Remember the best way to be kind to an addict is to not to be too kind. Do not sacrifice yourself and your own happiness for an addict because you will make their behavior worse. If you love an addict you will help them to help themselves by doing less for them.
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