When you are in a relationship of any sort, be it with family, friends, or a romantic partner, it’s the most natural instinct in the world to want to help them when they need you. When this person is an addict this can represent additional problems for you as you try to ensure you support rather than enable. By understanding the situation better, you can find the right approach in this situation—but it’s worth bearing in mind that there are support groups out there for partners, friends, and family of addicts, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you make mistakes.
Enabling is when you help and support someone to such an extent that they no longer fear the consequences of their actions. They become totally dependent on the fact that no matter how many times they relapse, you’ll always be there for them, cheering them on.
Another way an addict can be enabled is if they continue to mix socially with others with addiction. They’re enabled in this environment by the sheer fact that they’re in a situation where taking drugs is the norm and the resulting peer pressure enables continued abuse.
Here are some things to remember if you love someone who struggles with addiction:
You can help your loved one to overcome their addiction by refusing to give them what they want, so that they are responsible for their own actions. This is often hard to implement as an addict is so conditioned by the substance they abuse that they resort to desperate measures if they feel their supply is threatened. If you can bear to remain resolute in the face of some serious pleading, you’ll be doing your loved one a big favor in the long run.
One thing you have to push out of your mind is what will happen to your loved one if you stop being there for them. Again, this is easier said than done but it is vital to get them to deal with the consequences of their actions. If you hold back for fear of alienating them, you’re also holding them back from dealing with their addiction.
To make sure you love an addict without enabling them it’s essential to set indisputable and clear boundaries and rules. Tell them what will happen if they drink or use again and have a suitable punishment in mind, such as having them move out or withholding privileges, so that they know what consequences they face. Then if they cross any lines, you implement the punishment immediately and without discussion, summoning all the tough love you can to get them on the right road to recovery.
It’s easy to believe that you can fix your loved ones and help them overcome their addiction but in truth, you can only ever control your own actions. It’s a crucial part of your loved one’s recovery to accept that the things they do and say have consequences that they are responsible for and not you. By accepting the consequences of their actions, an addict is better placed to travel the road to successful recovery.
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