One of the biggest problems family members can face when dealing with an addiction is recognising that they are enabling the person to continue with their addiction. So what does enabling a drug addict involve? Well firstly, any financial support. Whilst no family member would feel happy about seeing their loved one go without, it is worth realising that any action that makes them more comfortable takes them a step away from recognising there is a problem. To put it in simple terms, someone who is sleeping on a park bench is far more likely to recognise the negative consequences of their drug use than someone who is sleeping in a clean, warm house.
This is often something that family members struggle to hear; they see it as failing their loved one if they sink that low. However, it is important to consider the saying “you have to hit rock bottom before you can pick yourself back up”. By preventing the person from reaching their rock bottom, the family are effectively prolonging the addiction. That is not to say I blame family members that take this path; it is a natural instinct to want to keep the ones you love safe. However, sadly many drug users die as a result of their addiction, so when given the choice of watching the person die, or letting them experience discomfort in order to realise they need recovery, the choice is obvious.
What Counts as Enabling?
So a few things that count as enabling then; paying for accommodation or allowing them to live with you rent free – as long as the person is an adult there is no reason why they cannot support themselves (when they are drug free). Paying off drug dealers – although these people can be intimidating, by paying the debt off they are likely to extend more credit to the addict in future; they know there is a family willing to bail them out. Providing excuses to employers or spouses – whilst it is obviously preferable for the addict to have work or have a successful relationship, again these are things that they potentially need to lose or come close to losing before they comprehend the extent of the problem.
Are you enabling a drug addict? Al-Anon and Families Anonymous are both organisations that can help family members to recognise whether they are enabling, and support them to act in a productive way. Family addiction support is necessary for such people. Once the enabling stops, the recovery is given opportunity to start.