What Is Enabling?
Enabling occurs when friends or family members assist drug abuse unintentionally through their actions or ideas. For example, they could:
•Give the person money when they are short on rent while knowing that it will be used to purchase drugs.
•Ignore strange behaviours or acts in the expectation that they will go away on their own.
•Due to the potential consequences, not report risky or damaging behaviours such as stealing from family members or friends.
These behaviours protect the user from the full repercussions of their drug abuse. Well-intended activities are transformed into a “free pass” to continue using drugs. This distorted perspective can cause people to postpone or even avoid obtaining therapy.
The good news is that there are various approaches you may use to assist your loved one to stop using and get professional support.
The Six Family Roles in Addiction
Active addiction impacts not just the person using drugs or alcohol, but also their entire family. Individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol are unstable and unpredictable, leaving puzzled family members to pick up the pieces. Addiction strains family members to the breaking point and requires everyone to conform in some way.
You’ve probably heard of the six dysfunctional family roles in addiction. As family members adjust to the unpredictability of their loved one’s addiction, each person copes in their own unique way. These coping abilities are typically classified into one of six distinct groups or “roles” within the family. Each role, either directly or indirectly, enables the person with the problem.
Not every family has a single individual who fills every job. Sometimes one person fills many duties, while other times certain roles go unfulfilled. Recognizing these broad description and behavioural patterns is one step toward assisting an addict without enabling them.
The addict is the one who consumes substances and becomes the family’s focal point. Whether they recognize it or not, the addict receives the majority of the family’s attention. Addicts drain their families’ time, energy, and money. Family members enable the addict’s behaviour by covering up mistakes or acting in a certain way to keep the status quo.
The scapegoat acts as the family’s stand-in focal point. Because the addict is the source of much of the family’s confusion, the scapegoat acts in defiance or animosity. They attract negative attention, which diverts attention away from the addict’s unpredictable behaviour. Their acts give the illusion of control over the situation while diverting attention away from where it should be. The scapegoat serves as a distraction for the family, keeping them from addressing the underlying source of the problem.
The mascot takes on the role of the comedian, whose goal is to release tension and stress through comedy. They relieve their feelings of impotence and lack of control by finding the humour in the circumstance. The mascot is typically an active busybody who keeps moving to avoid slowing down and considering the reality of the issue. Keeping things light-hearted may appear to be a strategy to support the addict’s family by diverting focus away from the addict. In truth, it merely allows the addict to continue their destructive habit.
The Lost Child
The lost child is the silent one in the family who does everything they can to deflect everyone else’s attention away from themselves. They try their hardest to fit in and slip under the radar. The lost child remains out of the way while the other family members take turns taking center stage. These people keep their time in the midst of the volatile family dynamic to a minimum and let others draw attention to themselves.
One of the two family roles that most directly supports the addict is the caretaker. They are the one who covers for the addict and cleans up the mistakes they make. While appeasing the addict, the caregiver also strives to keep the rest of the family pleased. They frequently regard themselves as martyrs. They devote all of their time and energy to balancing each member of the family. In reality, the caregiver reinforces the chaotic, dysfunctional cycle by failing to confront the problem and instead insulating the addict from any consequences.
The hero is the other family position that most enables the addict. They take the lead in ensuring that the family appears normal from the outside. The hero devotes all of their time, energy, and attention to maintaining the status quo. They try their hardest to keep the instability at home to a minimum, but their efforts only help to cover up the true issue. Heroes are overly responsible and self-sufficient family members who are perfectionists. Their emphasis on being perfect on the surface not only supports the addict, but also sickens the entire family.
Co-dependency Keeps the Addict Sick
Enabling is a symptom of a larger problem: co-dependency. The phrase co-dependency refers to a very dependant connection between two persons. When one person’s behaviours enable, promote, or perpetuate the negative, irresponsible behaviour of the other, this is a sign of co-dependency.
Co-dependency appears to be beneficial at first. Nobody likes to see a loved one suffer. Your actions are meant to assist your loved one in avoiding harming themselves or others. Allowing your adult child to reside in your home while they try to quit using substances is one example. Perhaps you cover for your inebriated spouse when their boss calls.
Co-dependency develops as these behaviours progress from being a one-time or occasional event to becoming the norm. The addict develops the expectation that you will cover for or save them anytime they are in a difficult position, and you always step up to the plate.
You may believe you are assisting them by preventing them from falling on their faces. You’re merely enabling their behaviour and increasing the problem. They have no need to stop what they’re doing since they know you’ll jump in to fix the problem whenever something goes wrong.
Stop Enabling Addicts with These Five Tips
If you want to learn how to stop assisting a drug addict, try these five effective strategies. These small steps can make a significant impact in encouraging your loved one to get treatment.
1. Attend 12-Step Program Family Meetings
Attending a 12-step program family gathering will help you identify and confront your enabling behaviours. Understanding what kinds of behaviours enable drug usage is the first step toward eliminating them from your life.
2. Attend Family Therapy with the Addict
Family counselling can be an excellent strategy to address the effects of substance abuse on an entire family. It can address underlying difficulties in the family dynamic and allow the addict to express their emotions in a secure setting. It can also be an effective means of assisting people in differentiating the disease and the acts it produces from their own personality and sense of self.
3. Stop Indulging Addict’s Behaviours and Negative Behaviours
Families will sometimes go to any length to conceal a loved one’s addiction. They may supply an explanation for why someone missed work or donate money to the person who is taking drugs in order for them to be able to afford rent or other essentials. Some families even allow their drug addiction to define when they can and cannot do something. You must be strong with your loved one and refuse to provide them with the types of assistance that enable their drug usage.
4. Start Encouraging Drug Rehab Treatment
Your family must discuss the significance of drug treatment. You may contact a facility to explore an intervention or treatment program that may be beneficial to your loved one. When the time comes, discussing with your loved one how their drug addiction has affected your lives will urge them to take the necessary steps toward rehab treatment.
5. Commit to Rehab
For an addict and their family, drug rehab is a lifelong commitment. Family members must use caution so that their behaviours do not precipitate a relapse. To assist, family members should continue to develop constructive ways to connect with one another and commit to continuous treatment sessions with the person in recovery.
Helping the Addict Requires Family Healing
Until you recognize these dysfunctional interactions, you will never understand how to support an addict without enabling them. You can’t help your loved one if you always come to their aid. It not only allows their behaviour, but it also diverts attention away from the rest of your family. Helping the addict is a process that involves the entire family, not just the addict.
Every member of the family must be committed to learning how to quit enabling the addict. They will not recover if someone intervenes every time the addict gets into problems. You must ensure that everyone is willing to go to the effort of recognizing their enabling behaviours.
Other family members may also seek assistance in this situation. Family therapy, for example, is a crucial component of addiction treatment programs. It gives a safe area for families to discuss unspoken difficulties and work through damaged dynamics. The presence of a therapist as a neutral third party guarantees that the discussion stays on track and that everyone in the session feels heard.