Why should I stop enabling? How to move from enabling to supporting recovery

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Enabling Part 2

Through our failed attempts at helping (enabling) our loved one we have come to realize that we have absolutely no control over them.  They continue to lie, steal, manipulate, shame us, and use substances to the detriment of themselves, and our own well being is compromised in the process as well.  What we can control is how we respond to their behaviors, what we do or not do for them, how we choose to interact with, and through these choices we can begin to care for ourselves.

We can choose going forward to only do what supports their recovery and ours.  What does this mean exactly?  We often tell the families we work with to make a commitment going forward to only help in ways that support recovery.  To ask yourself will this support his/her recovery?  For example, if you are wondering if you should allow your son to continue to borrow your car or drive the car you are paying for then I would ask you to assess how it is being used.  If it is being used as the means for him to get his drugs and/or is being driven while that person is intoxicated in some way than continued use of that car does not make sense.  The car is merely a vehicle of mass destruction, which does not support his recovery.   If you are questioning whether you should further provide financial resources for an individual again I would ask you to question if that support is helping or hurting his recovery.  If an individual is so sick in their addictive disease that they cannot or will not work and you are paying their basic bills this does not support their recovery or further their motivation to better themselves.  In fact, it makes it easier for them to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol.  Why should they stop when you take care of everything?  Why should they worry about things such as bills and money?  Life is not too bad.  You take care of it.  In this case you may choose to make a statement such as this to your loved one, “I will not give you any more money.  Going forward I will only support your recovery from drugs and alcohol.”  You may choose to help pay for treatment if feasible, to assist locating treatment resources, to take them to meetings or appointments related to their recovery, or to set up an intervention for your loved one.  You may begin to seek help for yourself in the form of Al-anon or counseling. Those are choices that support recovery.

What we must realize through all of this is that setting boundaries and saying “No, enough is enough” is the MOST loving and helpful thing we can do.  It is the right kind of love.  It is what the addict needs.   It does not mean that we have to cut them out of our life or that we don’t love them anymore.  What it does means is we stop doing for them what they should be able to do for themselves, in the hope that they fall a little bit further and become a bit uncomfortable in the process.  When a person begins to use drugs it feels good.  They like it.  It may initially fill some need such as relieving anxiety, stress, depression, or shyness. But over time as the use progresses and dependence sets in; the use is not as fun.  There become consequences both internal and external.  The addicted person doesn’t feel good the next day, there is withdrawal, depression and anxiety actually worsen, there is shame and they need the substance just to feel normal and to function.  If the external consequences are minimal than using the drug is still better than being without the drug.  The drug has become number one priority in their life, but that’s okay to them because they still have a place to sleep, food to eat, someone to bail them out of legal jams, a family who covers for them and turns the other cheek.  However, if we stop our enabling behaviors the external consequences may tip the scale between choosing the substance and choosing to enter recovery.

While this all may make perfect sense, changing enabling behaviors is easier said than done.  Our tendencies to enable, control, and take of our loved ones have become ingrained in us.  At Hope Interventions we are here to help whether you need an intervention or not.  All of our family interventions include extensive training for loved ones around these issues.  If you don’t need an intervention or are not ready to take that step, we also offer family training, personal coaching and support.  It can be life changing to have the guidance of a professional who is outside of your situation to shed some light, and help you to see how you respond to your loved one’s addiction is either helping or hurting.  We can’t control the addiction, but we CAN control how we choose to react to it.

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