Guidelines to Changing Your Enabling Behaviors
It is very difficult to understand why what we think of as helping an addict or alcoholic, is actually harming them (and the entire family). The role as the family enabler is hard to unlearn, but it can be done!
An alcoholic or addict is enabled to continue drinking or drugging when significant people carry out certain behaviors. Enablers are sometimes seen as co-dependent. That is they appear to be co-dependent on the alcoholic or addict for their self-worth.
- Helping is when you come to the aid of a person when they aren’t able to do something for themselves.
- Enabling is when you do things for a person when they can and should do it for themselves.
Here are a few general rules for changing your enabling behavior towards the addict:
- Don’t loan someone struggling with addiction any money or continue to pay bills they may be responsible for
- Don’t get put up bail for jail or continue to provide legal help
- Don’t jump in to bail them out of any negative consequences from their behavior that is controlled by the alcohol or drug abuse, such as calling in sick for an their work shift
- Be prepared for the anger of the addict or alcoholic as you change your behavior
- Don’t do their chores, or take over any of their responsibilities
- Don’t believe the addict’s promises of changing, unless they back it up by entering drug rehab treatment
- Consider a family or professional intervention
- Get help for yourself, to help you understand why you enable, and improve your own physical and emotional health
- Be honest with the addict in what you say and do: you are no longer going to support their addictive behavior in any way
- Remember to talk to the addict or alcoholic when they are sober, and to give them specific facts about their behavior
You can’t directly change the behavior of an individual struggling with addiction by telling them what and how they should stop. Shaming and threatening an addicted loved one usually only pushes them further into addiction;
but by changing your own behavior, you can turn enabling into helping your addicted loved one.