Enabling Addiction or Enabling Recovery
Enabling a drug addict means you’re doing things that help an addicted individual continue addictive behaviors.
This is a nice logical, tidy definition, stated in such a way that no logical, right-minded individual would ever enable an addicted friend or loved one.
Before we get to parent-shaming, friend-shaming, sibling-shaming, or any other type of shaming and unfair judgment toward others, however, it’s important to note that dealing with an addict, especially a family member or close friend, involves a lot of emotion–love, fear, guilt, more guilt, and even more guilt–and not a lot of logic.
After all, it’s only natural to “help” someone you love by giving them money for food or providing them a place to sleep or not reporting their behavior to authorities. Quite often the enabler convinces himself that he is helping.
The Dangers of Enabling
Enabling prolongs the addiction and prevents the addict from getting help. Its root emotion is not love–although love is a common justification.
Its root emotion is often guilt. “If I don’t pay my son’s rent,” reasons the enabler, “then he won’t have a place to live. And it would be my fault.”
Fear is also a motivator. “If I don’t lie to my husband’s boss about why he can’t come to work this morning,” reasons an enabling wife, “then he could lose his job and then how would we live?”
Initially, these enabling behaviors seem logical, especially in the short-term. After all, no parent wants their son or daughter to be homeless, and nobody wants their spouse to lose work.
Continuing to clean up messes that an addict makes, however, means that the addict never has to fully deal with the consequences of his or her behavior. And until that happens, there will be no recovery.
Addictions Skew Logical Thinking
When you stop enabling, you’ll be bombarded with accusations–some from within and some from the addict. You’ll be blamed. You’ll be made to feel guilty. You’ll be accused of not caring.
Through perseverance and real love, however, the addict may want to change his or her behavior. When that happens, the addict can be helped, and the only enabling that needs to take place then is enabling recovery.