Am I Enabling My Loved One’s Addiction?

It is very easy for us to be in denial about our loved one’s addiction, to be unconscious of it, or even to enable it. The difficulty of addiction can be so overwhelming and so stressful that we want to pretend it isn’t there, sweep it under the rug, or hope the problem will go away. Even when we love someone and only want to help them, we can actually end up contributing to the problem by enabling their behavior.

Do you find yourself making excuses for your loved one, trying to explain away their behaviors, or justifying them? “He had a hard day. She’s going through a lot right now. He isn’t usually like this.” We often have to apologize for our loved ones’ actions, when they’ve embarrassed us, when they’ve verbally or physically attacked someone, when they’ve done something dangerous. We often feel we are at fault and take on the responsibility. When we do this, we are enabling our loved one to shirk responsibility and continue doing the same things. When we don’t call them on their behaviors and communicate how they have affected us, we essentially let them get away with it. Addicts can feel empowered to just move on, forget anything happened, and stay in the same patterns of behavior. We’re not to blame when this happens, but we can start to be more mindful of how we enable the addicts in our lives, and how we might be contributing to the problem.

When we are allowed to keep getting away with problematic things that hurt other people, we don’t learn how to take responsibility for our actions. We don’t learn how to make amends to other people or take ownership of our mistakes. We don’t process our guilt and shame in healthy ways. We don’t learn how to communicate. Learning these things is so important for our emotional health. When we don’t learn them, we not only hurt the people around us but ourselves as well.

When your loved one does something you find unacceptable or inexcusable, or crosses your boundaries, do you just accept it? Do you feel hurt and angry inside but say nothing? Do you pretend nothing happened and focus on moving forward, hoping the same thing won’t happen again but knowing it probably will? Not only do these things enable an addict to continue his or her harmful behaviors, it is also extremely unhealthy for us to suppress such strong emotions and go through such difficult things without feeling heard and understood.

Treatment programs at Riverside Recovery include individual, group and family therapy, as well as workshops and recovery meetings. Call (800) 871-5440.