When we have loved ones struggling with addiction, our inclination is to want to help, nurture and protect them in any way we can. It hurts us beyond words to see them suffering and living with so much pain. It causes us tremendous stress, worry and anxiety to watch them self-destruct. We love and care for them, so we want to lighten their burden and ease their suffering. As a result, we often tend to enable their addictive patterns. We assume responsibility for their illnesses. We take on the burden of the mental and emotional work that has to be done in recovery, telling ourselves we’re just helping when we’re actually often doing them a disservice by enabling them.
We enable our loved ones in various ways, often without being aware of just how harmful our own behaviors can be. We might lie for our loved ones and cover up the hurtful things they’ve done and the mistakes they’ve made. We might continually make excuses for them, justify their behaviors, and condone their destructive choices. We might allow them to hurt us and the other people in their lives, repeatedly forgiving them for the same wrongdoings only to watch them commit them again and again. We find it hard to establish and maintain boundaries with them. We allow them to use us and take advantage of us. We might take on too much of the work that they have to take responsibility for, work they’re often not ready to do.
When we enable our loved ones, we make it easier and more comfortable for them to continue on with their destructive patterns, and as such we’re facilitating these patterns, even when that’s not our intention. When we enable, we’re removing the accountability factor. As a result, our loved ones don’t take accountability, ownership or responsibility, for their addictions or for their recovery. They aren’t forced to own up to the ways in which they’ve hurt people. They don’t feel any incentive to address their mistakes and to learn from them. They’re never pushed out of their comfort zones. We’re allowing them to coast along, as they are, within the ease and comfort we’ve created for them.
An important part of supporting our loved ones’ recovery journey is taking inventory of the ways in which we’ve been enabling them so that we can change our own behaviors and the ways in which we interact with them. We don’t want to hinder their progress or stifle their healing, so it’s crucial that we look at our own emotional responses to their addictions and our own patterns of enabling.
If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, you are not alone. Reach out for support. The community of Riverside Recovery has personal experience with addiction and recovery, and we’re here to help you reclaim the life you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today.