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The Role of The Enabler

Unfortunately, most times, the loved ones of the addicts are actually enabling the addiction through their well intentioned desires to help the addict or alcoholic. How does this occur?

Consider the role of the addict: their intention is to continue the using behavior at all costs. What better way to continue that use than to enlist someone to “help” them. Without the enabler, the addict would have to start facing consequences of their actions, and that might interfere with the continuous using. The well intentioned enabler, out of “love” for the addict will “protect” them from consequences.

I watched a “Intervention” where a mother gave her son, living at home, in his mid twenties money for Heroin, drove him downtown to buy the drugs and back home so he could use “safely”.

She was afraid he might have uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or get hurt in a dangerous part of town. That was one of the more dramatic examples of addiction enabling I have seen. Are you lying, making excuses, and creating alibis for your loved one? These are signs that you may have crossed the line from “helping” into “enabling” addiction.

Enabling behavior usually starts out very slowly and gradually with trying to smooth things out with others outside the relationship or family. There is a desire to keep family secrets or not rock the boat. Part of enabling, just like active addiction, is “denial”. In the beginning the enabler will make all sorts of rationalizations and try to minimize the problem, Ignore it and hope it goes away. This usually does not happen.

This is the way the vicious cycle of enabling and addiction works.

The chemically dependent person is being shielded from the negative consequences of their use. Since these consequences are not hitting home, they can continue to use, or increase their use even more. This means the enabler gets drawn even deeper into the web by having to deal with ever increasing chaos. The increasing chaos in the home can be just the excuse the dependent person needs to keep on using.

Where and how does the madness end?

For the enabler, though there may be fear and shame about the situation, it usually ends in anger. The enabler typically tries to hold things together and keeps the mounting frustration and anger bottled up…until one day the explosion occurs. They opt out of continuing the excuses.

Paradoxically at this point, with the rug pulled out from them the user may encounter the crisis that will be “motivation” to seek treatment.

Pain is not pleasant, but it is a wonderful motivator.

People who seek addiction treatment usually come from one of two places.

1. They simply get sick and tired of being sick and tired. They get worn out. More commonly is the second option:

2. A crisis occurs that hits them with the force of a 2 x 4 in the side of the head.

Being protected from crisis may simply be doing nothing more than preventing engagement in addiction treatment and delaying the entry into addiction recovery.
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