How to Support an Alcoholic or Addict Without Enabling

How to Support an Alcoholic or Addict Without Enabling

Addiction is tough. Families want to do what they can to fix the problem, but it can be extremely difficult to know where to draw the line between enabling someone in their addiction and supporting them through it. At The Lighthouse Bali, we know the challenges that drug addiction and alcoholism cause for both you and your loved one, so we’ve put together this short list of healthy, effective ways to show your love and support in the most constructive way, while maintaining your own personal wellbeing.

What Is Enabling?

Enabling happens when friends or family members unintentionally support drug abuse or drinking. Enabling is often linked to feelings of guilt that offen occur when saying ‘no’. In many cases of enabling, there is also an element of manipulation or emotional blackmail on the part of the addict. Some examples of enabling actions include:

  • Giving the person money when they say they are “short on rent” despite knowing it will actually be used to buy drugs
  • Ignoring unusual behaviour or actions in the hope that it will stop naturally
  • Not reporting dangerous or harmful acts, such as stealing from family members or friends because of the potential implications

These behaviours may be well intentioned and come from a place of love but they shield the user from experiencing the full consequences of their using or drinking. Well-intentioned actions can often be twisted into a “free pass” to continue in their active addiction. Situations such as these can delay or even prevent an individual from seeking treatment. 

The good news is that there are several ways to support your loved one and guide them towards getting the professional help that they need.

Avoid enabling the addict in your life with the 9 tips below. These simple actions can make a major difference and encourage your loved one to seek rehab.

Note: As you work through these tips it’s important to realize that while saying ‘no’ to someone can be difficult, and feel as though you are being mean, you are ultimately doing the right thing.

1. Go to Family Meetings for 12-Step Programs

One helpful way to begin understanding enabling habits and address them is to go to a family meeting for a 12-step program. Being able to grasp what kind of behaviours enable drug abuse and/or alcoholism is the first step to removing them from your lifestyle. In addition, you will meet others in the same situation – with a loved one who struggles with substance abuse; sharing common experiences with others is invaluable. There are a number of support groups for people living with alcoholics and addicts and you will find these personally useful for your own peace of mind.

2. Participate in Family Therapy with the Addict

Family therapy can be an extremely powerful tool to address the way substance abuse affects your entire family unit. It can address underlying issues in the family dynamic and help the addict discuss their feelings in a safe environment. It can also be a successful way to help them separate the disease and the actions it causes from their own personality and sense of self.

3. Stop Indulging the Addict’s Behaviours and Detrimental Behaviours

Sometimes, families do what they can to hide a loved one’s addiction. They might provide an alibi for why someone missed work or give money to the person who is using drugs to make sure they can pay their mortgage or car insurance. Some families even go so far as to allow the drug dependency to dictate when they can or cannot do something. It is very important that you are firm with your loved one and refuse them the kinds of support that enable their drug use. When they behave inappropriately, pull them up on it rather than turning a blind eye. Speak in a firm, yet kind and loving voice.

When it comes to finances, remember that although you are being asked for money for something innocent (to pay bills or for groceries etc), had they not been using or drinking they most likely would not ask you for money. By paying for essentials you are also inadvertently freeing up any income they have to buy more drugs or alcohol.

4. Communicate & Encourage Treatment

It is important for your family to address the need for treatment. Addiction does not go away on its own, it is a progressive illness which only gets worse over time, never better. It’s never too early to discuss a treatment program that could help your loved one. When the time is right, talking to your loved one about how their drug dependence has affected your lives will encourage them to take the right steps toward rehab treatment.

If you are unable to approach the individual about their addiction, or have concerns in doing so, we are able to assist with organizing an intervention in which you and those closest to the situation, along with one of our professionally trained team, organise to sit down with the individual and calmly discuss the situation with the aim of finding a treatment based solution.

5. Commit to Recovery

Recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism requires a lifelong commitment. It’s important to let your loved one know that as long as they are prepared to go the distance then you are too. 

This may require positive actions on your part including going to support meetings, engaging in therapy, abstaining from drinking in the house etc.

6. Take Care of Yourself

When it comes to caring for a loved one, it’s understandable that when you see them suffering, you want to put their needs above your own. Remember that you cannot be of use to someone if you are not in a good physical, mental and emotional state yourself. Living with an addict or alcoholic is draining so make sure you take time out for yourself to engage in some selfcare and ‘me-time’.

7. Don’t Blame Yourself

The aim of these tips is to help you to provide your loved one with support but you must understand that support is all you can give. You cannot force a person to get clean or sober and you cannot do it for them; the decision must come from them. If they do not choose to give up their addiction, it is not because you didn’t do enough or try hard enough. You are not responsible for their actions and this is not your fault.

8. Know When to Step Back

Addicts and alcoholics ultimately get help when they are ready to. You may be able to help them progress to this point, but it is also possible that they are just not ready yet. Many addicts and alcoholics talk about ‘reaching rock bottom’ before they seek treatment and sadly this may include bankruptcy, incarceration, a relationship breakup or even losing the right to see their children. If the situation is not getting better and you are starting to suffer, you should be prepared to step back. 

9. Safety First

Regardless of whatever stage your loved one is at in their addiction, you should never be in a situation where you feel at risk, endangered or that your safety is compromised. If you ever suspect you may be at risk, remove yourself from the situation immediately and call for help.

We hope that you have found these tips useful. At The Lighthouse Bali we have worked with countless families, as well as individual relatives and partners. No two cases are the same and we don’t believe in a one size fits all approach. If you’d like to discuss your personal circumstances, would like assistance arranging an intervention, therapy or to learn more about our residential programs in Bali or online options, contact us by email; message or call us on What’s App, or request a call back via our online contact form.

We are always available to give guidance about the potential solutions available to you and your loved one.

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