Most family members wish their loved one would stop their substance abuse. Unfortunately, these same families often, without realizing it, actually make it harder for their loved ones to stay sober. Loving family members should bring out the best in each other, but addiction can hurt any family by encouraging unhealthy behavior patterns.
Families stuck in a cycle of frustration, fear and anxiety need help to turn the situation around. The more family members learn about the dangers of enabling an addiction, the more they recognize their own capacity to hurt a loved one’s recovery. That’s why it’s so important for the entire family to play an active role in the recovery process.
What Is Enabling?
Enabling is any action that reinforces addictive behavior and allows it to continue. Doing so actually encourages your loved one to keep using because they don’t experience any negative consequences for their actions.
It’s natural for family members to want to protect their addicted family member by making excuses, justifying bad behavior and pretending life is as normal as possible. However, these best intentions will only exacerbate tensions within the family, worsen financial problems and prolong the addiction of their loved one. A few ways family typically enable dependency include:
- Accepting Excuses – Allowing addicted family members to rationalize their behavior and justify their addiction, rather than helping them deal with painful emotional issues in a healthy way.
- Paying Bills – When you pay a loved one’s bills, they are unable to feel the full financial burdens created by their addiction.
- Making Excuses for Work – When addiction makes someone late or unable to go to work, family members may believe they are helping by calling in sick for that person.
- Acting as a Chauffeur – If a loved one has lost his/her driver’s license, family members may go out of their way to take turns helping the loved one get to appointments.
How To Set Boundaries
Gather everyone who helps your loved one avoid the consequences of his or her actions. A group effort is necessary to stop enabling behavior and help the person move toward recovery. Discuss how you can all be part of a positive change. Remember that if one family member continues to enable the addicted loved one, all the family’s progress will be lost. Here are some rules to agree on:
- Don’t Cover up Bad Behavior – Intoxication and drug use can cause memory loss. If they pass out on the floor, leave them there. If they pick a fight at a work party, don’t try to protect them from consequences.
- Refuse to Buy Drugs or Alcohol – Remove temptation from the home and family celebrations.
- Get Counseling – Treatment isn’t just for the loved one using substances. Addiction recovery provides healing and support for the whole family.
- Urge Treatment – As your loved one experiences consequences and realizes their need for change, help them find professional treatment so they can start recovery.
Addiction Treatment For Families
Taking the right approach when your loved one is struggling with addiction can be extremely difficult. After all, many of the correct responses to substance abuse require a healthy dose of tough love. Supporting an addicted loved one the right way is easier when the entire family is working together.
At The Treatment Center, we encourage our clients’ loved ones to participate in recovery. Family therapy teaches every family member how they can support their loved ones in positive, constructive ways. Contact The Treatment Center to help an addicted loved one start a life of sobriety with your whole family’s support.