Drug Addiction and Enabling

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Enabling has become a central topic in modern discussions around family and substance abuse, and for good reason. Enabling is defined as the unhealthy situation in which a family member or friend of an addict (or person with substance use disorder) makes it easier and more comfortable for the addicted person to continue using without consequences. This enabling often happens in the context of parents who want their addicted child to get better, but who may not be educated about enabling, codependence, or are simply unable to do the often-uncomfortable things necessary to stop the enabling behavior. There are several reasons that even just the conversation around enabling can be difficult and uncomfortable for families with this problem.

When a person is not yet educated about what enabling is and how it contributes to addiction, the act of enabling can feel like love and support. Many times, the families who struggle the most to stop enabling are the same families who would be considered the most supportive and loving under different circumstances where a family member was not suffering from the disease of addiction. That is what makes this issue so complicated. However, families should take comfort in the fact that with time and education the support system that once enabled their family member to continue using drugs and alcohol can be a healthier support system that positively contributes to a life of recovery. At the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, Florida Springs in Panama City, individuals and families will learn about healthy support within a context of recovery and sobriety from addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Forms of Enabling

Avoidance and ignorance are coping mechanisms that friends and family members sometimes employ when a person close to them is struggling with addiction, but the issue is not out in the open. Denial can also be a part of this stage of family dysfunction. A parent or sibling might find evidence of heroin use inside the home. This could be something like missing spoons or spoons that are stained black from being heated with a lighter, but the family member avoids bringing the issue up with the entire family because of fear, often a fear of confrontation. The person wants their family member to be happy and healthy and knows that heroin (or fentanyl mixed with the heroin) could kill them, but it is a difficult and uncomfortable situation and avoidance seems easier in that moment. Oftentimes the traditional forms of enabling start to happen soon after this initial phase of denial or avoidance. The addicted person misses work or an important family event, so someone covers for them, even though the reasons for this sudden string of absences is known by now. The family pays a bill that the addict “forgot to pay”, but it has been happening for months or even years, and the fact that the money has been going to drug dealers or to buy alcohol is well-known. The family allows the addict to live at home, now having lost a job long before, without any real ultimatum about getting help or other consequences that might help make the enabling come to an end.

Family members will take responsibility for, or apologize for, their loved one, and some of the apologies may be based in fact. Substance use disorder is a terrible disease, and people with addiction problems often have trauma in their past, but not enabling a family member with addiction is not about blame. Enabling is unhealthy because research and the experience of thousands of families tells us that it is unhealthy. Enabling must stop for the health of both the person struggling with addiction and the health of every other person entangled in the enabling relationship. Enablers often sacrifice what is best for them and their own mental or physical health to continue enabling. If you or a loved one needs comprehensive treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center is the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, and we are located in Panama City. We will have a second part in this enabling series, about how to stop enabling, that will be published in a few days. If you are looking for help with enabling and family dysfunction related to addiction, support groups have been proven to help people in that circumstance and are a valuable resource for both the addicted person and loved ones of an addicted person. For more information on Florida Springs in Panama City, call us today.

By T.A. Cannon