When a loved one is sick from addiction, it’s often family and friends who come forward to seek help. Treatment centers often work with parents, partners, and friends who only want what’s best for the addicted person. You may know your loved one has a substance abuse disorder, but not how to get them help.
Unfortunately, there’s a danger of “helping” your loved so much that they can’t get the treatment they need. This kind of help often leads to codependent enabling. This can be a severe problem for loved ones, even when the addicted person enters recovery. You may not know how to give it up.
Understanding Codependency & Enabling
Codependent enabling happens when you take care of a loved one even when they are equipped with the tools to take care of themselves. For example, if you have an addicted person in your family, you may decide that they need your help paying rent because they have used up their funds on other things, such as drugs. Or, you may promise to pick up a person from a bar, no questions asked, whenever they get too drunk to drive. Over time, this person comes to rely on you for a ride home every evening, taking advantage of your goodwill.
Enabling prevents the addicted person from facing the consequences of their behavior. The addicted person will get what they want from the enabler, and the enabler, in turn, will become codependent.
So where does codependency come in? When the addicted person is happy, that makes the enabler feel “happy,” even when unhealthy patterns have been established. More and more of the enabler’s time goes into “fixing” the other person, to the point you may resent them and neglect your own life. You may give up friends, lovers, and hobbies to “help” this person.
Enabling and being codependent hurts both parties. The enabler drops everything in their own life to take care of the addicted person, and the addicted person pushes the limits of their addiction, knowing that there are few consequences to endure alone.
People help their addicted loved one out of love, but when you help them with things they can obviously handle but choose not to, you’re infantilizing them. Your loved one can sit in a jail cell overnight when they’re arrested for being drunk in public. They can pay for their own taxi rides home. And if they need to keep their cell phone on, then they need to earn the money to use it. Even when a person is afflicted with a substance use disorder, they are still an adult. If you don’t set limits, they will continue to spiral without feeling like there are any problems.
Getting Help for Codependency
Codependency can make you miserable, and enabling can prevent your loved one from seeking or accepting help for their substance use disorder. In treatment, there is usually family therapy can help you learn together about breaking old patterns.
There are also meetings that can help you cope with your own patterns and your loved one. Enabling doesn’t give you any control over their actions, but places like Al-Anon and Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) can help you find the support you deserve to break the cycle of codependency and enabling.
There is aways help available for those who are willing. If your loved one is ready to quit using, give us a call to learn more about treatment options. Or better yet, ask them to give us a call at (619) 363-4767.. All calls are 100% confidential.