Addiction is hard on everyone. If you watch your loved one continually abuse their body, you fear what they’re doing to their health. Abusing drugs and alcohol creates a potential for legal consequences and may interfere with your loved one’s ability to make a living. They make choices that cause unhealthy relationships and drain your bank account. When you see them make mistakes, your instinct is to protect your family from embarrassment and your loved one from pain. You want to help, but you end up making it comfortable for them to continue abusing their substance of choice.
Enabling often starts with the best intentions. As habits and behavior patterns become ingrained, it can be hard to separate what actions are helping from the ones that shield loved ones from the consequences of their mistakes.
Examples of enabling behavior include keeping secrets to protect reputations, paying money for overdue rent or bail, or blaming circumstances when the individual gets drunk or high. Loved ones also enable when they threaten to enforce negative consequences for the bad behavior, but don’t follow through.
Enablers don’t start out trying to make it easy on their loved one. Oftentimes, in the beginning, they don’t realize the depth of the problem, and they only intend to offer temporary help. It comes from a place of good intentions, but spirals out of control. Over time, they become the person who the individual relies on to function in spite of their addiction. It actually will encourage and reinforce bad behavior, allowing it to thrive.