Six Signs of Enabling Behavior

Six Signs of Enabling BehaviorWhen a person develops an addiction to drugs or alcohol, their loved ones often contributed to the problem without even realizing it. When a person ignores, excuses or tries to cover up a loved one’s drug or alcohol problem, that person is called an enabler. Enablers are generally unaware of how their actions are making the problem worse. In an effort to protect and help their loved one, enablers keep the person struggling with drug or alcohol abuse from admitting he or she has a problem. Knowing the signs of enabling behavior can help you change your actions from harmful to helpful. The following types of behavior enables addiction to continue to develop:

  1. Ignores the Addict’s Behavior

Ignoring your addicted loved one’s behavior in the hopes that it will simply go away is one of the biggest signs of enabling. Addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs, is a disease. And like other diseases, addiction will not go away without proper treatment. Ignoring the signs and symptoms of this disease only allows it to worsen over time. Ignoring can include overlooking destructive and potentially dangerous behaviors to denying that the problem even exists. Your addicted loved one needs treatment in order to live a life free from the control of drugs or alcohol. Ignoring the fact that he has a problem denies him the help he needs.

If you suspect your loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol look for these signs of addiction:

  • Becoming preoccupied with getting and using a drug.
  • Needing a supply of the substance on hand at all times.
  • Borrowing money from you or other family members and failing to pay it back.
  • “Doctor shopping” to get new prescriptions for the drug.
  • Engaging in dangerous behaviors, like driving, while under the influence of the drug.
  • Participating in illegal behaviors, such as stealing, to get and use the drug.
  • Changes in physical appearance, especially in the area of personal hygiene.
  • Withdrawing from family members and friends.
  • No longer enjoys favorite activities; spend too much time alone.

If your loved one displays any of these behaviors, it’s time to admit to yourself that he has a problem and get help.

  1. Has Difficulty Expressing Emotions

Licensed marriage and family therapist, Darlene Lancer, for PsychCentral, defines enabling as “removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior.” When an enabler interferes with the natural conclusion to a loved one’s decision, she essentially stops any learning that might have taken place from those decisions. Quite often, this happens because of the inability of the enabler to express her emotions in healthy ways. Enablers are often hesitant to express their feelings because of the fear of negative repercussions. Because an addict’s emotions are generally unstable, his or her reaction to being confronted can be overwhelming. The enabler would rather keep her feelings inside than create a scene that is emotionally upsetting for all involved. Keeping your emotions inside rather than learning to express them in healthy ways keeps your loved one from getting the help he needs. It may seem like just “going along to get along” is the answer for keeping peace, but it will not cure the addiction.

  1. Puts the Addict’s Needs Before her Own

When a person struggles with addiction, an enabler often puts that person’s needs before her own. By trying to take care of everything, even things that put her own health and well-being at risk, the enabler again prevents the natural consequences of the addict’s actions from doing their job. When life is too easy for the addict, there is no incentive to make a different choice or to reach out for the help he needs.

  1. Makes Decisions Based on Fear

Addiction can result in some frightening events. Addicts can become violent, threatening and make life generally tumultuous for their families. A person who enables does whatever she can to keep the peace within the home. She is fearful of what her addicted loved one might do to himself or others and makes decisions that will not aggravate the addict; usually at the expense of important activities and people.

  1. Lies to Cover up the Addict’s Mistakes

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, he often makes promises he does not keep. The enabler in his life is so concerned that he will loose credibility in the eyes or others or that his addiction will be discovered, she lies to cover up for broken promises. Habitually missing work, not showing up for family functions and breaking promises to children are just a few of the repercussions an enabler might lie about to protect her addicted loved one.

  1. Assigns Blame to Others

Although the enabler means well in her efforts to protect her addicted loved one, she often assigns blame for his actions to others. Keeping the blame away from the addict makes him seem less responsible for the outcomes of the addiction. If there are other explanations for his behaviors, then his problem cannot be as serious as it appears. Enablers do what they do out of love, but making excuses for the addict or blaming others for his choices only delays the treatment that could save his life.

Finding Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

If you find yourself making excuses for your loved one, lying to cover up his choices or living in fear of your loved one’s drug-related outbursts, chances are, you are an enabler. But there is help for you and your addicted love one. Call our toll-free helpline that’s available 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.