We have all had to watch someone that we love suffer. It is heartbreaking. We want to do anything we can to help them. Money, time, transportation, supplies – all these things and more we will give to help someone we love.
For many people giving things is the only way they know how to show love. The parent that helps their daughter pay her car insurance, the child that uses their allowance to buy a Father’s Day gift; money and gifts are closely tied to love in our society.
Addiction and the Help That Hurts
What happens when the one you love has an addiction? Substance abusers are always in need of help. They spend all their money on their addiction, and then can’t fund the rest of their life. Or maybe they paid their bills this month but are now trying to get money for their drug habit. Users generally have unhealthy lifestyles and need unexpected extra money for doctor’s appointments and medicine. They may require last minute loans because they have no food in their house, or they need gas to get to work. Poor choices, made by the user, add up to always needing someone to bail them out of their problems.
“My wife enabled my drug use for years. I got progressively worse as she funded me and covered for me. We were both miserable. It only stopped when she pulled the plug. We fought. It was ugly. We even separated for a while. But eventually, I realized everything I was throwing away and decided to get clean. For us, it worked out. I’ve been clean for years and we are back together and happy.” – Jerry in South Carolina
Drug Abuse and Emotional Manipulation
Manipulation of others comes with addiction. The user may not always realize they are doing it, but their lifestyle choices hurt the ones they love. At first, pleas for help and promises to change may be sincere. Your love compels you to help them. Later, your loved one has no intention of changing, but they know what to say to pull those heart strings and get the money, the ride, or the things they need. They will do and say the things that they know will hurt you. Anything to justify their using.
People with addictions distance themselves from the reality of their problems. While in active addiction, the user always finds someone or something else to blame for their problems. They cannot take responsibility for their life because then that would mean changing. Change is not something that the active substance abuser wants. Things often have to get dreadful before a user can break the chains of the disease and desire genuine help.
Enabling is where a friend or family member will, out of love or convenience, help the substance abuser to use. It’s easy to do. You want to help them.
14 Signs That You Are an Enabler
- RATIONALIZE: Do you rationalize your loved one’s behavior by blaming yourself or other situations, past or present?
She can’t pay her bills because she was sick last week. If I had married his father, things would be different.
- CLEANUP: Do you clean up your loved one’s messes?
He got drunk last week, broke the living room furniture and vomited on the floor. I had to clean it up because he won’t. She overslept after being out all night gambling. I had to pay her tuition or she wouldn’t be able to start college this semester.
- IGNORE: Are you ignoring new bad behaviors such as lying, back talking, stealing, etc.?
I know she stole my ring, but I didn’t bring it up, she won’t admit to it. He said he would help me with the yard, and he isn’t here. Whatever, he probably forgot.
- HIDE: Do you keep thoughts and feelings to yourself because you are scared of angering your loved one?
I wasn’t feeling well today and needed him to help with the dishes. When he got home, he already seemed mad, so I just did it myself. I was so upset she forgot our date last weekend, but you know how she gets, so I just didn’t even mention it.
- COWER: Do you put your loved one’s financial and emotional needs ahead of your own?
I needed to pay the electric bill this weekend, but she needed to pay her fine so she wouldn’t go to jail. Oh well, it can be a week late. I needed a break and wanted to go on a little vacation this weekend, but he said he was too tired. I guess I can be happy at home, too.
- LIE & MAKE EXCUSES: Do you make excuses for your loved one’s behavior to your friends, relatives, or coworkers?
I didn’t want my co-workers to know he has an addiction, so I just said he got sick and couldn’t come to the banquet. I didn’t want the family to know she was using again, so I told everyone that she had to work.
- RESENT: Are you becoming resentful toward the substance abuser because they don’t care about the things that need to be worked on in your life?
I needed to finish painting the house this weekend, but he didn’t care. I told him last week, but he just invited all his drinking buddies over. I am so aggravated. I have been so depressed about money lately. She knows this, but went out last night and spent $50. Now I can’t pay the water bill. There is no hope.
- LOSS ENERGY: Are you physically and emotionally drained and exhausted?
I have been in my book club for ten years, but I quit yesterday. I just can’t go anymore. I remember when I slept only 6 hours a night; now I could sleep 10, and it is never enough.
- RAGE: Do you have trouble controlling your temper? Have you lost patience in other relationships?
Last week I blew up at my mom for no reason. I don’t know what has gotten into me lately. My friend had to change plans because her kids were sick. I just told her no. I don’t have time for that.
- LOSE YOURSELF: Do you never have time for yourself anymore?
I haven’t made it out to a movie in months. I used to go once a week. Now it is always something with my son? I stopped fixing my hair weeks ago. I just never seem to have the time.
- HELP: Do you loan money, give rides, buy groceries, etc. for your loved one because they cannot do it for themselves?
He won’t buy anything to eat, so I leave a bag of groceries on his back porch every couple of days. No, I can’t go out to eat right now, I have to bring her to work. She lost her driver’s license to a DWI.
- RESCUE: Do you always come to your loved one’s rescue with their addiction gets them in trouble?
We can’t do the remodel on the house because we used all of our money for her bail. We didn’t even finish our vacation because we knew his electricity had been cut off. We needed to get back to put it in our names.
- BACKDOWN: Do you give ultimatums even though you know that you will not or can not stick to them?
I know I have said it before, but if you do not give me gas money, I will not give you a ride to the store! This is the last time I loan you money! (even though you said that all the times before)
- GIVE A MILLION LAST CHANCES: Are you still giving your loved one “one last chance”?
I am serious this time. If you get drunk one more time, I am leaving. This is it. I promise that this time is your last chance. If I find drugs in my house one more time, I am calling the cops.
If you see yourself in any of these examples, then you are probably an enabler. It is hard to watch your loved ones suffer. But if there are no consequences to their actions, they will have no reason to get help. If you are paying the users bills, driving them around, or giving them a house to sleep in, you are only prolonging the addiction. Eventually, you will run out of money, of time, or of health, but the addiction will keep going.
The Dark Path – With A Choice
Many people who are in the throes of addiction must reach a breaking point before they are ready for help. This is called a “bottom.” By helping your loved one, you are keeping them from finding their bottom, and you are enabling their continued use. What you need to look for is the genuine cry for help. When your loved one realizes, if only for a short time, that they are going down a dark path with no future.
Get help Today. Call Our 24 Hour Addiction Hotline: 1-800-910-3734
It’s not easy to do, to ignore the calls for help from a loved one.
One way to try to balance the equation is to realize that you have needs too. Start putting your needs back into the calculation. Is helping him going to hurt me? Am I really helping her or just enabling her? Is this a call for help or just a ploy to further enable their lifestyle of drug use?
Remember, your loved one is the one responsible for his or her behaviors. Remind yourself of this and then put yourself first. Remind yourself that they got themselves into this mess and they need to get themselves out. You are important. Your needs are important. Your mental and physical health are important. It is time for you to start loving yourself. Your only contribution should be to help with treatment.
Putting It Into Action
Don’t hold in your emotions and feelings any longer. Don’t lie for your loved one anymore. Let family, friends, and coworkers know what is going on and how it makes you feel. Let the substance abuser know. Don’t try to spare their feelings at your expense. If you are in a physically abusive situation, leave immediately. No one has the right to hit you, ever.
- Stop Bailing Them Out
Before a person with an addiction decides they need to get help, they need to face the consequences of their behavior. By paying their bills, giving them money, giving them rides, buying their groceries, etc., you make it easier for them to keep using.
- Avoid the Blame Game
You are not to blame for your loved one’s behavior. Their parents’ divorce is not to blame for our loved one’s behavior. Physical illness is not to blame for your loved one’s behavior. Yes, these things may have made it easier for your loved one to develop an addiction, but only the substance abuser is responsible for their behavior. It is their choice to use. It is their choice to get help. Don’t make it easier for them to use by taking the responsibility away from them.
- Do Not Get Involved in Their Substance Abuse
Don’t pick up a six pack for your husband on your way home from work. Don’t give money to your daughter to go out with her friends if you know she is probably going to use. Don’t drive your wife to the casino to spend “only” $20 when you know she can’t stop at $20. Say no. If you can’t say no because of fear of abuse, then you need to leave immediately.
It is not easy, but your health and happiness depend on it. The long-term health and happiness of your loved one also depend on it. For further reading on this subject, check out the Aid in Recovery Book Club.