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An Examination of the Role an Enabler Plays in the Addiction Recovery Process

enabler and addiction recovery

An Examination of the Role an Enabler Plays in the Addiction Recovery Process

In talking about substance abuse and addiction recovery, we often come across terms like “enabler” or “codependent,” and these types of relationships occur more often than you might think in the addiction recovery process. To enable someone is to give that person the means or authority to act or behave in a certain way, and in terms of addiction recovery, to enable a substance abuser is to take away the natural consequences of the addictive behavior, thereby allowing the substance abuse to continue, unimpeded. There is a significant difference between supporting a loved one in recovery and acting as a codependent partner, and it often takes a conscious decision on the part of the caretaker to play a role in a loved one’s recovery, rather than a role in their addiction. If you believe you may be an enabler or codependent partner to an addict, don’t hesitate to get the help you both need to achieve long-term recovery. Contact the substance abuse experts at Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today to find out how you can break the destructive cycle of addiction-related codependency.

Supporting a Loved One in Recovery

Friends and family members may not realize how influential their behavior is to someone in recovery, but the truth is, their words and actions can have a significant impact on an addict’s behavior. Well-intentioned family members supporting a loved one in recovery may not have an addiction problem themselves, but by allowing their legitimate concern to transform into obsessive worry, a caretaker may just as easily feed into the addict’s substance abuse, allowing it to continue, or begin again, without consequence. Such is the close relationship between addiction and codependency. One example of a codependent relationship is a wife who knows her husband is abusing drugs, but makes excuses for his behavior and continues providing emotional and financial support, which allows the husband’s addictive behaviors to continue, uninterrupted and consequence-free.

The connection between addiction and codependency is often one of opportunity. Addicts typically experience a number of problems stemming from their substance abuse, including problems at work, financial difficulties, and issues in their personal and professional relationships, but when an addict’s close friend or family member continuously steps in to protect the addict, offering support, lending money or covering up mistakes, the relationship between the addict and the caretaker may become one of codependence. Even after an addict seeks treatment and begins the recovery process, codependent relationships are a concern, as they may make it easier for the addict to relapse, or fall back into old addictive behaviors. The following are some key signs you may be in an addiction-related codependent relationship:

  • You feel responsible for solving the other person’s problems
  • You find it impossible to say no and end up giving more to the relationship than the other person
  • You become upset when you feel as though your efforts aren’t being recognized
  • You need to feel in control all the time and avoid conflict at any cost
  • You have a hard time trusting yourself to meet the other person’s needs
  • You feel as though your only value in the relationship comes from being able to “fix” the other person or clean up their messes
  • You would do anything to hold onto the relationship, even if it compromises your beliefs or morals
  • You’re unwilling to speak up, set boundaries or assert your own wants or needs in the relationship
  • You’re willing to put your own health or safety at risk to “save” the other person
  • You have a hard time identifying your own feelings, separate from the other person’s
  • You only feel important or valued when the other person needs you

It is natural for a friend or loved one to want to protect an addict from the harmful consequences of his or her addictive behaviors, but there is a fine line between helping an addict navigate the challenging road to recovery, and becoming an enabler. In fact, concerned friends or family members can play a direct role in allowing an addict’s substance abuse to continue, by putting their energy into offsetting the potential damage of the addiction, which may lessen the addict’s motivation to seek rehabilitation. This type of addiction-related codependency can easily lead to feelings of resentment, guilt, self-pity, and anger on the part of the caretaker, and by suppressing or overcompensating for these feelings, the caretaker only reinforces the addict’s destructive habits.

How to Break Codependent Behavior

In the most general terms, codependency is the need to be needed. Sometimes referred to as a “relationship addiction,” codependency occurs when an individual develops an excessive, or obsessive, dependence on a friend or loved one, to the point where that person relies on the other to meet nearly all their emotional needs. Over time, the codependent individual becomes so used to putting the other person’s wants and needs before their own that they eventually lose sight of their own goals and have a hard time identifying their own feelings apart from the other person’s. With addiction-related codependency, one destructive behavior reinforces the other, to the point where the caretaker begins making significant life decisions for the addict, thereby hindering the addict’s ability to act independently, and making it easier for him or her to maintain the unhealthy addictive behavior. It’s important to learn how to break codependent behavior, for the good of the addict and the caretaker alike. The following are some steps to overcome codependency and stop enabling an addict:

  • The caretaker deliberately removes him or herself from the relationship, allowing the addict to suffer the consequences of his or her own mistakes.
  • The caretaker sets healthy boundaries and makes it clear that the addict will be responsible for problems concerning work, family, finances, and other personal issues.
  • The caretaker takes part in activities and outings that do not involve the addict, to cultivate a healthier, more balanced lifestyle for everyone involved.
  • The caretaker learns to make decisions based on his or her own enjoyment, rather than constantly catering to the addict’s wants and needs.
  • The addict and caretaker seek professional help to learn how to deal with the emotional stress that comes with substance abuse and addiction.

Identifying Enablers in Addiction Recovery

After going through the process of alcohol or drug abuse rehabilitation, it’s imperative that recovering addicts take stock of their relationships with friends and family members, to determine which ones may have an enabling effect on them. Identifying enablers or codependent relationships and decreasing their role in an addict’s life can help reduce the chances of relapse, as can building and fostering healthy relationships that offer meaningful support and promote lasting recovery. While identifying enablers isn’t about finding someone to blame for an addict’s substance abuse or relapse, it is a step in the right direction in terms of long-term addiction recovery.

Contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services for Help

Supporting a loved one in recovery can be extremely difficult and emotionally trying, and it’s easy for a caretaker’s concern for an addicted loved one to transform into something more harmful than helpful, like a codependent relationship. The caretaker may try to pass this off as an effort to help the addict get sober, but this type of codependency only reinforces the addictive behavior, preventing the addict from ever having to address the destructive substance abuse. Getting over codependency is the key to helping an addict recover from his or her substance abuse, and can help both the caretaker and the addict begin to heal and make meaningful changes in their lives. If you feel you or someone you know may be an enabler or codependent to an addict, contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today at (877) 476-8320 to find out how to get the help you need.

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