What Happens When You Stop Enabling an Addict?

Read on to find out what happens when you stop enabling an addict.

If someone you love is struggling with addiction, you want to do everything in your power to help. However, sometimes, your best intentions can backfire if you engage in enabling behaviors that actually end up promoting your loved one’s drug or alcohol abuse. Here, we’ll take a look at support vs enabling and offer tips on how not to enable an addict. Best of all, we’ll talk about what happens when you stop enabling an addict.

Support vs Enabling

Addiction is a family disease that affects every member of the family system and leads to dysfunctional behaviors as you attempt to cope with the addiction and the chaos and uncertainty it brings to the household. Many family members end up engaging in enabling behaviors under the assumption that they’re helping, when really, they’re just perpetuating the addiction.

Ending enabling behaviors requires first identifying them. Some common enabling behaviors include:

  • Giving your addicted loved one money that she may use to buy drugs.
  • Letting it slide when your loved one promises to quit but doesn’t.
  • Taking over your loved one’s responsibilities, such as mowing the lawn or taking care of the house, when he can’t meet them due to the addiction.
  • Removing the consequences of the addiction, such as calling your loved one in sick when she’s really hung over and making excuses for her behavior.
  • Bailing your loved one out of jail.
  • Rationalizing bad behavior.
  • Lying to friends and family about the addiction, its effects on your relationship, or its extent.

If you recognize some of these behaviors in yourself, you may wonder what the consequences will be if you stop engaging in them. What happens when you stop enabling an addict? It’s often not pretty, but it can lead your loved one to treatment.

What Happens When You Stop Enabling an Addict?

One of the most surefire ways to bring an addicted loved one to the realization that he or she needs help recovering from an addiction is to stop enabling the addiction. When you stop enabling, your loved one is faced with the full consequences of the drug or alcohol abuse. It’s these unpleasant consequences that often bring addicted people to the realization that they need help. When you remove the consequences, your loved one can no longer rely on you take care of things and prevent bad things from happening.

What happens when you stop enabling an addict is that he begins to realize that his drug or alcohol use is causing serious problems in his life. When you don’t give him money, bail him out of jail, make excuses for him, or take over his responsibilities, the brunt of the consequences are on him, and this can lead to some serious soul-searching.

How Not to Enable an Addict

Ending enabling behaviors isn’t easy. You’ve become accustomed to taking care of your loved one, and you hate to see her suffer. But suffer she must, if she’s to realize that the addiction is a serious problem that requires professional help. It’s important to know how not to enable an addict.

Engaging in therapy or joining a support group can help you identify your enabling behaviors and learn how to better cope with the consequences of the addiction when they occur. It can help you know how to respond if your loved one chooses to blame you for the consequences when you stop taking over his responsibilities or fail to defend his drug or alcohol abuse to friends and family members.

The truth is, things are not going to get better until your loved one comes to realize that the addiction needs to end and gets professional help to end the drug or alcohol abuse. In some cases, this may require taking difficult steps on your part as you refuse to help your loved one continue the addiction. In some cases, especially if your loved one is wrecking your life, it may be best to leave, with the understanding that once the addiction is under control, you’ll return and work to salvage the relationship. Leaving your loved one is a natural consequence of the addiction that can help her see that the addiction isn’t worth the pain it causes.

An intervention can also help your loved one get the help he needs to recover. An intervention that’s planned and executed with the help of a professional has a 90 percent chance of working to get your loved one into treatment, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. An intervention lets you lay your cards on the table, and it ends with you and other loved ones outlining the consequences you’ll dole out if your addicted loved one refuses to get help. If the intervention doesn’t work at the time, the consequences you lay out and follow through with are likely to bring your loved one to the realization, sooner or later, that professional help is needed to end the negative consequences of the drug abuse.

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