Could You Unwittingly be Enabling an Addiction

So are you enabling an addiction?

There is a very difficult and often missed line which is crossed during the fight to end addiction. It sits between you, the person trying to help an addict, and the addict themselves. It is the question of enabling and it can often quickly and unwittingly be crossed, leading to pain, anger and a host of negative consequences if not spotted and acted upon. If you are trying to help someone who is struggling with an addiction you need to make sure that the love and support you are providing is not enabling them further as this can actually prolong the addiction and heighten the associated risks.

It’s not an easy thing to see a loved one struggle through addiction.

Enable an AddictionProviding empathy and support is a critical step towards their recovery however if your words or actions are allowing someone to continue their addiction by protecting them from facing the consequences of it you are hindering their recovery and enabling their addiction and negative actions.

If you enable an addiction in someone

You are essentially creating a buffer to the full effects of addiction which then, in turn decreases the motivation for someone struggling with a substance dependency or behavioural addiction to get proper help and recover. If you are an enabler or think you may be one, you also need to understand that addiction is a classified brain illness; it is NOT a ‘weak’ behaviour. The only way to overcome that addiction is by seeking professional treatment the same way that you would for any other serious disease.

The problem is, there are no happy endings when it comes to enabling. Like anything in life, there are consequences for your actions and when it comes to enabling a drug addict, the consequences are far from pleasant. Because enabling prolongs an addiction, it increases the risks that an addict faces both in terms of the serious health risks and the fall outs associated with addiction. It’s as if you are putting a giant magnifying glass over the person’s life and everything is bigger, clearer and often more devastating.

Here are a few of the things that can and will be affected thanks to the act of enabling:

Risky or illicit behaviour

Addiction or dependency can grow and progress to the point where people are willing to engage in activities that may be harmful to themselves or others in order to maintain their addiction. They may not want to hurt someone or create a problem normally, but under the influence of the addiction, normal behaviour has been removed from the equation.  In some cases, particularly if the dependency is substance-related, the addiction itself may cause a lack of inhibition and judgment leading to acts which can cause financial, physical, emotional, spiritual and relationship issues. These behaviours can result in life-changing impacts to the person struggling and to those around them.

When you support an addict without enabling them it means that you need to take a big step back and allow someone to experience the consequences associated with their dependency. This makes the negative aspects of the addiction more tangible, and increases motivation to seek treatment. If they can see, feel and experience the negativity, it hits home. Remove the buffer of consequence to allow the action to fulfil its potential, good or bad. A lesson will come out of it. If you cover it then only you feel the consequences.

Though ending enabling is one of the most essential steps required for recovery, it can be a difficult step for friends or family to make which is why professional support is critical. Remember always, addiction is a lifelong condition that requires significant lifestyle changes and on-going management, much like any other lifelong disease like diabetes or hypertension. Like those aforementioned diseases, addiction recovery requires expert knowledge and comprehensive medical treatment for a healthy recovery and positive long-term results.

Damage to personal and professional relationships

There is one type of focus which occurs during addiction. It’s a shift in focus from the regular relationships and ‘important things’ focus which usually occupy our lives to one which sits solely on the addiction. People struggling with dependency become increasingly focused on maintaining and engaging in their addiction and this is often to the exclusionary detriment of professional obligations and personal relationships. The consequences of this are serious. An addict can lose their job, they can face estrangement from family and friends and tragically they can feel more alone in the world, a feeling often confirmed as disastrous by addicts in recovery.

Health complications when you enable an addiction

Any addiction, be it substance-related (such as those involving alcohol or a drug of sorts) or process-based (like compulsive gambling or sexual activity), increase the risk of serious and potentially long-term mental and physical health effects. Knowing that this is something real and on the horizon for an addict may force you to reconsider enabling them to cause further harm to themselves or you.

Here are some of the basic mental and physical effects an addict may experience during their addiction. Remember, the more you enable, the longer these can potentially last.

Physical effects:

  1. A weakened immune system, increasing the risk of illness and infection
  2. Heart conditions ranging from abnormal heart rates to heart attacks and collapsed veins and blood vessel infections from injected drugs
  3. Nausea and abdominal pain, which can also lead to changes in appetite and weight loss
  4. Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure
  5. Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage
  6. Lung disease
  7. Problems with memory, attention and decision-making, which make daily living more difficult
  8. Global effects of drugs on the body, such as breast development in men and increases in body temperature, which can lead to other health problems
  9. Death

Behavioural effects:

  1. Paranoia
  2. Aggressiveness
  3. Hallucinations
  4. Addiction
  5. Impaired Judgment
  6. Impulsiveness
  7. Loss of Self-Control

To sum up; enabling is an often unspoken of problem that an addict must face. Not because they are causing it, but because an enabler is allowing it to happen. By preventing it, the addict has no real choice but to confront their disease, addiction. Be the person to hold out a helping hand, not another way for the addict to harm themselves further. As always, if you need advice, call the Houghton House Group of Treatment Centres to find out how you can be the person you need to be in order to end the scourge of addiction.

further info on Enabling an Addiction

For more information on dealing with drug or alcohol abuse, call Houghton House now:

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