Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

4 things you’re doing to help someone with an addiction that could be doing more harm than good

addict hug sad
If you enable the addict, they won’t change.
  • It’s hard when someone you love has an addiction.
  • It can be difficult to know where to draw the line with helping them.
  • Giving them money or taking on their responsibilities may seem like a good idea, but you may actually be enabling the addict’s behaviour.
  • Here are four signs you’re hindering someone’s recovery instead of aiding it.

Having supportive friends and family is incredibly important for anyone trying to recover from addiction. But there is sometimes the risk of a healthy relationship becoming codependent.

According to Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer for the American Addiction Centers, this is detrimental to someone with an addiction, because knowing someone is at their beck and call gives an addict excuses to act without consequence.

“Often, the codependent partner of someone with addiction receives validation for tending to the addict’s every need,” Weinstein told INSIDER. “Whether the underlying problem is related to self-image, self-esteem or self-worth, the codependent partner is fulfilled when the addict is taken care of emotionally and/or physically, even while neglecting other important aspects of their own lives.”

If a relationship crosses the boundary into being codependent, the addict will have very little motivation to make changes in their life that will aid in their recovery. It may feel like you’re helping them in the short term to turn their life around, but in reality enabling their behaviour isn’t the best thing for them.

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if you’re helping or hindering a loved one on their recovery journey. Weinstein pointed out four signs you might actually be enabling them, and need to change your tactics.

1. You’re taking on their responsibilities

1. You're taking on their responsibilities
They need motivation.

It’s not a good idea to take on all the responsibilities of the addict, Weinstein said, like paying their overdue phone bill, buying their groceries, filling up their car, and going to events or appointments on their behalf.

“Asuming the responsibilities that are incurred by them through their own actions makes it easier for them to dismiss these obligations,” Weinstein said.

2. You keep making excuses for them

2. You keep making excuses for them
It’s not your job to cover their tracks.

It’s not your responsibility to cover for the addict, Weinstein said, like dismissing their irritability as stress when really it’s withdrawal symptoms. It’s not up to you to phone their work day after day and say they are ill when really they were using drugs or alcohol extensively the previous day.

3. You don’t stick to your boundaries

3. You don't stick to your boundaries
Otherwise you’re making empty threats.

Healthy boundaries are incredibly important in any relationship, and a relationship with an addict is no different. You shouldn’t let them slip just because someone needs help. For instance, if your loved one is caught using in your home, you should remove them from the premises, not just issue a warning, Weinstein said.

“Not following through with boundaries indicate that reprimanding will not take place if rules and agreements are broken and the person with addiction feels free to dismiss any empty threats of punishment,” he said.

4. You cave in to their behaviour

4. You cave in to their behaviour
Don’t be afraid.

You may hesitate to do the simplest of tasks out of fear, Weinstein said. If you find yourself walking on eggshells to avoid conversations and interactions that may cause an angry outburst, you’re simply caving to the addict’s behaviour. This isn’t likely to help them in the long run.

In the end, they need to want to help themselves

In the end, they need to want to help themselves
It’s not your fault.

Enabling the addict does nothing to incentivise change, Weinstein said, because once they know they have the upper hand they won’t take any boundaries and rules seriously…

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