For a lot of people, loving and helping are synonymous. We want to help the people we love no matter what the situation. In some cases, we use help as a sign of our love and commitment to make life easier or more pleasurable for the people we care about.
When it comes to addiction and certain mental health issues, however, helping can really be hurting.
What Is an Enabler?
An enabler is someone who encourages or enables poor decisions or self-destructive behavior that only serves to perpetuate a problem.
Enablers make things possible, but in the context of addiction or mental health issues, this is not helpful. Enablers make it possible for addicts, for example, to continue their addiction. They might do this by helping to hide the evidence that there is a problem or making excuses for the person so they do not lose their job.
An enabler also often picks up the slack so someone can function with the addiction or mental health issue instead of seeking treatment. Enablers may also encourage people to accept their condition rather than recognizing that they need help. Sometimes enablers even encourage, inadvertently, behaviors that are dangerous or self-destructive.
How to Stop Enabling Someone You Love
Recognizing that you are an enabler is the first step in ending this behavior. Some signs that you are an enabler include:
- Always putting someone else’s needs before your own
- Ignoring or condoning unacceptable behavior
- Lying to cover up someone else’s mistakes or bad behavior
- Offering help when it is not asked for nor appreciated
- Assuaging someone’s anger to maintain status quo in your relationship
It can be easy to excuse your enabling behaviors as expressions of your love. We want to take care of the people around us, but it is important to recognize that enabling makes you complicit in an addiction or other harmful behavior patterns that will cause long-term damage.
When you stop enabling your loved ones, you do not stop loving them. Instead, you recognize that your efforts to protect them from pain or other consequences are better applied to assisting them in a long-term recovery.
Tips to Stop Enabling Someone You Love
In order to stop enabling an addict, someone with a mental health issue or any other issue that they may need to see help for you will need to take a step back and examine your own behaviors and how they contribute to a long term solution – Do they help or hinder long term well-being?
Consequences are meant to change behaviors. If you keep your loved one from facing the consequences of bad behavior, you are enabling that behavior.
It can be hard to change your own enabling habits, but here are some tips:
- Never lie about what you or someone else has done.
- Do not pay bills that are not your responsibility.
- Stop trying to solve someone else’s problems.
- Clearly communicate your own feelings regardless of the consequences.
- Do not make excuses for other people’s behavior.
- Allow consequences to befall people who make mistakes.
- Do not take responsibility for someone else’s actions.
- Stop protecting your loved one’s feelings from the truth.
Enabling is a type of addiction in itself. Your enabling behaviors started long ago and developed over time. Like any habit, you found some positive results from your behaviors, so you repeated them. You may consider yourself the type of person who just solves everyone’s problems or protects your loved ones, and it can be hard to make changes to your own behavior to stop enabling.
Not Enabling Does Not Mean Abandonment
Since most enablers see their behavior as expressions of their love, it can be hard to withdraw from these activities. How do you leave someone you love to face the consequences when you know you have the resources to help them, even if it’s only a temporary fix? You are constantly trying to show how much you care and abandoning someone you love would send the opposite message.
When you stop enabling someone, you do not abandon them. You are still there in their lives loving and supporting them for the good choices they make. You just stop accepting and perpetuating the bad behavior, and you express your lack of acceptance by withdrawing your support for those activities. Allowing your loved one to face the consequences of their actions will force them to change bad behaviors, and that is a better expression of your love than enabling.
Brookhaven Retreat Can Help
Mental health conditions and addiction is a serious issue that requires professional help to overcome. You may be able to protect your loved one from pain in the short term, but eventually, the addiction will become too big for either of you to handle. The best way to show your love for someone with an addiction is to let them recognize they have a problem and get them the help they need.
Brookhaven Retreat can help you change your enabling behavior and assist your loved one in ending an addiction or coping with a mental health condition. Addiction or mental health and enabling can be two intertwined problems that are best dealt with simultaneously.
We understand how difficult it is to change your behaviors. Contact Brookhaven today to learn more about the programs we provide, so you and your loved ones can get back to living a healthy life together.