When an addict or alcoholic’s family members and loved ones engage in codependent behavior, that behavior gives way to enabling. As it relates to substance abuse and codependency, when you enable someone, you are providing them with a means to continue to use alcohol or drugs. Your actions allow the addiction to continue, rather than putting it to a stop to it. Blurred boundary lines make it easy for the addicted person to continue to lie, manipulate, and continue drinking or drugging or engaging in abusive behaviors.
When you become codependent with a chemically dependent person, you may think you are helping them when you bail them out of the situations they have gotten themselves into, but you are actually hurting them. By not holding them accountable and forcing them to deal with the consequences they have created for themselves, you are playing an active role in the addictive cycle.
Understanding How Enabling Shows Up In Codependent Relationships
Here are some examples of enabling behaviors:
- After a 25-year-old man has spent all his money on heroin, his mother pays his rent for him.
- When a woman is involved in an alcohol-related hit-and-run accident, her husband lies to the police and tells them she has been home all night.
- A teen is arrested for possession of methamphetamine’s. His dad bails him out of jail instead of allowing him to sit there.
- After being beaten by her husband in a drunken rage, a wife lies to her friends about her bruises and says she was in a car accident.
How To Put An End To Codependent Enabling
When someone you care about is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is very easy to slip into a codependent pattern and enable their behavior. Here are 5 ways to stop the madness:
- Recognize the situation for what it is. You are engaged in codependency and you have been enabling the addicted person in your life. Make the decision today that you are going to put a stop to it.
- Rally support. Talk to other people in the addict or alcoholic’s life and agree that, together, you are no longer going to engage in enabling behaviors. There is power in numbers. Consider staging an intervention to confront the addicted person to motivate them to go to treatment.
- Set boundaries. Decide that you are no longer going to lie for the addicted person, pay for their mistakes, or cover their tracks. Tell them so. Stick to what you say. Don’t waver in your commitment.
- Start taking care of yourself and show yourself some loving kindness. In the process of codependency, you lose yourself and you stop taking care of yourself. Start putting yourself first again.
- Get some resources about codependency so you can learn more about the condition and find out how you can engage in healthy behavior patterns. The book “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie is a great choice.
Remember, if you are engaged in a codependent cycle with an addict or alcoholic. You are enabling their behavior and you are not taking care of yourself. You simply must break the cycle if you hope to find healing for yourself and the addicted person.
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