Learning to love alcoholics or drug addicts when struggling with the chaos of their behavior requires awareness and practice. Likewise, it takes some education and training to recognize the difference between showing compassionate understanding of the disease of addiction and enabling an alcoholic or drug addict to continue their addiction. Family members who love alcoholics or addicts need guidance. They need to change their attitudes and roles just as much as the alcoholics and drug addicts do.
Enabling An Alcoholic Does More Harm Than Good
Families of alcoholics and addicts have the best intentions. When parents allow adult children to move back home because alcoholism or drug addiction has resulted in homelessness, they do it because they can’t bear to think of someone they love living on the streets. Family members who bail adult children or siblings out of jail, who give them money when they have lost their jobs, who call their employers and make excuses, think they are doing the right thing. They are hoping beyond hope that if they help in this way, then the addictive behavior will end. The ironic and unfortunate truth is that manner of help does more harm than good. It enables the alcoholic or addict to continue lies and denial and to continue abusing alcohol or drugs. It continues the dysfunctional family cycle, and it allows the disease of addiction to progress.
Compassion Does Not Mean Control
Showing compassion for an alcoholic or drug addict means understanding that addiction is a disease of the body, mind and spirit. Thinking of addictions with the same kind of sympathetic attitude as one would with severe allergies or migraines or even cancer and other potentially fatal illnesses makes all the difference. It helps families live in peace, knowing they did not cause the addiction, they cannot control the addiction, and they cannot cure the addiction. Offering compassion without enabling an alcoholic or drug addict helps everyone involved.