It is natural to desire to care for and aid a loved one. However, the line between supporting a loved one and enabling harmful behavior is narrow. It usually takes a lot of work to detect the line. As a result, people frequently find themselves on the wrong side of the line without even recognizing it.
Allowing someone to continue choosing harmful activities by remaining inactive or supporting them through their acts, whether alcohol, other selfish behavior, or overall irresponsibility, worsens the damage. Enabling has the opposite effect, even if your purpose is to help. So, what exactly is enabling?
What is Enabling?
Enabling means allowing a loved one to continue engaging in self-destructive behavior (such as substance misuse) by making excuses for them or assisting them in avoiding the repercussions of their actions is the act of enabling.
Typically, enabling comes from love and a desire to help. It is common for one individual to “cover” for another family member. For example, suppose you know your eldest daughter is using drugs, and you continue paying her rent after she loses her job. In that case, you allow them to continue on their current course. Although the objective is to assist them, it may inadvertently encourage their conduct.
The above example may sound like helping a loved one overcome a crisis. However, that is far from what it really is. Therefore, here are ways you might be enabling someone negatively.
1. Ignoring the Negative Behavior
One of the easiest ways to negatively enable someone is by ignoring their negative behavior. It is easy to do this because, most of the time, you enable someone you care about. Since you care about them, you end up ignoring the problem, even when you do not fully agree with it. This is using denial as a coping mechanism.
Denial is a common reaction to such a problem. Rather than confronting the individual about their behavior, you consider measures to avoid it. Avoidance may give a temporary solution in the short term, but it can exacerbate the situation in the long run.
Take this as an example; if your loved one continues to do hard drugs or frequently steals money from your wallet, you may be tempted to confront them. After all, since you care for them, you would rather they stop this habit.
However, upon contemplation, you may get concerned about their reaction. So instead of confronting them about the issue, you ignore the behavior or hide your money, and the cycle repeats itself.
Discussing serious concerns like addiction might be difficult when you know your loved one has a problem. After all, you do not wish to taint your relationship. This may be especially difficult if you suffer from a fear of debates or disagreements.
On the other hand, avoiding facing the issue limits your capacity to draw attention to the problem and support your loved one in addressing it healthily and constructively. For example, going to a heroin detox rehab in Worcester to seek the right professionals who will help with the addiction.
2. Providing Financial Support
Providing unnecessary financial support to your loved one who has an addiction is another negative way you can enable a person. If you constantly compensate for their shortcomings, you may be participating in situationally appropriate behavior.
This is especially true if the codependent uses the money you provide to support potentially hazardous habits like gambling or substance abuse, both of which require financial support.
If you give someone money regularly, especially if you are aware that they are spending it foolishly, you are allowing that person to make terrible decisions in their life without facing substantial consequences. Do these instead:
- If you feel obligated to provide money to another individual, ensure it goes toward helping something long-term.
- If you and the other person have a joint bank account, consider opening a separate account for your funds.
3. Taking Responsibility
You may also be enabling someone if you consistently take up the slack they leave behind by doing housework, watching their children, or taking care of vital daily duties that they neglect. This could include more important activities, such as caring for an ailing family member.
If the other person can always rely on you to do their tasks, it may be more difficult for them to discover reasons to do so the following time. This will inspire them to continue acting similarly. Because of your assistance, it will be much easier for your loved one to continue an unwanted behavior habit.
Avoid doing things for the person they could easily do for themselves without needing help from a third party. You will no longer be enabling the individual if you stop partaking in these activities and will allow them to realize how much their addiction harms their lives badly.
If your son loses his driver’s license, driving them to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is reasonable because he cannot get there independently. However, going out of your way to research for him how to have a driver’s license reissued would be unnecessary because this is a task he could handle on his own.
4. Sacrificing Your Own Needs
When enabling someone with an addiction or a problem, you will always devote most of your time and energy to that individual. This means that you are most likely sacrificing your own needs to cater to the needs of this other person.
It is true that sometimes, you may feel compelled to give something up for the person you care about the most. However, when you prioritize someone’s needs over your own, you put yourself at risk by performing things that you believe will benefit a loved one. However, rarely does this strategy work. Most of the time, you just end up being codependent on each other.
Even if you don’t mind missing out on a few days or weeks of your usual activities, you should still prioritize your health, especially if you are caring for a sick family member or friend.
However, if you constantly find yourself unable to finish your tasks or if your efforts to care for a loved one leave you feeling overloaded, it may be time to reconsider your reasons for providing assistance and the impact these reasons are having on your loved one.
Why Is It A Bad Idea To Enable?
It is far too easy to become involved with a drug addict and lose sight of where you finish, and they begin. Enabling addiction will put you through unnecessary stress and emotional anguish and create a never-ending cycle of dysfunction. It is also risky for the addict you know and care about.
You are undoubtedly motivated by a desire to eliminate the occurrence of such scenarios. On the other hand, enabling enhances the likelihood that these occurrences will occur, however strange this can be. So, while helping a loved one overcome their addiction is nice, you should be careful not to overdo it and become an enabler.