Enablers and addicts: Without boundaries, the endless loop of addiction will continue

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — An addict can fully take advantage of their use of drugs by having someone to enable their negative behavior.

The enabler is most likely a loved one: a parent, spouse, relative, friend, et cetera. The enabler thinks what they are doing is helping when in reality it is doing the exact opposite. They may believe whole heartily their efforts help, but in actuality, the comfort the provide the addict only prevents consequence – and therefore change.

The addict manipulates the relationship between themselves and the enabler to get just enough to continue to use. They reference negative behaviors by creating a dynamic with a loved one that is fabricated for the sole purpose of using. In the meanwhile, the torn enabler thinks they are doing what’s best for the person they love without knowing that the lack of boundary is somewhat facilitating the addict’s use.

As this shell of a relationship continues, it becomes more and more toxic, and without real consequence or boundary, an endless loop of unhealthy behaviors continue.

Addict coaching enabler

The substance abuse user will begin to manipulate and coach the enabler on what to say when others start to notice. Both the enabler and user will defend the drug use by pointing the finger at someone or something to take away from the fact that the individual user has not stopped but in fact found a comfortable way to continue using.

While other members of the support group/family notice more negative consequences and confront the enabler, the individual substance user will provide false examples of progress to win over the crowd and have the enabler step in to defend them.

The user will continue to coach the enabler not only into speaking on their behalf but also believing in these fabricated examples of false hope, thus growing a habitat where the substance-user can get intoxicated without consequence.

Enablers become resources

As a substance user becomes worse, so do the relationships they have with those that care about them. Substance users see their social circle – friends, family, spouses, et cetera – as a resource less than a relationship. At this point, the relationship becomes predicated on the value that friends and family offer toward the substance user’s habit.

For example, does the person offer transportation, living, money, food? Any resource a substance user may need determines their level of involvement with the people that care about them. Acting as if each relationship is assigned its own value system, a substance user won’t hesitate to discontinue a relationship if it is no longer useful to them or gets in their way.

Enablers can, unfortunately, facilitate this line of reinforcement by trying to “help” as best they can. The “help” can reinforce transactional-based relationships for the substance user, and this toxic cycle is unstable and on the verge of collapse at any second.

Substance users also use people to get what they want with little to no remorse. The wrong kind of help can delay the kind of actual care they need by allowing them to continue on down the same path.

Family group

Lion’s Gate Recovery has a family group open to the public that truly helps families, friends and spouses deal with not only the problems facing their loved ones but coaches them about the dynamic built between an addict and an enabler. Learning key information and relating with others helps those who feel helpless on the sidelines of substance use find a true understanding of what is going on and how they can change their role in the relationship.

Family group was established nearly 20 years ago, and some of the members have attended for two decades. Family group is held at the Lion’s Gate Recovery St. George campus Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., and it is open to all. As a great resource for the community, family group has grown in numbers over the years and helps families face substance use together and gives a positive outlet to speak openly about how substance use not only hurts the individual but the people that love them the most.

Written by SHANE P. CURRIN, Lion’s Gate Recovery.

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