What if you discovered that someone you love suffers from addiction? What if their addiction causes them to lose a job or drop out of school? What if their addiction causes them to miss family functions or ruin get-togethers? What if you found that person overdosing in the bathroom? What if you knew they were breaking the law and risking their life? What would you do?
Maybe you would tell someone and seek professional help for your loved one. Maybe you would confront your loved one and hold them accountable for their actions. Or, perhaps, you would lie for them, hide their addiction, and bail them out of any trouble they get into. Maybe you, like many others, would fall into these and other enabling behaviors and codependency that are so easy to misinterpret as love.
Enabling and codependency allow addiction to continue.
Parents, spouses, friends, and even coworkers can all be enablers. Though they are only trying to help, their behaviors make things worse. Someone might enable an addicted loved one by bailing them out of legal, school, family, or work trouble. They might do their best to keep the addiction secret so as not to have anyone think badly about their loved one. Enablers want to be rescuers, swooping in to protect someone from the consequences of their own behavior. Enablers sacrifice their own health, well-being, finances, and relationships in order to avoid setting boundaries with their addicted loved one.
What can help your loved one most when they are suffering from addiction is to stop enabling them. Set boundaries, refuse to lie or cover up for them, and stop financially supporting their substance use. Instead of enabling them, encourage them to seek help. You can research treatment centers and local recovery support groups. You can hire an interventionist. You can seek counseling for yourself to help you sort out the differences between codependency and true support. You can take care of your own health and relationships.
If you have never been in this situation, the solution to enabling may seem quite simple. But when someone you dearly love is suffering, the truth can be hard to see. Enabling behaviors and codependency can seem, at the time, like the right thing to do. But in the end, they are only prolonging the addiction.