With addiction in the family, the line between helping and enabling is blurry. You might think you’re helping when you do for your addicted loved one, what they could and should, be doing for themselves. But what you’re really helping is the addiction taking over your loved one.

Imagine addiction as a monster that’s hijacked your loved one’s mind and body. Each time you say yes to the monster, it grows. The bigger it gets, the less there is left of the person you love.

This monster is wily. It’s manipulative, sneaky and powerful!. The only time the monster is happy is when you’re giving it what it wants. By this time you might find it hard to differentiate between the monster and the person you love hiding inside it. Here’s a tip that will help you. Each time you say no to the monster, tell your person within, you love them. Call in the monster busters (Alanon, Naranon and anyone else who can help) The monster will be angry which is good. When the monster is upset it means it’s not getting its way and the person you love is one step closer, to being set free.

Please note, your loved one isn’t the only one with a monster. Families get sick too. Enabling might not come in tablet form, but don’t kid yourself. It’s a powerful drug that provides INSTANT relief. Enabling eases uncomfortable emotions – at least temporarily. The trouble is feelings of guilt, anxiety, and fear don’t stay gone. They come back bigger and meaner than before. The FIX? More enabling, and so the cycle begins. Enabling is a self-serving act. It has nothing to do with caring for the addicted person. The enabler suffers from delusion believing they’re helping the addict. But what they’re unknowingly doing is mood-altering, by avoiding emotional discomfort and not saying NO, when NO, is the right thing to say.

The enabler believes they can FIX the addicted person
The addicted person just wants their next FIX.

Family members who enable, do so because it brings relief. Just as the addict uses for relief. The enabler aides the addict and an unhealthy, compulsive, relationship forms. This relationship changes over time. The addict is CONSUMED by their substance. The enabler is CONSUMED by their addict. The enabler needs to feel in control. The addict needs to feel high. Both parties experience the effects of their illness; Isolation from other family members. Loss of hope. Loss of job. Loss of finances. Weight gain or loss. Marriage problems. Divorce. Fractured family systems. Ulcers. Migraines. Depression. High blood pressure. Heart attack. Stroke. Insomnia. Nervous breakdown. Contemplating suicide. Contemplating homicide.

The addicted person can’t stay sick without the enabler.
The enabler can’t stay sick without the addicted person

Both live by the mantra, ‘Just one more time.’ Both make impulsive decisions based on wishful thinking. For the addicted person to hit the terminal stage of their illness, they need financial help. This help comes via their enabler who refuses to listen to other concerned family members and continues to enable through giving cash, paying bills, and keeping the addict comfortable in their disease. The enabler falsely believes they know the addict better than anyone else, but in reality, the enabler is often the easiest person in the family to manipulate.

Whether you enable, or abuse drugs, the outcome is the same. Both parties will need help to stop. Enablers claim they would die for their addict, but will they live for them? Don’t wait for the addicted person to change. Be the change! The best way to help your sick loved one is to reach out for help and learn all you can about enabling, setting boundaries, and the role you play in addiction. Statistics show addicted persons are most successful when their families are educated and in recovery too.

Lorelie Rozzano

(c) 2014 Jagged Little Edges All Rights Reserved

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  1. Linda

    Thank you ,for this read,it has helped me a lot I never looked at it the way you have described it,but every word is true, I are the enabler, I just dont want to see my son suffer,but I will be strong ,every time I feel weak, I will read this again.

  2. Sue

    My daughter is an addict, this hit so close to home I am/was a big enabler trying hard to not do it anymore, I am so sorry for enabling her for so many years and being part of her addiction. My friend put it to me that my daughter is my addiction. I love her so much but hate what she has become, I hope she makes it somehow, I cant do it for her anymore. Thanks to you and the person that posted your site.

  3. M. Smith

    Dont want to put my real name down.
    My daughter was an addict and she was murdered.
    She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    She was my baby girl, my best friend, my confidant…. she was my every thing…… and NOW….
    Well now I’ve taken her place…. I’m a mom, a Grandma and a great-grandmother….
    Good luck to the people out there
    that are trying to get better.

    • Lorelie

      I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine. Sending love, strength and healing light your way.

  4. I’m a mom of addicted. Your post are very encouraging..