Have You Been Accused of “Enabling” A Substance User?

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Published: 20th July 2012
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Do you have feelings of guilt or remorse because you believe you have enabled a loved one struggling with substance use problems? Do you think you may have hurt your loved one by providing kindness, food, housing or financial support?

Please know that you can never hurt someone with kindness. There can be, however, a deep sense of pain experienced by you when you provide so much help, and then see your efforts squandered as your loved one returns to drug and alcohol use. Your hurt feelings are a direct result of unrealized expectations which you hold for yourself and others.

There is definitely a sense of frustration when know that you are doing everything in your power to stop someone from using and they still continue to exhibit the same behavior. You desperately want them to stop using, or repay the kindness you have given them whether emotional or monetary, but their problematic behaviors continue. This leads to feelings of hurt, sadness and resentment. Usually a substance user will fulfill their own needs or wants before thinking of others. So once you realize that these expectations are not going to be met by the substance user..what is the next step..should you stop "playing the game?" Even though you may feel like you have lost you control of the situation, you do still have control over yourself and your own resources.

Contrary to what you may have been told, substance users do control their choices behaviors with respect to substance use, and will often take and take from a family member that is ready and willing to help. As you can see clearly through your failed attempts to control their behaviors, families have no control over whether or not their loved ones use substances. This realization can be devastating, as instead of exerting control over them and their behavior, it is the substance user who has been manipulating and controlling you.

If you choose to stay in the game it may be time to try something different, not only to help the substance user, but also to regain a sense of control and happiness in your own life. This is where you make the difficult decision whether to continue on your current path, or change the help you are giving, or perhaps stop providing help all together. This is a very personal decision that should be based solely on what you want for yourself and your life. After all, you deserve to spend your physical and emotion resources in a way that gives you the greatest emotional return.

When dealing with someone struggling with substance use problems, it is important that once the family as a whole makes a decision on what help is provided to the substance user that they support each other and remain unified. But even if that is not the case, family members need not ever feel responsible for the substance user’s behaviors and the consequences of their behaviors. No one drives someone to drink or do drugs by being kind and supportive, emotionally or otherwise. The idea of enabling is false and the label itself is hurtful to substance users and those who love them.

Although you cannot control a substance user’s actions, you can control what goes on in your own home. It is also vital to remember that your loved one is choosing this life and the risks that go along with it; they are not addicted or sick but acting in ways unacceptable to you; and sometimes, unfortunately those choices do end in tragedy.

The word "enabler" implies that you have some sort of control over your loved one, but the simple fact is, you don’t. You are not making your loved one behave badly or turn to substance use; they do that all on their own. If you lead by example and show them how great a mature life based on deferred gratification can be, there is always hope the substance user will see your success and make the choice to stop or moderate usage and move on with their life. There is also good news: what treatment programs and addiction professionals won’t tell you is most heavy substance users naturally mature out of their substance use problems simply as a function of the maturation process.

Learn more about non treatment solutions to substance use by an alternative program to drug and alcohol rehab

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