• Nicole Arzt

7 Sneaky Ways You May Be Enabling Addiction Without Realizing It

You’re tired of the lying, stealing, and manipulation. You’re fed up with being the good guy, the bad guy, and everything in between. Addiction is exhaustive, and you’re tired of the rollercoaster. You know that something has to change.


Maybe you’ve learned about setting boundaries. Perhaps you’ve had a serious heart-to-heart with your loved one.


But are you enabling addiction without realizing it? Are you contributing to ongoing toxicity and negative patterns? Let’s unpack some of the more subtle signs you should know about.


You Lie To Save Face


Oh, he’s away on a job. Oh, she had a rough patch, but now things are more under control. How many times have you lied to protect your loved one and yourself? How often do you embellish a story because you worry about the reaction?


When it comes to managing addiction, telling lies often comes naturally. After all, the truth may seem ugly and obscene. You don’t want to feel embarrassed. You don’t want to deal with negative judgment or criticism.


However, your lying might be enabling addiction. We lie because we don’t want to face the true reality. And by avoiding the true reality, you continue to participate in some semblance of denial.


You Withhold Your Emotions


Do you suppress your feelings about your loved one? Do you often pretend like everything is okay- even when it obviously isn’t?


Loved ones often hesitate to share their feelings about addiction. They don’t want to burden their loved ones. They don’t want to hurt or trigger them to relapse.


However, you are entitled to your emotions. In healthy relationships, people mutually share their concerns and expectations for one another. They discuss boundaries and needs freely. If you continue to bite your tongue, your resentment will continue to grow.

You Point Fingers At Other People, Places, Or Things


When you love someone, you don’t want to fault them for their struggles. You want to displace the blame elsewhere. That friend was a bad influence. That doctor should have never prescribed the medication. That therapist didn’t do a good job listening.


People struggling with addiction do not choose to struggle with an addiction. However, they do decide how they approach their recovery. They need to own accountability over their actions. Subsequently, you’re allowed to hold them accountable.


You Continue To Blame Yourself


Just like enablers often point fingers elsewhere, they also tend to blame themselves. If only I had been more attentive. If I hadn’t broken up with him, this never would have happened. He struggles with addiction because I struggled with addiction.


This self-blame only hurts you and your loved one. While you may have some influence over their behavior, research shows that many factors contribute to addiction. You are not perfect, but that does not mean you caused this issue single-handedly.


You React Extravagantly To Success


Any effort in recovery represents a considerable achievement. You’re allowed to feel proud of your loved one! Moreover, praise and validation can go a long way in showing your support.


That said, many loved ones want to acknowledge success with gifts, money, or privileges. They believe these incentives help with ongoing motivation. For example, some people allow a loved one to move back in after a month of sobriety. Others reward their good behavior with a new phone or laptop.


Despite your good intentions, these behaviors can backfire. Your loved one might come to expect your generous rewards. They may act appropriately just to secure the prize without the intention of sticking with it.


You Refuse To Get Your Own Support


Addiction doesn’t just affect a single individual; it impacts entire systems. As a loved one, you need compassion, guidance, and love during these vulnerable times. Support isn’t just about helping your loved one. It’s also about helping yourself.


You need a safe place to process your thoughts and feelings. You need people you can lean on when things feel rough. Furthermore, you must learn healthy coping skills to manage the ups and downs.


You Continue To Take Care Of Their Responsibilities


A doctor’s appointment here. A reminder to pay his taxes there. You dismiss that there’s any harm in helping someone you love. After all, adulting is hard!


But by assuming someone else’s responsibilities, you stunt independence and personal accountability. It’s okay to offer guidance and encouragement. But if you naturally “take over” their tasks, they may never learn how to handle them on their own. This dynamic only perpetuates a frustrating cycle of helplessness and ongoing codependency.


How Enabling Addiction Continues To Harm You And Your Loved One


By enabling addiction, you continue to maintain a vicious cycle of codependency and unrealistic expectations. You risk compassion fatigue, burnout, and resentment.


Change is possible. You can break old patterns. Moreover, you can still love someone fiercely while setting healthy boundaries.


At The Resurface Group, we help individuals and their loved ones recover from the perils of addiction. We will work with you to develop new patterns for coping, behaving, and supporting one another. Contact us today to learn more!


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