I’ve Stopped Enabling… Now What?
The month of February, Addiction Campuses has focused on enabling addiction, and why it is the number one cause of death in addiction. We’ve given examples of helping a loved one versus enabling a loved one in this infographic, and shared articles with points of view from the addiction enabler and the person struggling with addiction We’ve equipped you with the information you need to know to stop enabling – and start helping. This is our final post for February. Read on.
Congratulations. I heard you were strong enough and brave enough to stop enabling your drug addicted loved one. Now that you’ve shifted your behaviors and are making a positive change for both you and your loved one, you probably have some questions on what to do now. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of some of the most asked questions we hear from people who have made the courageous decision to stop enabling.
Hearing this advice isn’t simple – but following it can be even more difficult.
There is absolutely nothing easy about stopping enabling behavior. When you stop enabling your loved one’s drug or alcohol addiction, you’re sure to receive pushback. You’re likely to experience some retaliation. You’ll worry about the outcome. You’ll fear something tragic could happen to your loved one without your help or interference. While he or she will face consequences, you will, too.
Stopping enabling behavior isn’t a one time deal. It’s a conscious effort you must make every single day; every time you see or hear from your loved one; every time you think about your loved one. Once you stopped enabling your loved one’s addiction, you may ask: “Now what?”
1. “I’ve stopped enabling, do I confront my loved one about their addiction?”
Part of enabling can be ignoring the addiction in hopes that it goes away.
And, yes. There is never a bad time to talk to your loved one about their drug or alcohol problem – but now is one the best times. This disease can’t not be talked about. By deciding to stop your enabling behavior, this is the perfect opportunity to say, “I love you. I’m not going to support what you’re doing any more. But I am here to help you get help.”
This very first confrontation may not lead to an immediate change. That’s ok. Stay consistent and persistent. Confront with love. Talk to them from a place of kindness and concern.
When you confront your loved one:
Start off by explaining how much you love them
Tell them much you miss them
Don’t point fingers, it will only make them point theirs at you
Tell him or her you’re afraid for their safety when driving intoxicated or shooting heroin
When you shine light on your fears, it makes them a little easier to talk about
While I can’t tell you exactly what will happen when you confront your addicted loved one, I can tell you what happen if you don’t confront them: they will lose everything they have and everything they love – and they will die.
Now is the time to start confronting. And continue confronting.
2. “I’ve stopped enabling, and my loved one is angry. Now what?”
That’s ok. If your loved one wasn’t addicted to drugs or alcohol, they wouldn’t be so angry. If there wasn’t any problem with heroin or meth – you wouldn’t see or feel that sort of pushback.
This type of reaction is normal for a person that is caught up in their disease. This is how a person struggling with addiction deflects responsibility for the problem. He or she will point the finger at anyone and everyone else. This is their effort to punish you for even starting the conversation.
Even if you’re faced with this anger, remember this: Your loved one is allowed to have their feelings, just like you’re allowed to have your feelings. You’re hurting and scared – those are your emotions. He’s angry – that’s his emotion. It is not your job to fix your loved one’s feelings.
And don’t concede to threats.
People who are in the grips of addiction use manipulation to control their enablers. But when you stop enabling those addictions, your loved one may become enraged to the point of making threats of physical violence or self-harm, in order to regain control. Never concede to a threat. It won’t be easy, but you have to stand firm on your decisions, and take action if necessary.
If his or her anger turns violent or hostile, they are still responsible for their actions. Don’t be afraid to call the police if there is an escalation. It’s not your fault if they end up going to jail. Someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction still needs to be held responsible for their actions.
Yes, addiction is a disease. Yes, it is treatable. But if your addicted loved one is doing harm, there needs to be consequences.
3. “I’ve stopped enabling, but he’s still using heroin. Do I still pick up when he calls?”
If your loved one is still refusing treatment, but still talking to you – yes, you can still answer their phone calls. When you pick up, ask if he or she is ready to go to treatment. If they’re not tell them to call when they are ready.
You don’t have to condone that she’s still using Oxycodone. You don’t have to condone that he’s still drinking alcohol. You can hate what this disease is doing to them. But just because they’re not ready, doesn’t mean you stop loving.
Answer, express your love – and invite them to treatment, every time. One day, you may get that ‘yes’ that you’ve been waiting for.
4. “I’ve stopped enabling, what do I do for myself?”
Your loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol isn’t the only one who needs to get help. When one person is addicted, the whole family is affected.
There are excellent, free resources available to families struggling with addiction. Groups like Al Anon, Nar Anon and Celebrate Recovery offer support and fellowship for families.
Or you may need to find a therapist or addiction treatment center that specializes in addiction to offer guidance and bring healing in your life. If you’ve been enabling addiction, you may feel angry, taken advantage of, hurt or scared – all at the same time. It’s important to surround yourself with touchpoints and confidential, safe place to find support, encouragement, and hope.
5. “I’ve stopped enabling, how long will it take for my loved one to change?”
While I wish I could tell you changes will be immediate – it’s not likely. Unfortunately, there is no exact timeline to follow when it comes to addiction. Addiction is a disease that affects everyone differently.
What you need to hold onto is this: It takes what it takes. And by quitting your enabling behaviors, you are no longer helping your loved one die. You are no longer playing a part in the active addiction. And while the addiction may continue for a while, there’s one less leg holding it up. By changing your behaviors, you are becoming part of the recovery.
You’ve stopped enabling them – so start helping them..
At the end of the day, your loved one’s desire to change must come from within. Changing your behaviors forces them to face the harsh realities of addiction – and its consequences may be just the incentive they need to seek real help.
You are actively helping every time that you encourage him or her to seek treatment as soon as possible. The road to recovery for your loved one, yourself, and your family may not be easy, and the journey may be long. But the help and support may be exactly what your addicted loved one needs to begin their path to sobriety.