It can be difficult to offer support to a loved one with alcohol use disorder (AUD) without enabling their addiction. You may believe you are helping when in fact, you are enabling. How can you know if you are enabling their addiction or helping? If you are enabling, what should you do to stop? By learning the difference between enabling and helping, you can stop enabling a loved one’s alcoholism or substance use disorder.
What Does It Mean to Enable a Loved One’s Alcoholism?
Enabling behaviors are generally defined as taking care of things for your loved one with AUD. However, if they were not struggling with alcoholism, they would be able to do these things for themselves.
Enabling vs. Helping Your Loved One
Often, you may think you are helping your loved one but are enabling their addiction. For example, if you ignore or downplay the seriousness of their alcoholism, this is enabling behavior.
Another common sign of enabling is taking care of their basic needs, such as preparing meals, doing their laundry, and providing them with money to support their drinking. Essentially, any behavior that does not force your loved one to face the consequences of their alcoholism is considered enabling.
Helping, on the other hand, is doing things that your loved one cannot do for themselves, even if they were sober. For instance, you may be better at managing the household finances and ensuring bills get paid on time.
Helping is also where you do not shield them from the consequences of their drinking, such as not calling their employer when they are hungover and cannot go to work.
How to Stop Enabling a Loved One’s Alcoholism
You must first remember that you have no control over your loved one’s addiction. While their drinking addiction is a disease that affects the entire family, you cannot force them to change. However, you can change your behaviors so that you can stop enabling a loved one’s alcoholism with these tips:
Discontinue Actions That Allow Their Behavior to Continue
Until they have to face the consequences of their drinking, they will not be willing to consider getting help. For example, you are making their car payment because they are spending their money on drinking. Stop making their car payment and let them deal with the consequences of losing their vehicle.
Do Not Do Things They Should Do Themself
Do not help them look for a new job if they were fired. Refrain from making phone calls for them to creditors. Do not help them find a lawyer if they were arrested and charged with a DUI. These are all things they should do themself.
Quit Making Excuses
Making excuses for your loved one’s behaviors, like saying they are sick so they couldn’t attend a family gathering. Instead, be honest, no matter how hard it is, to tell the truth.
Do Not Take on Their Responsibilities
If things aren’t getting done around the house they are supposed to do, let it go. If you take on those responsibilities, it does not hold them accountable.
Never Give Them Money or Alcohol
Providing money or supplying your loved one with alcohol only further supports their AUD. Instead, take care care of your own personal financial needs, even if it means opening a separate account, and remove all alcohol from the home.
Don’t Be the Rescuer
Rescuing your loved one by bailing them out of jail or helping them find a lawyer might seem like helping, but it is not. However, if they call and ask you to come and get them because they are too drunk to drive, that would not be considered enabling.
Don’t Argue, Nag, Scold, or Plead
Confronting your loved one using these behaviors is nothing more than letting them know the only consequence of drinking is having to listen to you complain about it.
Stop Reacting to Their Drinking
When you react, it also gives your loved one the opportunity to react. So instead, remain calm and ignore them when their drinking affects you somehow. It is better to take care of yourself and focus on your life like it never happened.
Establish Boundaries and Don’t Give In
There is a fine line between setting ultimatums and boundaries. Ultimatums come across as empty threats to an alcoholic. On the other hand, boundaries establish ground rules with appropriate consequences. For example, you could tell your loved one you will not have alcohol in your home. If they bring alcohol home, throw it away because they violated your boundaries.
Benefits When You Stop Enabling a Loved One’s Alcoholism
When you stop enabling a loved one’s alcoholism, you will start to notice several beneficial changes, including:
- You can better care for your own mental and physical well-being and health.
- Financially speaking, you will be much better off.
- You are more effective in forcing your loved one to face their AUD.
- Keep in mind, you will actually be helping them.
- Your loved one will be forced to face the consequences of their drinking.
Family Support for Alcohol Use Disorder in Palm Springs, CA
When you want to learn how to stop enabling and helping your loved one, Phoenix Rising Recovery in Palm Springs, CA, can help. We can provide you with education, resources, and other tools so you can help your loved one through our family programming. For further information and assistance in learning how to help your loved one, contact us today to speak with an addiction treatment specialist.