We often hear a lot of talk about loved ones as an enabling a person’s drug addiction and we’d all like to say that will never be us. If there is a drug addict or an alcoholic in your life though, there is a good chance you could be enabling their addiction without even knowing it. It’s easy to think you’re going the right thing when you’re actually doing the opposite. The questions on this list are designed to help you understand how to know if you are an enabler and help you figure out what to do from there. Ask yourself these questions and really take your time to answer them honestly. If you can’t be honest with yourself, as hard as it may be, you are not going to be able to offer your loved one the help they need.
Are you turning a blind eye to theft?
If you notice money missing from your wallet, purse or anywhere else you normally keep money, you should be concerned. If you notice an item – even a small item – is missing from your home, you should be concerned. It can be easy to assume you spend the money and forgot or that the missing item has just been misplaced but you need to consider the alternative. First, make sure the money wasn’t spent on something and make sure any items you think are missing actually are missing. You want to be absolutely sure what you think is missing is actually missing before you accuse your loved one of taking it.
You also need to consider whether or not anyone else could be responsible. If there are other people living in your home or other people who are in your home on a regular basis, you should try to determine whether or not those other people could be responsible. Again, don’t just assume your loved one with an addiction is responsible even though it’s fairly likely they are. If it’s an item that’s gone missing, check local pawn shops. Check online sale sites. See if you can track down the item. Chances are the item won’t be returned to you unless you involve the police, which is an option you may want to consider. If your loved one has stolen from you, even if the item is relatively small, you need to confront them, at the very least. If things continue to go missing, the police may be your best option.
It isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination to call the police on someone you love. If there is another option (confrontation, intervention etc) you should always try that option first. If all else fails, you really do need to seek help from the police. If your loved one knows that you know they’ve stolen and there have been no consequences to that beyond a lecture, they will likely continue stealing from you. The theft of small items and small sums of money can easily lead to the theft of larger items and larger sums of money if smaller thefts are ignored.
Are you lying to keep them out of trouble?
Lying to keep an addict out of trouble could mean lying to their employer, lying to their loved ones, lying to the police or lying to other authority figures in your loved ones life. It is hard to watch someone we love get in trouble, even if the trouble is of their own making, but it is important to make sure your loved one is facing the consequences of their actions. Bad behavior will continue if it goes unpunished. It may not be your job to hand out that punishment but it is your job not to stand in the way. If the police come to your house asking questions about your loved one, you need to be honest, especially if you’ve tried to get help for your loved one but have had little success. Don’t allow yourself to believe that the legal system will actually get them help though. Unfortunately, the system isn’t really set up that way, even though it’s supposed to be. Instead, look at their run ins with the law as another chance to reach them – to let you know you love them and want to help them get back on the right path. It may not work but simply lying for them definitely won’t either.
Are you ignoring major warning signs of drug or alcohol abuse?
We spoke in depth about the warning signs of drug or alcohol abuse in this article, but knowing the signs and even looking out for the signs isn’t the same as acknowledging them should you see them in your loved one. Turning a blind eye to signs of drug or alcohol abuse is not uncommon by any means. It’s hard to admit your loved one is in trouble and needs help but recognizing the warning signs is the best way of helping your loved one before the addiction progresses. As an addiction progresses, the addict often becomes more desperate, more reckless and poses more of a danger to themselves and to others. You may not want to believe your loved one is capable of harming themselves or someone else but when drugs or alcohol become involved, your loved one will change. Drug addicts and alcoholics are unpredictable. If there was an under lying mental illness that may have caused them to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, the situation becomes even more volatile. Pay attention. Look for those warning signs and if you see them, don’t ignore them. Don’t allow yourself to believe things will get better on their own. Don’t allow yourself to think it isn’t that bad. It might not be but “isn’t that bad” can go out the window pretty quickly. Those early warning signs are the best way to recognize your loved one’s problem and to try to get them help before it’s too late.
Are you lending your loved one money?
This one isn’t as easy as it may seem on the surface. First, it’s important to point out that no one is telling you to stop helping your loved one get what they need to survive. An addict will often put their drug before their personal needs like paying bills or even buying food. They may then turn to you for money to take care of those personal needs. Not everyone has the stomach to just flat out say no when it means their loved one will go without food. You are about the person and you don’t want to see them struggling. You may think it isn’t a big deal if they pay you back the money they borrow when they say they’re going to. It is still a big deal. You don’t have to say no if your loved one asks to borrow money but you do need to make sure you know where your money is going.
An addict is probably not going to come to you and ask for money for drugs or alcohol. They may just ask to borrow $20. Find out what they want the money is going to be used for. They may get defensive and tell you to forget about it. If that’s the case, you can probably go ahead and assume the money was going to be used to feed their addiction. To be fair, that might not be the case but if they were borrowing money for something they need, they probably wouldn’t get defensive if you ask them to explain. There is an issue of pride sometimes but if you know your loved one is an addict, it’s better to assume the worst than to allow yourself to continue enabling their habit. With that said, it’s also just as likely that they’ll lie to you about what the money is for. Don’t take them on their word. Instead, offer to get what they need for them. If they say the money is for groceries, take them grocery shopping. If they say the money is for a bill, go with them when they pay the bill. You’ll be helping to make sure your loved one is getting what they need without further enabling their habit.
Just handing money to an addict is like giving a child the keys to your car. They might have good intentions and maybe nothing bad would happen but the potential for disaster is a very real possibility. Your loved one may be asking for money for groceries and they might be intending to buy groceries but if they run out or even low on their drug, they may choose to spend the money you’ve given them on drugs or alcohol instead. If you take them to the grocery store, you’ll at least be certain they will have food to eat and you’ll also be removing any temptation they may feel to spend the money you lend them on other things.