The Family Dynamics of Enabling Addictive Behaviors

A family member struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) or behavioral addiction unwittingly changes the family dynamic. It’s an insidious splinter in the family system. Their behavior can be scary, frustrating, sad, aggravating, bewildering, and intrusive. This volatile situation can be highly emotionally charged for everyone. The family soon lives within a dysfunctional matrix due to this constant stress. Unfortunately, one or more family members may start enabling their addicted loved one because doing so sometimes creates a short-lived peace.

In the long term, though, enabling behaviors make things worse. When someone enables a person with an addiction, they make it easier for their addiction to continue. Usually, the person is unaware that they’re enabling their relative. They believe that they’re helping them when they’re ultimately hurting them. The formation of this new union is toxic and damaging. 

What Is Enabling?

Enabling is when someone aids someone else in destructive behavior or habit. For instance, if their loved one is trying to change their diet to improve their health, a family member who brings them their favorite unhealthy foods is enabling their poor diet.

Of course, enabling can take many forms. Lying to others about the person’s addiction is also common with enablers. Even worse is when an enabler supplies the substance or facilitates the behavior; they might even partake in it.

One extremely destructive form of enabling is not allowing the person to experience the full consequences of their actions. For example, an enabler might pay the person’s rent or gambling debt. They may bail them out of jail. Enablers think they are helping, but they are hurting their afflicted loved one. The negative impacts of unhealthy behavior are vital for your loved one to experience fully. If your loved one is regularly “rescued” from these negative impacts, they have little incentive to get help or change their behavior.

Enabling and Codependency

Families affected by addiction often fall into an unhealthy dynamic that involves enabling. Many times, enabling is a sign of codependency — when each person can’t effectively function without the other person. Being in a codependent relationship can be detrimental to both parties.

Without treatment, a codependent arrangement will likely progress into enmeshment. At this stage, each person loses their identity and individuality. They are emotionally handcuffed to each other.

Enabling Can Send Mixed Messages

You’ve told your child that they’re not allowed to eat candy before dinner. It’s almost dinner time, and you sneak a piece of candy to them. What message are you sending? The same is true for someone who struggles with SU. You’re continually asking even begging them to quit, but you’re supporting their addiction in some way.

The afflicted person is in the depths of their addiction. They can’t think logically or rationally. The family is in turmoil because of their loved one’s disorder. When yet another family member is their enabler, everyone else’s anger is magnified. This can create a schism in the family. The afflicted person and their enabler become a noxious team. The family views them as “the enemy” and might even blame the enabler for the person’s addiction.

It’s Easy to Mistake Enabling for Love

It’s easy for the enabler to think they’re helping the impaired person. After all, they’re abetting the addiction. In reality, this arrangement is inherently a catch-22. The enabler wants the person to quit but aids them in their behavior. They may rationalize that they’re doing this out of love for the person. 

Simultaneously, the loved one with SUD can mistake the efforts of the enabler for love. A person who struggles with SUD can become alienated from their loved ones. When a relative helps facilitate their addiction, they can view that person as a connection to the family.

Breaking Free From This Psychological Paradox

The vicious cycle of enabling your loved one with SUD and desperately wanting them to quit can be stopped. A New Hope Recovery offers counseling to help restore a solid family structure. They are experts at honing in on the true issues that caused the situation, both past, and present. 

Their fully accredited and licensed staff has decades of experience helping families to mend and heal. It’s important to have objective professionals mediate strained relationships. Having an impartial leader ensures that everyone will be heard and respected.

The Benefits of Having an Intervention

If warranted, A New Hope Recovery can arrange an intervention for the impaired person. This loving, life-saving act is a four-step evidence-based process with a high success rate. It is orchestrated in such a way as to bring about treatment and recovery for everyone. 

Their highly trained and experienced interventionist gathers information and data on all participants. This knowledge allows them to address each person’s concerns. Doing this allays fears and doubts, and eases anxiety. Additionally, they will support the individual and family before, during, and after the intervention.

The family as a whole unit is in a dark place. An intervention can shed light on how and why this occurred. Yes, the main reason is because of the elephant in the room—the person with SUD. Other factors are also examined, taking into consideration family history.

Enabling and Dysfunction Are Not Permanent Conditions

The enabler and the person with SUD don’t have to remain locked in an endless destructive pattern. A New Hope Recovery can provide the necessary tools to effect change and instill hope. Even though darkness has surrounded your family, one call can change everything.

Above all else, there is hope that your family will recover from this ordeal. Everyone at A New Hope Recovery is ready to help. They are supportive, kind, knowledgeable, and patient. They are there for you and your family.

Family dynamics can be complicated. Having a family member who struggles with substance use disorder or a behavioral addiction adds to this complexity. If someone in the family is enabling them in their addiction, family relationships become convoluted. Eventually, their alliance changes into an antagonistic faction. Your family is now split emotionally and psychologically. This dysfunction transforms into being normal and safe, albeit harmful. At A New Hope Recovery, we specialize in family counseling and interventions. We will explain and separate enabling behaviors so that everyone comprehends how they negatively impact the family. Understanding how codependent associations cause families to fracture is primary to healing. Call (407) 501-8490 for help and clarity.