Enabling behavior is often developed by those close to an addict or alcoholic, either out of an aversion to conflict or tension or a misguided attempt to help the substance abuser. Regardless of the reasons behind the creation of the behavior patterns, enabling is destructive for both enabler and addict alike, as you overextend yourself in terms of energy and finances in order to provide for the addict, who in turn takes advantage of you and accelerates their spiral down into the depths of their substance abuse disorder. You may be wondering whether or not you are engaging in enabling behaviors in your daily interactions with others - take this quick five question quiz to determine whether or not you may have developed unhealthy behavior patterns indicative of enabling.
True or False
You have left a bill unpaid in order to give cash to a loved one who asked for it.
You cannot remember the last time you said no to a request.
You find yourself giving in to the demands of others to avoid conflict.
You cannot remember the last time you did something nice for yourself.
Your loved ones usually come to you first for money or other wants they have.
If you answered true to at least one of these questions, your behavior has the hallmarks of enabling. This pattern tends to permeate our interpersonal relationships with all those in our lives, and can leave us feeling frayed, exhausted, and helpless as others take advantage of our willingness to acquiesce to demands. Now that you have determined this unhealthy behavior is present in your life, what can you do to change it?
The best way to go about changing our behavior patterns is through examining and changing our thought patterns, as our thoughts become our actions. You may think you are being a helpful, contributory member of your loved one’s life by continuing to offer them financial and emotional support, but this only serves to perpetuate their substance abuse. As for others in your life who are not addicts or alcoholics, this enabling behavior sets you up for developing codependency in these relationships, an unhealthy dynamic which could eventually damage or destroy these connections. Once you have let go of the belief that your enabling is a good thing, you can begin the next step in the process of pivoting away from this behavior: reestablishing boundaries.
It can be very uncomfortable to go from saying “yes” all the time to suddenly saying “no” to your loved one’s demands, but you must stick to your guns in this regard if you are to put an end to your enabling. If you are dealing with an addict or alcoholic, recovered or otherwise, as part of this enabling problem, it would be helpful for you to attend your local Al-Anon meetings. There you will find help and support when it comes to correcting the unhealthy behaviors formed as a result of the addiction in your life, as well as sympathetic ears who understand what you are going through. Go online and find your local Al-Anon chapter so you can benefit from this community of individuals who have been where you are and have successfully eliminated their enabling behavior patterns!