Enabling and Addiction Intervention

The family dynamic is designed to support one another, which is why an addiction intervention is done, to support the addict with getting treatment.  Every member of the family is meant to help every other member of the family, however, enabling behavior does not involve helping anyone.  When someone is enabling a person addicted to drugs or alcohol they are making it easier for them to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol.  This is one of the most common problems that a professional interventionist will deal with while performing addiction intervention.  However, enabling is a habit, and like most habits, it can be broken.  This process to break the habit will either involve a certified interventionist, or the family will take steps to break the habit on their own.


Breaking the Habit of Enabling Before an Intervention


One successful step the family can take to break the enabling habit is gaining support from peers.  Peer support groups such as 12-step meetings for family members of addicts are an excellent way to do this.  When family and friends of an addict attend a group meeting they gain a better understanding of addiction and the seriousness of the problem.  They get to meet other families experiencing the exact same thing and speak with former addicts who took advantage of the enabling.  Some families may only go to these meetings to listen but will come to the same understanding.  Peer support groups also provide a good way for families to network and become connected with addiction professionals.

Stopping enabling means open conversation, which means choosing a time to talk to the addict when they are sober.  During this conversation, you should emphasize the fact the changes you are making by stopping the enabling are coming from a place of love and not punishment.  Use open-ended questions about addiction to help the person understand how their addiction is at the root of all the issues they are dealing with.  When you set limits, make sure they are clearly set, and stay positive and resist the urge to give in.  If you can, work in teams and have this conversation with the help of another supportive person.  Try not to make excuses or cover up the behavior, the goal is to help the addicted person understand the consequences of their addiction.  More importantly, never offer to buy the addict drugs or alcohol or any that will make it easy for them to use drugs or alcohol.


How do professional interventionists help families stop enabling behavior?

This process is almost like a counseling session, which is why the intervention specialist is there from the beginning, during, and after the intervention.  Along with counseling education is important and helping the family understand the dangers of enabling drug and alcohol abuse.  Newman Interventions has helped countless families understand what enabling is and how it hurts the family.  This will start with gaining a better understanding of the family dynamic, asking questions, and learning more about the family history.  During this time the interventionist can help the family identify some of the types of enabling behavior.  For example, there is passive enabling such as providing comfort or consoling the addict rather than holding them accountable.  Some family members will choose not to confront the addict, or will not speak up when things go missing.  

Active enabling is more open and public, and family members are pointing fingers, providing food, rent, paying bills, or giving money to the addict.  They are allowing the addicted person to borrow vehicles, live at home rent-free, or even use drugs in the same house with their family.  Some of the most damaging enabling is encouraging substance abuse.  Some family members may be using drugs with the addict or drinking alcohol with them.  They are allowing drug-using behavior to happen in front of them, or driving the addict to meet their dealer, and buying drugs and alcohol for them.


Intervention Professionals Guide the Family in the Right Direction

A good interventionist will help a family become prepared for everything that could happen during the intervention.  This starts with aiding the family in setting limits on themselves, such as not ignoring the addict’s behavior, or stopping the resentment with having to help the addict get into treatment.  Some family members need encouragement with expressing how they feel and will have to stop covering for other family members.  Much of this process is helping the family understand the reasons why they are enabling and coming to terms with these reasons.  For example, it is not uncommon for families to blame themselves for the addiction, and ask what they could have done differently. 

Families will try to solve the problem of addiction with enabling behavior or will refuse to believe or even acknowledge there is a problem with drugs or alcohol.  Some families are afraid of dealing with the social consequences or fall-out from the addiction, and not see the addiction as being a serious problem that requires any attention.  A certified interventionist helps a family see these trends, understand what they are, and show them how they can stop the enabling behavior.  If any addiction intervention is to succeed, enabling must stop otherwise the addict will not commit to treatment.

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