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Enabling usually grows out of good intentions

You care about your family. You want what is best for them. You love them and care for them deeply. That is what families are supposed to do. It can be hard when a family member hits a few bumps in the road. You never want to see someone you love get into trouble. You don't want to stand by and watch them make mistakes or suffer. It can be hard to see a family member fall ill. It can be devastating if a family member falls ill to addiction.

Addiction is a disease that can indirectly affect an entire family. While it is natural instinct to want to help, it could be difficult to navigate exactly how to help. Sometimes good intentions result in enablement.

If you are worried that someone you know is enabling an addicted family member, you can ask these questions:

  • Is the addicted person's negative and dangerous behavior being ignored?
  • Are the needs of the addicted loved one being put ahead of the needs of everyone else?
  • Is the ill person feared by the enabler-in-question?
  • Do they lie for the sick person?
  • Is blame being placed on people and circumstances other than the loved one who is ill?
  • Do they claim they are helping their addicted loved one by giving in to the addicted person's demands?

If you answered yes, it is possible the person in question is enabling the addicted. It is easy for someone to become an enabler without intending to. They become fixated on helping, and in the process end up enabling their loved one.

You can help. People enable loved ones because they don't want to feel like they are letting their loved ones down. You can offer better ways to help. There are also support groups available to family and friends of people who have fallen ill to addiction. You can help recovering enablers by lending support. Help them set boundaries and be assertive in keeping these boundaries. Remind them that their well-being is important.

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