Used and Abused: When to Stop Helping an Addict
Alcohol and drug addiction affects an estimated 20.2 million adults in the U.S. — many of whom have loved ones that are being forced to cope with their family member’s addiction by default. When you have a close relationship with an addict, sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether you’re being helpful to that person, or simply enabling their addiction. Though you may want the best for your loved one — even if they suffer from addiction — you may not realize that this person may be using you, or abusing you in ways that are compromising your own health and livelihood. Enabling an addict doesn’t help you or the addict. Enabling can actually encourage your loved one to continue using drugs and alcohol, and worsen their problem with addiction even though your enabling allows them to face fewer negative consequences.
Are you enabling addiction in a loved one who is using, abusing, and taking advantage of you? Here are signs you’re enabling an addict, and information on how to help an addict find treatment.
Signs You’re Being Used and Abused
Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease that changes a person’s brain structure and behavior in ways that compel them to prioritize drugs and alcohol above their loved ones and important responsibilities. Drug and alcohol abuse can trigger irrational and uncharacteristic behavior in a person you’ve grown very close to, or who you may have known for a very long time.
People who suffer from addiction tend to deny they have any problems with drug or alcohol use, and may try to hide or lie about their addiction. They may even use you so they can continue using drugs and alcohol without facing negative consequences. It’s important to keep these factors in mind when you’re dealing with an addict — especially if you’re unaware they may be using you and other family members.
Signs an Addict is Using You
- Your loved one continues asking you for money, but isn’t actively taking steps to generate more income on their own, such as finding another job or working more hours.
- Your loved one is always asking you for rides to bars or places where they can drink and use drugs, or because they are under the influence and unable to drive.
- Your loved one wants to live or sleep at your house because their addiction is interfering with their ability to pay rent, find a good home, etc.
- Your loved one wants you to do all the footwork in regards to helping them find a job, such as making phone calls, building a resume, and searching for jobs online.
- Your loved one wants you to visit the doctor and lie about having illnesses so you can obtain prescription drugs for them to use.
- Your loved one only wants to hang out with you when you’re drinking alcohol or using drugs so they can have some, too.
- Your loved one wants you to lie for them in regards to their drug and alcohol use, or in regards to behaviors and consequences surrounding drug and alcohol use. For example, your loved one asks you to go to court with them and lie to the judge about how your loved one has maintained sobriety after causing a drunk-driving accident, even though they’re still drinking.
- Your loved one always asks you to do things they could easily do for themselves if they weren’t using drugs or alcohol.
- Your loved one continues to abuse drugs and alcohol and get into trouble because they know you’ll be there to save or help them with a bad situation, such as bailing them out of jail after being arrested for drug possession.
Signs an Addict is Abusing You
- Your loved one threatens to stop working and providing for you or your family if you interfere with their alcohol and drug use.
- Your loved one literally abuses you physically, verbally, and emotionally for any number of reasons as they continue suffering from addiction.
- Your loved one makes you feel guilty when you do things that may prevent them from accessing drugs and alcohol.
- Your loved one goes behind your back and steals your money and possessions so they can buy more drugs and alcohol.
- Your loved one threatens to hurt themselves or others if you announce you’re considering asking them to leave the home, or if you express interest to leave, separate, or divorce them.
- Your loved one promises to get help and become sober if you give them what they want, but continues using drugs and alcohol anyway.
- Your loved one has damaged your home or personal belongings while being under the influence.
- Your loved one has lied about your involvement in a crime that has nothing to do with you, for which you are now paying consequences in the form of legal fines, jail time, etc.
- Your loved one has caused you to experience major financial strain that cost you your home and automobile, or that has resulted in poor credit, bankruptcy, and other financial problems.
- Your loved one has influenced you to relapse on your own addiction treatment and resume drug and alcohol use.
- Your relationship with your loved one is unpredictable, and has developed into a codependent relationship that makes you feel as if you must support their addiction to maintain your own well-being.
- Your physical and psychological health are suffering on behalf of your loved one’s addiction due to problems such as lack of sleep, chronic stress, and depression.
- Your loved one continues prioritizing drugs and alcohol above you and your own needs, happiness, and well-being.
Are You Enabling an Addict?
Enabling an addict means accommodating an addicted person so they can be protected from the full consequences of their drug and alcohol use. You may be an enabler if your words and behaviors are allowing and helping your loved one stay caught up in drug and alcohol addiction. Many enablers are unaware they’re practicing enabling behaviors, and that their actions are contributing to their loved one’s addiction.
Help your loved one by finding them treatment today!
Common signs you may be enabling an addict:
- You help your loved one purchase or obtain drugs and alcohol in some way. This could involve driving them to the liquor store or bar, or giving them money to buy drugs from a dealer.
- You make excuses to justify your loved one’s addiction, such as using drugs and alcohol to mask chronic pain because it’s cheaper than going to the doctor.
- You allow your loved one to continue abusing drugs and alcohol in your home without saying anything or acknowledging that it’s happening.
- You clean up the messes your loved one makes after using drugs and alcohol, such as mopping up vomit, emptying ashtrays, and storing away drug paraphernalia.
- You lie to other people to protect your loved one from facing negative consequences surrounding alcohol and drug use, such as telling your loved one’s boss that your loved one cannot come to work due to a death in the family, when your loved one is really hungover or recovering from drug use.
- You use alcohol and drugs with your loved one.
- You cope with and accept your loved one’s destructive or hurtful behavior induced by drug and alcohol use.
- You take over the responsibilities your loved one is neglecting so they can devote more time to their addiction.
- You make empty threats in an attempt to get them to stop using drugs and alcohol that you fail to follow through with, such as threatening to stop giving them money, but you continue giving them money anyway.
When to Stop Helping an Addict
If your attempts to help an addicted loved one are causing more harm than good for both you and the addict, it’s likely your actions are more enabling than helpful. Though you may think you’re being helpful, it’s time to reevaluate how your behaviors may be affecting your loved one in regards to their addiction.
Here’s how to tell it’s time to stop “helping” an addict.
You’re Stuck in the Cycle of Enabling Addiction
Some people feel as though they cannot stop enabling addiction, especially if they fear that quitting certain enabling behaviors will cause further problems for them or others in the household. For example, if your loved one is incapacitated after leaving messes of vomit throughout your home, you may be left with no other choice than to clean up the vomit, which is considered a biohazard and can cause harm to you and other household members.
If you find yourself continuing to enable an addict for reasons such as this, it’s time to stop “helping” your loved one, and do what’s necessary to prevent yourself from being forced to practice enabling behaviors. You may need to take drastic measures if your loved one does not want to get help, such as ending the relationship or moving to a new home where the addict is not welcome.
Your Safety and Well-Being Are at Risk
Stop helping an addict immediately if their addiction is putting your own safety and well-being at great risk. Those who suffer from addiction usually have impaired judgement on behalf of drug use, and will say or do anything to obtain and use drugs and alcohol even if it means hurting those they love. Substances like alcohol and methamphetamine can even induce violent behavior, which can put your physical well-being at risk, as well as that of your children and other household members.
If areas of your life are suffering greatly as a result of helping an addict, it’s time to stop. For example, if the addict wrecked their vehicle in a drunk-driving accident and needs you to wake up extra early every day so you can drive them to work, it’s time to stop so you can benefit from a good night’s sleep and avoid sacrificing your own health to pay for their mistake. If you are facing financial hardship because your loved one keeps buying drugs and alcohol, it’s time to cut them off so you can retain your home, possessions, security, and overall well-being.
You’re Close to Relapsing
Environment and peer pressure are common triggers that can lead to relapse and drug abuse. If you’re in recovery from addiction yourself, being around a loved one who also struggles with addiction increases your risk for relapse by default since drugs and alcohol are easily accessible and within reach. Sometimes, even the most confident of those who overcome addiction and have achieved sobriety face the risk of relapsing when spending time with others who are using.
If you ever find yourself close to relapse or craving drugs and alcohol as a result of spending time with the addict, it may be in your best interest to let go and separate yourself from the person and situation. Relapsing increases your risk for an overdose and death, and isn’t worth the risk of spending time with someone who doesn’t take your own recovery and well-being into consideration.
Finding Treatment for Yourself or a Loved One
Addiction treatment centers offer a range of therapies that can be customized to help those who are suffering from addiction, as well as those who may be enabling addiction. If you or your loved one need help fighting addiction and getting clean, understand that a drug detox center can help both of you achieve sobriety and repair any relationship problems that occurred between you and your loved one, and other family members.
Use our drug detox center directory to locate nearby treatment centers that offer detox services and family therapy. Family therapy is ideal for those with loved ones who continue using drugs despite requests from family to stop, and for family members who are suffering physical and psychological health problems on behalf of their loved one’s addiction. Family therapy teaches family members how to avoid enabling addiction, and how to help an addict improve communication and relationships with those they hurt while struggling with addiction.
Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193 to speak with a drug abuse counselor who can help you find the nearest drug detox center. Detox.com will perform a free insurance verification check, and connect you with a drug detox center devoted to helping you and your entire family recover from addiction while improving your family dynamic at the same time.