Dug and Heidi McGuirk Answer “How do I know I’m Enabling?”
Enabling is a highly dangerous behavior that often discourages addicts from seeking treatment. Yet many loved ones of addicts struggle with enabling because they do not understand the consequences of their actions.
In a recent video, Dug and Heidi McGuirk, who run the Revolutionary Family program for Palm Healthcare, addressed the crucial topic of enabling. Often loved ones are in denial of their enabling behaviors or are unaware of how damaging enabling is.
Two of the most common questions they receive from loved ones of addicts are:
- How do I know if I’m enabling?
- What exactly IS enabling?
Dug and Heidi explain there are two barometers to determine whether or not you are enabling. First, you must decide the motivation behind your actions. This will help you understand why you are doing what you are doing. Next, you must determine whether your actions are a product of wanting control over the situation.
“You can’t control anybody,” Dug McGuirk says. “You can only control yourself.”
Furthermore, if you are doing the following things, you are enabling:
- Manipulating an outcome
- Trying to “keep the peace”
- Attempting to change someone
- Trying to prevent a consequence
- Trying to rescue or bail out
You must commit to stopping your enabling behaviors because ultimately, enabling causes more harm than healing when it comes to helping your addicted loved one.
“The lie we tell ourselves is that if we don’t do what we are doing, our loved ones will die,” Heidi McGuirk says. “Of course, that’s the biggest lie of all. More people die from enabling behaviors than other stuff.”
In the discussion, Dug and Heidi explain the greatest roadblock enablers tackle is determining whether or not their actions comes from a place of love or a place of wanting control.
Most enablers believe their behaviors stem from a place of love. But this could not be further from the truth.
“Enabling is the most unloving thing you can do,” Heidi McGuirk reiterates.
“Without pissing anybody off here, enabling is selfishly motivated, and it’s not about the other person,” Dug McGuirk says.
Instead of love, enabling is more about:
So how does one stop enabling?
First, you must make the decision to stop, Dug McGuirk affirms.
Next, frame your decisions around two barometers. Before taking any action, acquire an awareness of your behaviors by reflecting on the following questions.
- Are you doing what you believe in?
- What is your motivation?
“You don’t have any control over how someone operates or who they are, but you have control over how you experience them,” Heidi McGuirk says.
After you are aware of your current behaviors, the next step is to make decisions based on what is best for you, not your loved one:
“Once you have that awareness, now you can start making a better decision so step two would be to figure out what you want for you, not for your loved one, [but] for you,” Dug McGuirk states. “What is it that you want to experience? […] Because if someone in your family is struggling with addiction, they’re always going to have that malady, so the question is how are you going to go through it?”
When it comes to helping a loved one struggling with addiction, set boundaries by asking:
- How do you want to participate in their addiction?
- What are you willing to be around for?
- What are you not willing to be around for?
- How are you going to experience their addiction?
If you want to read more download our free E-book “What is the Difference Between Helping and Hurting?”
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In the next discussion, Dug and Heidi McGuirk delve deeper into the steps loved ones should take to create clear boundaries. Stay tuned for next week’s post where we will explore the topic of creating boundaries further. You can also download our checklist to determine whether you are helping or hurting a loved one with an addiction problem.
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A lot of times when family and friends try to “help” alcoholics, they are in fact making it easier for them to remain in the progression of the disease. This baffling occurrence is called enabling, which takes many forms, all of which have the same result. When it comes to our loved ones, it’s really difficult to know how not to enable them in their addiction. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, we always want to help and be there for the people we love. I’ve seen and learned that enabling realistically just ends up making things worse for someone in active addiction or alcoholism. So, I’ve put together a list on what not to do to enable addicts and alcoholics.
What Not to Do: Enabling Behavior:
Take on tasks for the alcoholic that would normally be their responsibility.
Give or lend the alcoholic money.
Bail the alcoholic out of jail.
Drink or do drugs with the alcoholic.
Make threats to the alcoholic.
Let the alcoholic use your car or vehicle.
Pay the alcoholics bills for them.
Basically anything to do with money and an addict or alcoholic is not suggested.
Analyze the alcoholic, look for underlying reasons behind it.
Ask them to make promises you know they aren’t going to keep.
Preach or lecture them.
Accommodate the disease.
Plead for them to stay sober.
Bribe them to stay sober.
Anything that enables them to continue living the lifestyle they are living.
These are just a few ideas of what not to do to enable an alcoholic or an addict. Of course you also have to remember each person and situation is different, what might enable one person might not enable another. There is also a huge difference between helping someone and enabling them. Helping someone is doing something for them that they are not capable of doing themselves. Enabling is doing things for someone they could and should be doing themselves.
One of the most important things I can suggest for someone struggling with enabling an alcoholic or an addict is seek support. Just like there are 12-step meetings for addiction, there are also meetings for people who know or are affected by alcoholics and addicts that can provide guidance. I know that when I was in the prime of my addiction it helped my family to focus on themselves, which is what you should be doing.
I’ve also seen situations where if certain addicts or alcoholics were ’left alone’ it could end up being life threatening for them. In my honest opinion, there can be times when ceasing the enabling process can have a bad outcome; so you really have to weigh the pros and cons of this. No matter what you think might be best, having support through these situations can make a world of a difference. There are also great options like seeing a therapist who specializes in these types of problem; and of course to learn about the disease or alcoholism and addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction and looking for detox centers, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.
If you find that you are enabling an alcoholic after rehab after reading this blog, don’t worry. Many of us enable alcoholics without ever realizing we are. We enable because we love the person and we want to be helpful, never realizing that it actually may be hurting. And that is the difference between enabling and actually being helpful:
Helping is doing something for someone they are not capable of doing themselves.
Enabling is doing for someone what they could and should be doing for themselves.
Make sense? Now we are going to give you 5 ways you may be enabling an alcoholic after rehab instead of helping. Sometimes the lines can get really blurred between being helpful and enabling, because often times, it is really hard to determine what an alcoholic can do for themselves after rehab. The truth is an alcoholic after rehab can do much more than you would think.
5 ways you are enabling an alcohol after rehab: You are the bank
If you find that you are rescuing an alcoholic after rehab, repeatedly, by paying for things because your alcoholic friend or loved one isn’t working enough, spent the money on tattoos, coffee, etc. then you may be enabling an alcoholic after rehab. If you also find yourself paying off debt for your alcoholic loved one that they have accumulated while getting high or even early in sobriety, you are enabling. Your alcoholic loved one or friend is more than capable of getting a job and dealing with monetary consequences. Being the bank is one way you are enabling an alcoholic after rehab. This can include loaning money that is never repaid or buying things for them they can’t afford and don’t really need.
5 Ways You May Be Enabling an Alcoholic after Rehab: You are working harder than your alcoholic friend or loved one
If you find that you are having to take on a second job or are working harder than your alcoholic friend or loved one to help them, then you are probably enabling them after rehab. An alcoholic should be doing absolutely everything possible to be self-sufficient even if this means taking on a second job. The extra work should not be put in by you after rehab. If they are spending their days at the beach and buying coffee while you are taking on extra work, then you may be enabling an alcoholic after rehab.
5 Ways You May Be Enabling an Alcoholic after Rehab: You let your alcoholic friend or loved one live with you
Whether you are an alcoholic sponsoring another alcoholic, a friend of an alcoholic, or the loved on of an alcoholic; letting someone who is fresh out of rehab live with you may not be the best idea, and in fact, may be enabling. Alcoholics have many options for living after rehab, and your house does not have to be one of them. Letting a newly sober alcoholic live with you after rehab could result in your things being stolen, destroyed, and/or having an active alcoholic in your house should they relapse.
5 Ways You May Be Enabling an Alcoholic after Rehab: Helping an alcoholic makes you feel worse
If you find that while you are helping an alcoholic after rehab, whether through sponsoring, friendship or relation, and are starting to feel bad about yourself, you may be enabling. Sacrificing your own self-worth to help someone else may sound like the ultimate service, but in all reality, it is enabling. There is no reason that your time, energy or well-being should be sacrificed for someone who isn’t putting the effort in. Just as with any relationship, the energy has to flow both ways, not just one way. For instance, if a sponsee keeps canceling on you, and you don’t say anything about it to them, you are enabling that person to continue on with their behavior.
5 Ways You May Be Enabling an Alcoholic after Rehab: Tolerating Negative or Disrespectful Behavior
Just because an alcoholic has been to rehab doesn’t mean they are well or even healthy in the slightest sense of the word. Many times after an alcoholic gets out of rehab, their behavior is still the same as an addicted person’s. If you find your alcoholic friend or loved one or sponsee is doing negative things, bullying, manipulating, cursing, or anything to try and hurt you, do not tolerate it. Stand up for yourself and explain what you will and will not allow in your life. Allowing them to treat you this way is enabling them to continue on living an addict or alcoholic lifestyle.
If you find that you may be enabling an alcoholic after rehab, remember that enabling is not helping. For an alcoholic truly to recover, they need help, not to be enabled.
If you or someone you love is in need of alcoholism treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.
An alcoholic’s family and friends can often be the biggest motivator for an alcoholic to seek help. However, most of the time, the alcoholic’s loved ones have no idea how to help an alcoholic. Family and friends often don’t realize that they must seek help themselves to truly be able to help an alcoholic.
Addiction is known as a “family disease.” This means that the family and friends of an alcoholic are often as sick as the alcoholic themselves. Often, the loved ones of an alcoholic are enabling the alcoholic to continue drinking, even if they don’t realize it. Enabling a person with this disease is not the way to help an alcoholic. In fact, it can end up hurting them and allow them to progress in their downward spiral. Family and friends must work to change their behavior to be able to help an alcoholic. It is difficult to accept, but the truth of the matter is that you are probably not going to be able to directly change an alcoholic’s behavior.
What is the difference between helping and enabling? Simply put, when you help an alcoholic, you are doing something for them that they are not capable of doing themselves. Enabling an alcoholic is doing something for them that they could and should be doing themselves. Enabling creates an environment where the alcoholic can continue his or her destructive behavior. Enabling is the worst thing you can do if you want to help an alcoholic.
Enabling behaviors can include: Calling in sick for an alcoholic because they were too hung-over or drunk to go to work or school; making excuses for an alcoholic’s drinking or behavior; lying for an alcoholic, bailing them out of jail, or paying their legal fees; paying an alcoholic’s bills or loaning them money; giving them several “second chances” to change their behavior.
If you have done any of the above, it is important that you seek help yourself before trying to help an alcoholic. Al-anon is a great program for those that have been affected by an alcoholic. The program teaches loved ones how not to enable the alcoholic in their lives and allows them to be able to help an alcoholic in a healthy way.
Once you have sought help yourself, you are in a position to help an alcoholic. It is important that you don’t allow an alcoholic’s drinking and behavior to stay a secret. Don’t cover up for an alcoholic and don’t lie for them. A common saying in Alcoholics Anonymous is “Secrets keep us sick.” Covering up for an alcoholic’s behavior not only allows them to keep drinking without consequences but it encourages the idea that alcoholism is a shameful disease.
In order to truly help an alcoholic, it is important that you do not judge or label them. If you pass judgment on an alcoholic or potential alcoholic, or shame them, this will feed their alcoholism and provide a great excuse to keep going. Alcoholics use drinking to deal with their emotions. Approaching an alcoholic in a judgmental manner is not the best way to help an alcoholic.
Finally, often the best way you can help an alcoholic is by offering them a way to get help. Don’t try to force an alcoholic into treatment, but do let them know that you will not be enabling them to continue drinking. Make sure you have treatment options available if the alcoholic decides they need help. It may be best to research these options before you try to help an alcoholic.
Remember that you cannot get or keep an alcoholic sober but this does not mean you cannot help an alcoholic.
If you or someone you know wants to help an alcoholic, call us at (877) 711-HOPE (4673) or visit us online at www.palmpartners.com/.