The role of the family in recovery is one of the most impactful sources of support during addiction recovery. However, this can be both beneficial or hurtful to the recovery process, depending on how the family acts and helps address the addiction of a loved one. Addiction may leave someone feeling isolated, but that doesn’t mean that they have stopped listening to the input from those around them, since the family role will always be important at every stage in recovery. Even when addiction can make a family feel powerless to help, they often hold a great deal of power over the recovery process whether or not they are aware of their influence.
What Is Enabling?
At its core, “enabling” is the act of helping someone accomplish something, or providing the means or scenario with which they can accomplish a goal. However, someone suffering from addiction will often have continuous usage of an addictive substance or action programmed to be their immediate goal on a biological level. Enabling, in this case, is actively detrimental to the recovery process, and it is important that a family realizes their impact on the recovering individual to ensure that they are not creating situations where relapses may be more prevalent.
Enabling also takes many forms and isn’t limited to someone directly supplying drugs or alcohol to a person who is addicted. It can take more subtle forms, but even the less explicit enable can lead to the same result. Providing monetary aid to help a struggling loved one can seem benevolent on the surface, but also has the impact of freeing up their own economy to help them budget for more alcohol, drugs, or other substances. Addiction will always carry a financial component, and providing funds or financial aid can influence how someone budgets their own money.
Enabling also carries an environmental element. There is no doubt that when a household has someone who is suffering from addiction, it affects every person living there. It can feel like each person is treading lightly as not to upset each other or otherwise add additional stress to an already stress-filled atmosphere. Family members may do various things to distract from a family member’s addiction, such as acting out or constantly using jokes in order to shield themselves and others from the stress and underlying pains that may plague a household. Creating this non-confrontational environment enables someone who is suffering from addiction to continue without feeling many of the consequences of their addiction.
Enabling as Empowerment
Many of the things that involve enabling are also the sources of strength and influence that family members can implement with their recovering loved ones. A family’s feelings of powerlessness can be confronted when they look at the different ways that enabling can occur. They can then utilize these forms to create an environment conducive to recovery. A family has much more influence over a loved one struggling from addiction than they may realize. While someone may feel as if they don’t want to provide financial aid, they can use that same notion to help someone address their addiction. They can help them manage funds and show them the financial impact that their addiction may carry, by showing them their receipts of non-essential or dangerous spending. Using a family’s financial influence, it is possible to work together to create a rewards system for each individual. The same changes that someone is making in their environment can also be addressed to create a space that is safe for someone to address addiction and the difficult conversations that follow. The ability to talk about recovery can help create an environment of support. Just as a family may know what may upset someone, they are also the best people to know what may help encourage that person to seek out the help they need and provide the essential necessities to do so.
Knowing the Limits
At its core, enabling doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It is just as possible to enable disaster as it is to enable success. After all, “enabling” is providing the necessary means or scenario for someone to accomplish their goals. However, there is a limit as to what someone can provide, as well as what they should provide to someone in recovery. The push that family and loved ones can provide is essential in recovery, but there is a point where someone will have to operate on their own and be given the opportunity to practice their own coping skills in the real world. As families can enable success, it is important to always be wary of delving into the world of control. Families should not enable someone in such a way that they can no longer operate without the constant financial and emotional support of loved ones on a daily basis. Recovery is more about weaning off of addiction and it is an exploration of how someone can live independently from their addiction. The process of recovery can help a person understand how they have agency over all aspects of their lives.
The role of a family in recovery is one of the most impactful roles. Not only will family members be with someone throughout the most progressive peaks in recovery as well as the lowest points, but they are also the ones most intimately related to the person suffering from addiction. Knowing how to help and the power that the family has over recovery can be incredibly powerful over each stage of recovery, both providing the motivation to continue recovery as well as a place where someone can prove their progress in a supportive environment. Families, working alongside professionals, can create the most beneficial space for someone to confront their addiction. At Lighthouse Recovery, there are programs designed for each individual based on their needs that can be personalized based on the best practices for each person.