Do you think you might be guilty of enabling a teen addict? An enabler is someone who chooses to take on the responsibility and consequences of another person’s addiction so that they can “help” their loved one.
This is a question every loved one of an addict must ask themselves: Am I actually helping them or hurting them by my words and actions? We get it, you love them. You want to help them. If you didn’t love them, you wouldn’t have chosen to stay by their side. But it’s the way you choose to help them that actually hurts them in the long run.
If you really want to help your teen addict, first, you must determine if you are an enabler. It won’t be easy to accept this fact, but if you truly want to help, you must accept it and adjust accordingly.
You are an enabler if you are allowing your teen to remove themselves from any personal responsibility for their addiction. You are an enabler if you don’t encourage your teen to seek treatment because it’s not their fault. You are an enabler if you begin to blame yourself, other people, and/or society for their addiction.
- Blaming yourself — you may place the blame of your teen’s addiction on your own shoulders. By thinking that you did something wrong or “weren’t good enough.”
- Blaming others — you may find yourself blaming the teen’s friends or peers that they are surrounded by in school.
- Blaming society — you might believe that society is commonplace for this kind of behavior, and addiction is more common among teens now than ever in our world.
While it’s true that outside factors can influence a teen’s likelihood of becoming an addict in the first place such as stress, family problems, bullying, etc., once a teen is addicted, the responsibility becomes theirs. By blaming those outside factors once a teen is addicted, you are just helping to prolong the problem.
You need to encourage your teen to accept responsibility for their actions. By discouraging the teen to accept responsibility, the problem will become worse over time.
See, if you are an enabler, you become caught in the addiction cycle too. You become afraid of changing the status quo and don’t want your loved one to resent you. It becomes okay now for the person to engage in these behaviors. You help the same way time after time and nothing changes.
Your intentions are great, but your actions are rooted in fear. You need to realize that the addict that you are taking the blame for will benefit greater when they are taking the blame for themselves. They might even learn something from it.
So, what can you do to not enable a teen addict?
Obviously, quit taking responsibility for the addict’s actions. Instead, sit down and talk with them about the potential consequences of their behavior. Encourage them to get help (they may not take this very well), but let them know that you will still be there to support them.
Make sure you keep an open communication with the addict. Let them know your feelings and encourage them to do the same. By keeping your frustrations inside of you, you are hurting both yourself and the addict.
So, as an enabler, you believe that you’re helping the teen addict with all of the support you’ve been giving them, but your behaviors might just be doing the opposite. Recognizing your enabling tendencies is the first step to overcoming this problem, and adjusts your actions for the well-being of you both.