You love an addict. Whether you want him or her to go to rehab or it's already happened that person is coming home, you may be struggling with how much help to provide. At first glance, the difference between enabling and empowering can be hard to define. Each situation is unique, but by using clear guidelines when it comes to the choices you make, it will become progressively easier to set boundaries.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Are your actions going to pave the way for this person to get high? For example, by making your daughter's car payment, will that free up the money from her paycheck to buy drugs? Stepping in financially to make up for money lost to drugs is enabling.
Are you doing something that he or she should be doing? If you find yourself calling the addict's boss to explain an absence, paying the addict's power bill because he or she spent the paycheck on drugs, or retaining an attorney for the addict's legal problems, you are enabling.
When you enable, you take away the addict's ability to problem-solve. This further erodes the addict's confidence, which in turn creates a trigger for the desire to get high and numb those feelings. If you protect your loved one from suffering the consequences of using drugs, he or she may not realize just how far they have delved into that world.
None of these outcomes are good for either of you.
Now Ask Yourself These Questions
Are you providing effective support? For example, the addict expresses a desire to go to rehab. You allow the use of your phone and your computer so the addict can research rehabs, call them for information and set an appointment to go. You do not make the calls or choose the rehab. These actions by you are supportive and empowering for the addict.
Are you letting the person experience consequences? By doing so, he or she begins to see the cause and effect of drug use. For example, your addict's power bill is due and he spent the money on drugs. Let the natural consequences take place. It is okay to be a sounding board while the addict brainstorms ideas to correct the problem, as long as you do not give money, make calls or otherwise fix the problems yourself. This is true empowerment.