We already feel like an idiot for helping them again, so why not check out this guide!

There’s a fine line between enabling and helping when it comes to addiction. Over and over I hear things like “Give it to God” or “They will get help when they are ready”, but there are still lingering thoughts like “What if all they need is that little extra push” or “What if I don’t do anything and something happens to them?”

I’ve been trying to line up rehabilitation for someone in my life that doesn’t want it. He says he wants it, but there are no actions to prove any different. In trying to help him I’ve thrown myself into the co-dependency role.

As an addict myself, I know it feels like a hamster wheel you just can’t get off of. Bobby Coffey of Aquila Recovery says, “The stages of this cycle are: Binge/Intoxication, Wthdrawal/Negative Effect and Anticipation/Preoccupation”. It is usually in the withdrawal/negative effect part of this cycle that the addict is “done” and swearing it off forever. It is also during this phase that sometimes family or friends are notified that the individual wants help and this can take everyone involved down the rabbit hole.

Rescuing is an addiction in and of itself. First, there is the feeling of being wanted and needed “The payoff” (Intoxication), then the feeling of helping “Momentary relief”, the disappointment when the problem isn’t solved (Negative feeling/withdrawal) and lastly the feeling of resentment and frustration when the addict goes back (Preoccupation). That is why in psychology they refer to these as cycles. Addicts are fueled by the resentment as it causes shame and and gives them a greater relief when the high sets in. It also gives them an excuse to drink or use. When the enabling part of the cycle kicks in again, it is because of the dialogue in our heads that this may be our last chance or if we don’t help they may never get better.

As family or friends most people are too closely invested to not experience parts if not all of this cycle. So what do you do to help an addict and not be adding to their cycle or being an enabler yourself?

I’ve been told to stay out of it. There are hundreds of thousands of options for people seeking help from substances and they can find them if they really want help. It is better to leave up to a healthcare professional anyway. Addiction is a disease, you wouldn’t try and fix someone with diabetes or COPD and the severity is really no joke. A good mantra for ourselves is “I cannot help someone that does not want help” as a reminder that until they are truly doing the work themselves it is all just an illusion. After getting involved numerous times I’ve made the decision to leave the recovery up to my friend completely.

As Al-anon says “Addiction is a disease, and the realization that we are powerless over it, as well as over other people’s lives, helps us to be useful and constructive with our own.”

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