Don’t ignore the issue.
Pretending an addiction doesn’t exist does not help your loved one make changes. Those struggling with addiction are prone to putting themselves in risky or dangerous situations, not to mention the negative physical effects addiction to substances can cause. Addiction is a progressive disease that does not get better on its own. Ignoring it only condones the behavior.
Do be clear and upfront.
The best way to speak to someone, in general, is to be straightforward and honest with them. This is not different for someone struggling with an addiction. Be clear in what you want to communicate to them and don’t be shy about expressing it. They may have feelings or a negative reaction to what you have to say, but that does not mean you shouldn’t say it. Those feelings and reactions can be part of paving the way to recovery.
The definition of enable is to “give someone the authority or means to do something”. When we talk about enabling in the sense of addiction we mean providing another person space or means in which to continue with their destructive behaviors. Ways in which we enable might include:
Prioritizing the needs of the individual struggling over their own. It is one thing to care for loved ones and quite another to enable by taking those caring gestures too far. If someone has all of their needs taken care of by another person, whether that is giving them money, providing housing, bailing them out of jail, etc., they have little reason to want to change their own behaviors.
Keeping quiet and avoiding confrontation in the face of troubling behaviors. Enablers often find it difficult to express emotion in these situations, particularly when there are negative repercussions for doing so. Those struggling with addiction can become defensive or angry when confronted so enablers will frequently avoid having difficult conversations out of fear of their loved one’s response.
Lying to try to cover up the chaos addiction brings. Some enablers will try to present a cool exterior and lie about or make excuses for the destructive behaviors of their loved one. They may feel it is easier to “fake it” than to be honest with others about what is really going on.