Denial, Enabling & Codependency
Even though they are often in denial of their substance abuse problem, users will still lie to cover up their use. Lying is different than denial, in that the person actually knows he/she is not telling the truth. Substance abusers will tell lies to avoid consequences and to protect their drug or alcohol use. Usually, their biggest fear is giving up the drug or alcohol. Substance abusers will lie to their friends, family, employers, counselors everyone! Do not be fooled into believing them. A common joke is: “How do you know when an alcoholic or addict is lying? His lips are moving!”
We often want to believe what the substance abuser is telling us. Often the user is a friend, employee, or loved one whom we want to trust. It may hurt us to think that the user is betraying our trust by lying to us, but if we do not question what they are telling us, we are enabling them to continue using.
From a Medical Model Perspective
Remember the alcoholic or addict is sick. He/she has the “disease of chemical dependency.” When they lie to us, it is their disease talking. Do not take it personally. An individual with chemical dependency is not himself/herself. They often have a changed personality and an altered value system. The only way for the user to get better is to abstain from all alcohol and drugs - forever.
Final Common Pathway
Note: The Medical Model view is somewhat different from a Harm Reduction perspective, or Choice Model of Addiction. The Final Common Pathway perspective holds that once the person’s alcohol or drug use starts affecting his or her Major Life Areas, professional help is often necessary to aid in a behavioral change.
Why do people deny that their loved ones have Substance-Abuse problems?
Some people may feel totally helpless in dealing with it. They believe that the problem is so complex and of such epidemic proportions that it is beyond the ability to understand and resolve. They may use denial as their way to cope with the problem. People often think: “That only happens to other people, not my family,” because no one wants to think that their family is not perfect. The reality is that chemical dependency can have an impact on anyone.
What is Enabling?
Enabling is any action taken by a concerned person that stops or softens the effects of the harmful consequences of substance use upon the user. The enabling behavior is viewed as “helping” behavior that the family, friends, and employer engage in to help the alcoholic/addict. The reality, though, is that the behavior ends up helping the disease instead of the person. It allows the individual to continue drinking or using without suffering consequences. It also sends the message to the alcoholic/addict that it is OK to continue to use because he/she will not experience any negative consequences. The substance user thinks, “Why should I stop using if I'm not having any problems (consequences) from it?” Enablers are reinforcing the user’s denial system.
What are Enabling Behaviors?
1. Overlooking evidence of chemical dependency,
2. Accepting the excuse and rationalizations,
3. Sympathizing and covering up or protecting the user from the consequences of their behavior.
Examples of Enabling Behaviors
Examples of enabling include: the wife who calls her husband off work because of a hangover, or the parent who will not call the police concerning his child’s criminal activity, but instead decides to handle it within the family. Other examples include: bailing the user out of jail, using drugs or alcohol with them, lending them money, lying or making excuses for them, ignoring the use, or doing their work for them. Lastly, keeping the use a secret is a form of enabling.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is linked with enabling. It is possible to enable without being codependent. A boss who accepts excuses is enabling the user, but is not codependent with the user. The person who is codependent allows the user’s behavior to affect him/her, is obsessed with controlling the user's behavior and enables the disease of chemical dependency to continue.
Codependency is about controlling others and neglecting oneself. The codependent person “rescues” the user from consequences, may nag or plead with the user to stop, may hide the user’s supply, etc. The codependent person attempts to control the user's behavior, rather than allowing the user to experience negative consequences so that he/she will stop and seek treatment on his/her own. This behavior, in turn, leads to feelings of anxiety, worry, pity, guilt, and anger for the codependent person.
How does someone know if a person is Denying there is a problem?
The tip off is if that person finds it difficult to accept facts as reality. For example, a person says he/she is not using drugs, yet you find the evidence. He/she attempts to rationalize his/her use, or states that whatever you found belongs to a friend. Or, a person may hear a list of the consequences of his abuse and continue to believe there is not a problem. Some catch phrases that might alert you include: “We don't have a problem; our family has been drinking for generations,” or “We may have a problem, but it's not as bad as some people’s,” or “Not my daughter or son,” or “It's just a phase that teenagers go through.”
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