Day: December 18, 2021

How Enabling Can Fuel Addiction

In a most basic definition, the term “enabling” refers to any behavior performed by the loved one of someone with a substance use disorder that enables that person to continue abusing the substance. This could be behavior as direct as giving the person money with which to buy drugs or alcohol or giving them the substance itself, but there are also many far less direct ways in which the people who surround an addict could, mostly unwittingly, be fueling their continued drug use. 

For instance, if someone loses their job due to an addiction, actions like paying their non-drug related expenses or allowing them to live in your house rent-free could be considered enabling, because they are sparing the person from fully facing the consequences of their job loss, and because the person now does not have to get another job in order to survive or to live in comfort. 

This could in turn “enable” them to spend their days getting high rather than get back on the track to formal employment and a more stable life. Similarly, another common way that loved ones can enable addicts is by covering up for their mistakes—making excuses to their boss for missed days of work or bailing them out of jail after a DUI. 

Enabling may also involve taking over responsibilities for an addict, such as doing work or chores that they are too incapacitated to do themselves, thus enabling them to continue the behaviors that incapacitate them. 

Enabling, though, shouldn’t be confused with offering support, which would look more like the kinds of behaviors that can enable the addict to get help: helping them to find an appropriate form of treatment and assisting them in procuring that treatment when they may lack the emotional or practical resources to do so on their own. 

There are many different reasons behind enabling as there are reasons to enable: you may be in denial of the problem yourself, or you might feel that the person will be safer under your roof or using safely purchased substances than they would be if out on the street procuring from unknown dealers. There may be some truth to these ideas, though another unfortunate truth is that allowing them to remain in their addiction will place them in greater danger in the long-term.

There may also be an element of codependency, which can involve a conscious or subconscious need on your part to feel needed by the addict, or a comfort-through-familiarity with the usual dynamics of your relationship. Or, also as part of a long-standing pattern, you may simply be feeling too emotionally burnt out to have the energy to resist an addict’s sometimes forceful and emotionally manipulative demands. 

If you find yourself in such a fraught situation, it might be worth contacting a mental health professional who can give you individualized insight into the situation and the role you may be playing in your loved one’s addiction.

Another more insidious form of enabling is enabling that takes place through condoning the addict’s behavior. For instance, if you allow the person to abuse the substance or to become severely intoxicated around you without ever mentioning it, you’re basically sending them the message that their behavior is ok. 

Not to say that you shouldn’t offer emotional support to an addict or that you should deny them your love and companionship, as they are likely in incredible mental pain due to their condition and all the guilt, fear, and shame that can come with it, meaning that they be in more need than ever of the respite and affirmation of their worthiness that a caring presence could provide. 

You should also avoid actions like abruptly cutting the addict off, which could send them into a dangerous downward spiral. Instead, you should try calmly drawing a boundary, such as giving the person a clear ultimatum that lets them know the point by which they need to seek help or cease drug use, and clearly stating the consequences if they do not. 

What you should do, though, is send a clear verbal message to them that their behavior is not OK, and try talking to them about the problems you have observed with their current pattern of behavior and the risks you fear they may face if it persists.

In doing so, you should make it clear that the problem is with their disease and their behavior as opposed to with them as a person, and that you are concerned about their health and safety rather than the moral implications of what they are doing. 

In extreme cases, if a loved one remains resistant to getting help themselves and has clearly become a danger to themselves or others, you may be able to compel them to enter addiction treatment by using the Marchman Act, a Florida statute that allows for the involuntary commitment if someone whose substance abuse has severely impaired their judgment when it comes to their own condition. 

To learn more about how one of our skilled intervention counselors can help you through the process of confronting a loved one about their addiction or filing a Marchman act petition, feel free to call us anytime at 833-497-3808 or to contact us online anytime here.

How Reactive Attachment Disorder Can Fuel Addiction

Reactive attachment disorder is a relatively rare condition that can present in early childhood, and one that is associated primarily with serious childhood trauma such as abuse or neglect that is suffered during the earliest period of their life, generally before they are 8 months old. It can also be associated with changes to a primary caregiver during the same period or the traumatic loss of a caregiver.  

These factors prevent the child from forming a healthy attachment with their caregiver as most children do, which can seriously disturb the internal model of relationships that normal children eventually form. Such a child will then become unusually withdrawn and less able to form bonds and relationships with others, as evidenced by the fact that they will not seek out comfort from others and may instead react negatively to attempts that are made to comfort them or to provide them with love and care. 

On the other hand, there also exists a “disinhibited” form of reactive attachment disorder, in which children, instead of becoming withdrawn, will instead not exhibit the appropriate discrimination when it comes to their attachment figures. 

Such children may be overeager to trust unfamiliar adults, which can pose a safety issue, and they may not show a preference for their caregiver over a stranger or the developmentally appropriate behavior of checking back in with their caregiver after venturing off. To complicate matters further, some children with reactive attachment disorder may also display behavior that has features of both inhibited and disinhibited attachment. 

Along with the attachment issues that are at the core of their disease, children with reactive attachment disorder will also typically display other signs of behavioral disturbance, such as a decreased ability to regulate their emotions, unexplained sadness, fearfulness, and irritability, or disproportionate responses to change or stress. 

These symptoms will often lead children with reactive attachment disorder to struggle socially in school as well as at home and should be apparent before a child is five years old. They also should not be better explained by a pervasive developmental disorder like autism, which can cause similar symptoms but is not related to a traumatic history. 

There is no standard treatment for reactive attachment disorder, but the child should obviously first and foremost be removed from the neglectful or abusive environment. Then, caregivers can work to establish a safe environment for the child and to establish a more secure attachment with them. Therapy and treatment can focus on improving children’s social and emotional regulation skills, and on providing them with the opportunity to establish meaningful and positive social relationships. 

However, if the child is not given adequate opportunity to form these relationships, or does not adequately resolve their original trauma, symptoms of reactive attachment disorder can persist into adulthood, which is where this diagnosis can potentially intersect with issues of substance abuse. 

Though the condition is rare enough that relatively few formal studies have been done on reactive attachment disorder outcomes, adults who displayed symptoms of reactive attachment disorder may still exhibit disturbed attachment, such as a reluctance to form relationships with others or a diminished ability to establish and maintain those relationships. 

They may also continue to struggle with symptoms like hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness or emptiness, all of which have well-documented associations with the abuse of substances as an attempt to “self-medicate” emotional distress. 

If this behavior becomes sufficiently entrenched, treatment for the substance abuse disorder may be required in the form of a residential or outpatient treatment program. There, intensive therapy can help the person to tease out the roots of their addiction and address their traumatic past, as well as to learn new coping mechanisms and other emotional regulation skills that will help them to build the healthy relationships with others that will help them to maintain their sobriety.

In extreme cases, use of the Marchman Act may be required to force someone who is struggling with substance abuse due to the aftereffects of reactive attachment disorder or any other psychological condition to undergo this intensive treatment and turn their life back around, especially if their loved ones are perceiving clear signs that the person is becoming a danger to themselves or others. 

The Marchman Act is a Florida statute that allows for the involuntary commitment of someone who poses such a danger due to their substance abuse provided certain other conditions are met. Though this extreme measure should typically only be tried after lesser measures like talking to the person have failed, it is sometimes necessary for loved ones to take this painful step to ensure their safety. 

To learn more about the Marchman Act and how one of our skilled intervention counselors can guide you through the process of obtaining your loved one the appropriate treatment, you can call us anytime at 833-497-3808 or contact us online anytime here.