Drug Or Alcohol Addiction in Your Family

If you are in love with an addict then you have some thinking to do. Most people who get involved with addicts spend far too much time following their heart. They think they are being understanding and compassionate towards the addict when in fact they are enabling the person.
If you are going to have any type of lasting relationship with the often emotionally unavailable addict you need to understand the concept of unconditional love. This means not having any expectations of the person who is sick with the disease of alcoholism. In fact, the more you humor an addict in the name of love, the more codependent you are with the addict or alcoholic.
Another word for unconditional love is 'tough love.' This is to avoid 'enabling' which only makes the alcoholic or drug addict you are in love with more destructive to you.
Enabling is a term used in Twelve Step recovery to describe the behavior of family members, or other loved ones, who rescue an alcoholic or drug addict from the consequences of their own self destructive behavior. If you are in love with someone you may feel that rescuing him or her is what must happen but that is not true.
No matter how devoted you are to someone, you should not rescuing anyone who is caught up in any of the compulsive or addictive self destructive behaviors that are symptoms of codependency. Besides doing drugs or drinking too much these behaviors include gambling, spending, eating disorders, sexual or relationship addictions; and the inability to hold a job.
A person who is acting out self destructively has no reason to change if they do not ever suffer major consequences for their behavior. If they are rescued from consequences, they are enabled to continue practicing their addiction.
This might be confusing because the term unconditional love implies that we love them no matter what we do. This is true but when we do love the addict it is supposed to be with a sense of loving detachment. This means that we let them make their own mistakes without meddling or interfering.
The theory behind codependency is that we react to the alcoholic to spare ourselves the pain of having to watch the alcoholic destroy him or herself. They are being selfish which is human and normal. The idea is to set oneself up as a victim and abuse or shame the loved one so that they feel shame. Unfortunately feeling more shame makes the addict want drink even more.
Rescuing someone who is actively practicing addiction of some kind, is also a form of enabling. It is dysfunctional because it supports the person in continuing to practice their addiction. A person in recovery working on getting healthier may need some help from time to time – and that is great, that is being supportive in a positive manner. Helping someone to continue to self destruct is not support is codependency. It does not really qualify as love.