January 2019 - Hader Clinic Queensland

How to Recognise Enabling Behaviour – Good Intentions Gone Wrong

Having a loved one struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction is an emotionally complicated experience.

Families and friends of addicts are likely to experience intense feelings connected to their loved one’s substance abuse; anger, disappointment, fear for their loved one’s wellbeing and the overwhelming desire to help them.

Unfortunately, while wanting to alleviate your loved one’s suffering is a noble intention, it is also fraught with danger – as it puts you at risk of becoming an enabler.

What is an enabler?

Any behaviour on your part that makes it easier for your loved one to continue their substance abuse and ignore its consequences, is considered enabling behaviour.

No one consciously chooses to become an enabler to their loved one’s addictions; however, many people fall into enabling behaviours without noticing until they are trapped in an unmanageable situation. Watch our video explaining what an enabler is.

What are common enabling behaviours?

While there are countless subtle ways in which you can unintentionally enable your loved one’s substance abuse issues, some enabling behaviours are more common than others:

Financial enabling

Drugs and alcohol are expensive; and the more your loved one has to use to get the desired effect, the more of their finances will be chewed up by addiction.

Of course, you would never knowingly give your loved one money for drugs or alcohol; however, as their financial situation becomes more and more precarious, you might be tempted to “help out” in other ways, such as:

  • Paying more than your share of the rent
  • Shopping for your loved one’s groceries
  • Giving them money to pay off debts or providing funds for unexpected expenses (such as car repairs, fines or large bills)

Ultimately this allows your loved one to keep spending their money of drugs and/or alcohol without facing the consequences of their actions.

Emotional enabling

People with addiction struggle with their mental health and emotional state.

It is likely that your loved one will have moments of clarity during which they express guilt and shame at their behaviour – often vowing to make changes and amends.

Because it is hard to see someone you love suffer, it can be tempting to try and make them feel better.

However, this only serves to shield your loved one from the social and emotional consequences of their addiction.

There is nothing wrong with standing by your loved one during their struggle, but it is never a good idea to tell them that everything is okay when this is simply not the case.

Social enabling

There are many ways of enabling a loved one’s addiction in a social context – the most common mistake, however, is to make excuses.

Telling the kids “Daddy/Mummy’s feeling unwell, let’s give him time to rest” may be intended to spare the children emotional upheaval, but it mainly allows the addict to shirk their parental responsibilities.

The same goes for making excuses at work or school for your loved one’s lack of performance or failure to show up; downplaying their intoxication at social gatherings or making up reasons to explain why your loved one has effectively stopped attending meetings with non-addicted friends and family.

Are you unknowingly stopping them getting help?

It is almost impossible to avoid engaging in at least one of these enabling behaviours when you have a loved one struggling with addiction – so don’t feel as though you have failed them in some way.

It is natural that you want to alleviate your loved one’s pain and often, unfortunately, the quickest way to make them feel better is to enable them in their addiction.

The longer you continue to act as an enabler, the longer your loved one will be able to continue their destructive behaviours.

Catching yourself and putting a stop to your enabling behaviours can be difficult, but it can also be a turning point in your loved one’s battle with drugs and/or alcohol.

Ultimately, the decision to stop using drugs or alcohol is up to your loved one; however, by refusing to enable their addiction any longer, you can force them to face the unpleasant consequences of their substance abuse, which is often a catalyst for seeking help.

Find out more

Are you an enabler?
Addiction Support: the Dos and Don’ts
Establishing Family Boundaries

Every Day is a Win

Joe has spent nearly all of his life in the grip of addiction. 

He undertook our addiction treatment program for his addiction to heroin, alcohol and other opioids.

His story is ongoing and one of courage and determination as he continues the recovery process.

This is his story.

Where do I start?

I’m now 30, and I started using drugs at school when I was 15. I played rugby union and went on a tour to England with my school.

I started drinking and smoking pot pretty much from the day we arrived.

When I was 17 I went to Schoolies and I started using ecstasy, cocaine and speed. That lasted for two years – and then when I turned 19, I started using heroin.

I used heroin for about 12 months before I sought help.

I enrolled in the methadone program (methadone is taken as a replacement for heroin with the idea of preventing physical withdrawal and reducing harms associated with illicit drug use).

I even remember the date I started methadone – it was the 9/9/2009. I was 20.

Methadone was just a once a week thing – the program (usually administered through a local pharmacy) would give me five or six “takeaways” for the week and I’d use them all in one day and use smack for the rest of the week.

Little did I know at this time that it was because of these addictions that I would end up at the Hader Clinic Queensland for treatment.

When I was twenty I had a girlfriend who I loved, but she died of an overdose.

I was devastated and my way of dealing with it was not to give a f*!* about anything.

My habit grew worse. Paying for it was a problem.

I became a “collector” for drug dealers. I got involved with bad people in Sydney. I’m a big guy and I used my physicality to get what I wanted. You could say that I didn’t care and that I was quite violent.

From the ages of 20-25 I thought heroin was great. I had money and what I wanted, well everything I thought I wanted.

But from 25 onwards I started to decline slowly. By the time I got to rehab, I had definitely had enough. 

I had met a girl, and moved from Sydney to the Central Coast. We were fighting because I was using all the time.

One night I was driving home – I guess you could call it a suicide attempt after drinking a bottle of Wild Turkey and having a gram shot of heroin. Not expecting to make it, I woke up twelve hours later in remote bushland.

I had fifteen missed calls from my dad. I hadn’t spoken to him for six months. My girlfriend must have called him the night before because I didn’t know where I was. I had a voicemail from him where he told me that I was terrible and that I needed to go to rehab.

He took money out of his super to get me there. I have had an on and off relationship with my parents over the years. I did a bit of jail time when I was 19 and after that they told me to get lost. They didn’t enable my addiction initially but they well and truly did at the end.

When I came out of rehab they were a real problem. They had no understanding of addiction and abstinence.

I loved my stay at the Hader Clinic Queensland. I only left 18 days clean – it took me 72 days to come off the methadone, the physical withdrawal symptoms were that bad. I was as sick as a dog for most of it. 

Mark and Jay (at the retreat) were amazing. I have so much love for them both. They were both so important in my recovery. I saw a doctor before the day I was admitted and we worked out a reduction program and once I was in rehab, the staff took care of everything.

During my time at the retreat, I had a lot of time to think about my whole life, what I was doing and where I was going. It’s weird, a lot of the time you don’t want to be there, but when you leave, you want to go back. It was the first time I had been happy for a long time. 

At the retreat we’d wake up early, and I’d do everything that was asked of me. I committed that I wasn’t going to lie to myself and others while I was in there and I tried my best.

The physical and mental parts of the withdrawal were the worst.

When I came off the methadone, I didn’t sleep for 14 days. Definitely hard times there, but I had good support.

There are people that I met that I could be actually friends with for life. I live with one of the guys I did rehab with and when he saw that I was struggling with my family after I left he told me to get on a plane and come and stay with him.

I had all sorts of dramas with my family when I left.

Jay, from The Hader Clinic Queensland, suggested that I’d be an ideal candidate for the transition housing program and to my surprise my family were totally against the idea.

They were rude and they just insisted that they wanted me home.

I was devastated.

I had met these wonderful guys in Mark and Jay who were over ten years’ clean and who had come from nothing to make an amazing life. They tried so hard to convince my family that I needed more time – most people who come to rehab come in after a detox or they detox quickly.

I had only been clean for 18 days.

I didn’t get the opportunity to go to transition. On the 20th August I left rehab. I was sad to go. I have a dark sense of humour that was appreciated. 

I don’t think I have laughed and joked as much as I did in those final two weeks.

My humour was a problem for my parents but worst of all, so was their attitude to alcohol.

My Dad offered me a beer.

I got out on the Monday and here he was, offering me a beer on the Tuesday. I can’t stop at two beers. I drink until I fall over and hit my head. 

So now, I’ve only been clean for seven days. I moved to Queensland seven days ago and I’ve been clean that long. Every day is a win.

I haven’t used any hard drugs since completing rehab.

My flatmate, is so strong. He’s been nothing but supportive. 

I’ve been going to meetings (NA/AA) twice a day and he comes along with me to support me. He doesn’t always go to meetings, he’s just so strong mentally.  He said “enough was enough” and that was it for him.

He gave me a place to say. It was becoming quite toxic at home.

My insecure and needy partner wanted to know where I was 24/7 and what I was doing and I couldn’t handle it. That was making me depressed.

In some ways I regret not telling my parents to take a hike so when I came back to Queensland, it was like I’d stepped into a breath of fresh air. 

I needed to get away from my family.

They seemed to have no idea about addiction or how to best support me, despite me asking for help via the clinic.

They refused help from Jay and Olivia. I think it’s because of my older brother who’s 43. He was never as bad as me, but he was a big drinker.

They gave up on him as a hopeless case, and by the time they got to me, being the second youngest, they just wanted me out of their life – they weren’t going to put up with another addict in the family.

The thing that really gets me is that I expected them to forgive me for my addiction and all that went with it. But how could I possibly expect that?  I said to my flat mate, maybe it will take double the time I think – we’ll be in our sixties before anything is finally resolved.

I still get depressed, even up here, but I keep moving forward. I really want to get a proper job.

It’s a bit conflicting, seeing as the only trade I’ve ever had is being a criminal. So I might start with being a cleaner.

I’d like to study. But right now I just am taking one day at a time. I’m getting a job and I’m going to AA meetings.

You never get treated like a piece of rubbish at an AA meeting.

I can talk about things.

If I said these things in front of my family they’d gasp, but here they nod their heads and accept me.

I do two meetings a day. There are so many meetings here, it’s insane.

It’s really nice. People care.

If I had to give anyone advice about the The Hader Clinic’s addiction treatment program I would say, “whatever Mark and Jay say to you, listen to them!”

And choose a good focus word. Mine was “determined”.

Every time I got up and walked down the stairs I thought, “I’m getting off this stuff – and I’m never getting back on it”.

I don’t know how many people get to the point where they’ve really had enough but I was there and I think you could tell.

Since completing the rehab program I haven’t thought about using at all.

I just remember how hard it was to withdraw and I make sure that I never forget.

Jay and Mark had such a big impact on me, I’d love to do the same thing one day and help others.

Women and Addiction

There are many reasons why women develop a dependence on drugs or alcohol, so we provide specialised addiction treatment for women and addiction.

At the Hader Clinic, we recognise that women are affected differently by alcohol and drugs and need specialised women’s addiction treatment

Our women’s drug rehabilitation treatment focuses on the particular needs of women to achieve the best possible individual results. Our personalised treatment services help women address the underlying triggers for their dependence on drugs or alcohol. Hader Clinic counsellors are experts in helping women tackle the shame of addiction to live fuller lives.

Men and addiction vs women and addiction

There are physical differences between men and women that can cause women to become addicted faster while using less. A major factor for women is a process known as telescoping. When a woman starts using drugs, she will develop dependence and become unwell faster. Our specialist addiction treatment for women acknowledges that a woman may have more severe physical and psychological health concerns than a man who has used more for longer.


The Hader Clinic recognises that women are more vulnerable to trauma. They may have started using drugs to cope with physical, sexual or psychological abuse and the shame associated with being a victim of abuse. Through our addiction treatment for women, we offer a safe environment for women and provide LGBTIQ friendly services.

Often addiction begins in the teenage years as girls feel pressure to conform to social norms and try to exert control over their changing bodies. Depression, anxiety and body control behaviour such as self-harm or bulimia can lead to girls experimenting with drugs or alcohol as a coping tool.

Mental health

Because women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, they are also more likely to receive prescriptions from doctors to treat these conditions. When medication is prescribed without addressing underlying issues such as abuse or a poor home environment, stress or other mental health concerns, women and girls may become dependent on drugs. Hormonal changes throughout a woman’s life can also affect the way her body processes alcohol and drugs.

Social expectations

Social expectations of women and perceptions of the role of women can be crippling for women with addiction. Women are often the primary carers of children or parents and this pressure can contribute to the feelings of guilt, shame and social isolation. Home responsibilities, lack of financial resources, or fear of social or legal consequences can be barriers to women seeking treatment.

Women’s Rehab Programs

The shame and stigma of alcohol or drug dependence can trap women in a cycle of addiction and negative thoughts. The Hader Clinic’s women’s rehabilitation programs provide women with the tools they need to manage addiction and move into recovery without fear of shame or stigma.

We recognise that women are vulnerable to trauma and addiction in different ways to men and offer specific women’s drug rehabilitation and women’s alcohol rehabilitation programs. Our compassionate, high quality addiction treatment for women will help you or your loved one with their recovery.

More information

If you would like to know more about women’s addiction treatment, please read:

Women’s Addiction Treatment
Ice Addiction in Women
Addiction Treatment for Women
Addiction – The Mother’s Guilt
Addiction – The Mother’s Shame
Misconceptions About Women With Addiction

The Stages of Addiction Recovery

When it comes to change, humans aren’t very patient.

We want a “quick fix” for all of life’s problems from weight loss to financial matters.

When it comes to the treatment of addiction, it can be tempting to hope that a quick detox in rehab will do the trick and solve the problem permanently.

However, for most sufferers of addiction this isn’t the case.

While every addict’s journey to recovery is individual, most often the process of recovery can be thought of as occurring in several stages.

The Transtheoretical Model (also known as the “Stages of Change” model) was developed in the 1970s by social science researchers Prochaska and DiClemente.

It evolved through studies that explored the experiences of smokers that quit on their own, as well as those who required further treatment.

They wanted to work out why some individuals were capable of quitting without assistance and from these studies they determined that these people were more likely to quit smoking if they were ready to do so.

The Stages of Change model operates on the assumption that people do not change behaviours quickly and decisively, rather changes in habitual behaviours (such as addictive behaviours) occur in cycles.

For the purposes of defining the addiction and recovery process, the Hader Clinic Queensland breaks this model into four stages.

Again, because addiction and recovery is so individual, it provides a rough guideline and time frame of what to expect in recovery. 

For example, a diverse range of factors such as age, gender, substance(s) abused, length of time using, method of use, general health, family history and trauma suffered pre addiction/during addiction must be taken into account.

In addition, all forms of addiction have a baseline of similarities including but not limited to:

  • Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour
  • Denial
  • Low self esteem and a big ego
  • Anxiety, depression, insecurity
  • Feeling like a victim
  • Wanting the quick fix

Recovery begins with a contemplation phase.

The addict begins to realise that his/her behaviour is problematic and they begin to think about stopping their substance use. 

They still may be ambivalent about seeking treatment at this stage, however, there is a growing discomfort around the effects of using. 

Secondly there is a crisis/decision stage where the pain of using becomes too much for the addict and treatment is sought. This stage also can include a family intervention that sees their loved ones sent to rehab.

The third stage of recovery which coincides with early treatment involves shock and grief as the buffer that existed between the addict and the real world is stripped away.

Many clients have described this process as being “stripped bare”. 

The process of early recovery elicits a whirlwind of emotions from elation (as you’re getting your life back) to grief (you’re mourning the loss of a substance which has been the most significant relationship you’ve had for a long time). 

This part of recovery is the beginning of retraining your brain to think differently by doing things differently. 

We recommend a 90 day treatment program and studies back this up.

For example, a study published by the European Journal of Psychology demonstrated that it takes people 18 to 254 days to change a habit.

The wide range in timing relates well to addiction and demonstrates that it takes consistent effort to change the way you do things. This is why it’s important to be willing to change – if you are, then you’re half way there.

The fourth stage is about repair and long term personal growth.

Because substance addiction changes brain biology, namely reward pathways, abstinence and recovery reverse such changes over time, allowing the recovering addict to feel joy, empathy and hope again without needing to be under the influence of a drug.

This stage involves learning to navigate away from the negativity addictive thoughts bring and learning new ways to live.

Although the task of recovery might seem overwhelmingly massive, the facts are that all you need to get started is a dash of willingnessness and a dose of open mindedness.

Recovery is a process, not an event – you get out what you put in.

The question shouldn’t be “how long does it take?” but rather, “how rich do you want your life to be?”

Alcohol and Sacrifice

You hear it all the time in the media – give up alcohol and it will do you the world of good.

There are events for this type of abstinence – are you going to have a “Dry January”, do “Oc-sober” or have a mid year reset with “Dry July”?

Maybe you’re at a stage of your life where you’re wondering whether you have a problem with alcohol or not?

On one hand, alcohol is the most socially accepted drug that’s even promoted as being health giving by clever PR companies.

But on the flip side, you’re feeling concerned that you are beginning to feel terrible drinking it, yet find you cannot stop.

Being told that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption can elicit fear.

Fear can be a powerful motivational force in the short term.

If you were told that you’re looking down the barrel of a liver transplant and the shortage of donor organs means you’d likely die as a result of your consumption, you may be willing to sacrifice alcohol and remain sober for a few days, months or years but it may not be enough to keep you permanently sober. 

As long as you believe that doing away with drinking is a sacrifice, there will always be a reason to relapse.

A positive reason for escaping alcoholism is far more enduring as your thinking pattern has changed.

You are no longer thinking in terms of sacrifice. 

Wanting to be happier by quitting drinking is a self sustaining type of motivation – being sober is seen as a positive, rather than something to be endured.

Taking the first steps and participating in an event like “Dry January” can still have benefits.

Research by the University of Sussex on 816 people that took part in Dry January showed that participants gained more energy, lost weight and had better skin texture. 

Three quarters of participants reported sleeping better, 90% saved money and reported a sense of achievement.

Additionally, the participants seemed to drink less in the long term.

Drinking alcohol is linked to increased cancer risk, brain damage and liver failure.

When you’re stuck in the maze of alcoholic addiction though, life becomes all about the quest to find the next drink.

However, addiction can be treated and the rewards of abstinence can be accessed.

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