Loving an Addict: How to Stop Using Enabling Behavior

Loving an Addict: How to Stop Using Enabling Behavior

If you love an addict or alcoholic, of course, you want to help them to reach sobriety. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen first-hand how addiction can negatively impact your loved one’s life. And, certainly, you want them to be a healthier and happier version of themselves. But, what many loved ones of addicts don’t know is that sometimes enabling can feel like helping. However, in reality, enabling behavior does more harm than good. That’s why it’s crucial for the loved ones of people in recovery for addiction to be aware of enabling and also things they can do to avoid enabling and assist their loved one with the recovery process in healthy and supportive ways.

What is Enabling Behavior?

It’s completely understandable that you can identify that a loved one going through addiction is struggling and you want to help as a person who’s supportive and loving. However, sometimes, helping is confused with enabling in these situations. So, what is the difference between helping and enabling?

Enabling is when a person provides care, monetary support, or other help to an addict when they could and should otherwise provide for themselves. Essentially, enabling is when a person provides ‘help’ to an addicted loved one that prevents them from experiencing the consequences of their own actions. For example, enabling can look like:

  • giving money
  • providing transportation
  • offering a place to live/stay
  • bailing a loved one out of jail
  • paying for legal fees
  • making excuses for an addicted loved one’s actions
  • assisting with an addicted loved one’s personal responsibilities (calling out of work for them, taking care of their household chores, paying bills, etc.)

Basically, while it may seem like you’re helping a loved one that’s struggling with addiction through enabling behaviors, all you’re really doing is delaying the consequences of their behavior. And, as a result, delaying them from getting the help they really need through treatment.

What is Helping?

It can be difficult for a loved one of someone struggling with addiction to not only identify their own enabling behaviors but stop doing them in general. In contrast to enabling, helping is much more difficult. Stopping enabling behavior is one way you can truly help your loved one that’s living in a cycle of addiction. It forces them to not lean on you in order to delay the consequences of their drug abuse. You can also help in a number of other ways including encouraging treatment, providing a listening ear, setting healthy boundaries, and being a supportive friend/loved one for recovery. Help is when someone provides the support they could otherwise not provide for themselves. It is not protecting a loved one from negative consequences.

Getting Help as a Unit for Substance Use Disorder

One of the most effective and helpful things you can do to help a loved one who is in recovery from substance use disorder is to be an active part of their recovery. This means providing support by learning about their disorder, how to set healthy boundaries within your relationship, and how to steer clear of enabling. All of these things are touched upon in family therapy sessions, which are typically available from substance abuse treatment facilities like Delray Center for Recovery.

Here, we provide support for both individuals struggling with addiction, their families, and their loved ones on an outpatient basis. Learn more about how we can help you and your family to learn more about enabling and assistive ways of helping a loved one who’s dealing with active addiction.