addiction enabling

How to Love a Person with Addiction without Enabling

Are you unsure how to help a loved one struggling with addiction?

One of the most effective ways to help a person with addiction is to stop enabling behaviors and establish healthy boundaries. However, most people are unaware that they are enabling their loved one. They might believe that they are genuinely helping them.

For example, if a mother receives a call from her son saying that he needs money to pay the rent or he’ll be evicted, she’s likely to give him the money. This sounds like helping. What mother wants her son on the streets after all? 

However, enabling is when a person does things for someone that they can do on their own. In this example, the son would be able to pay his rent if he had a steady job and didn’t engage in substance use. If his mother pays the rent, he gets another month to do what he wants. Since he’s not suffering the natural consequences of his addiction, he has no reason to change. 

For the mother, she likely feels good about herself. She is ‘helping’ her son and it feels good. But the addiction continues. And without intervention, the addiction will progress. By enabling her son, the mother: 

  • Takes away resources from others who love her 
  • Focuses all of her attention on her son
  • Does not encourage her son to get treatment 
  • Prevents her son from experiencing consequences and moving through the stages of change 

Fortunately, there are ways to detach from someone with a substance use disorder and love them without enabling them

Why is Enabling Common in Families with Addiction? 

In families with addiction, enabling is common because family members truly believe that they are helping their loved one and keeping them alive. However, these actions shield the person from the natural consequences of addiction and prevent them from taking responsibility for their actions. Instead, they’re able to keep using, prolonging the destructive cycle of addiction. 

Some family members may also enable it because it fills a void in their life and makes them feel better. They feel needed when their loved one asks for help, and they’re afraid to let go because they don’t want to give up this relationship. Some examples of what enabling can look like are: 

  • Ignoring dangerous behaviors
  • Avoiding confrontation  
  • Providing housing, financial resources, vehicles, etc. 
  • Lying or making excuses for the person’s behaviors 
  • Prioritizing the person’s needs over their own 
  • Downplaying the severity of the problem 

How to Support Your Loved One without Enabling 

If you suspect that you’re enabling your loved one, either by your own accord or by someone else pointing it out, know that there are ways to break the cycle. Enlisting professional help is important, so consider therapy, counseling or a self-help group. This way, you’ll have a safe space to explore your feelings and listen to strategies that have worked for others. 

Here are some of the steps to take when looking to support a loved one with addiction without enabling. 

Set boundaries 

Establish clear and firm boundaries – and do not give in. If you don’t honor your boundaries, your loved one will not either. Boundaries are meant to protect you and show others what is okay and not okay. Think about what boundaries you want to set and how you will enforce them. 

Stop financial support 

Avoid giving money to your loved one. Providing financial assistance allows your loved one to continue their destructive behavior. If you feel compelled to give them money, ask yourself why you want to do this. What are you gaining from this? 

Encourage treatment 

Let your loved one know that because you do love them, you will support them on the road to recovery. You can even show this commitment by educating yourself on addiction and researching various treatment centers in your local area or another desired location. 

Attend and participate in family therapy 

Family therapy can help the whole family recover and heal. A family therapist can help you recognize enabling behaviors, learn to communicate more effectively and treat each other with respect. 

Seek support for yourself 

Remember to get support for yourself as well. Addiction is a family disease, and family members often end up taking on unhealthy roles. As the enabler, you can benefit from support and healing as well. 

Stop the Cycle of Destructive Behaviors. We Can Help. 

Awakenings Treatment Center offers intensive outpatient healing services for individuals experiencing addiction. We work closely with families to provide support and guidance as they navigate their own challenges and work toward creating a safe, loving home for their loved ones to recover in. To learn more about our programs, contact our admissions team today.