The Difference Between Helping and Enabling a Loved One With Addiction

Couple sitting on couch with therapist

If Your Loved One Struggles With Addiction

Having a loved one that struggles with addiction can be challenging to navigate. While addiction significantly impacts the life of the person struggling with substance use, it also affects the friends and family that care for them deeply.

As someone with a loved one who has a substance use disorder, part of you may want to control their addiction, while other parts of you may want to end their struggle and do whatever they need to fix the situation. While loved ones often want to help, sometimes their behaviors can be confused with enabling.

Unfortunately, enabling someone who has a substance user disorder can result in damaged relationships when that was most likely not your intention.

Here is how to tell the difference between helping and enabling a loved one with addiction:

What is Enabling?

Enabling behavior describes any actions taken to "help" another by not allowing them to suffer from their consequences. An enabler will try to cover up or solve another person's problems for them and may resemble helping behaviors.

Usually, an enabler does not mean to cause any harm, and their behavior begins with the intent to help. However, they may enable their loved ones because they feel responsible for their loved ones' addiction or want to reduce their loved one's pain.

If you recognize yourself performing any of the following behaviors, you may be enabling your loved one:

  • Denying their addiction.
  • Justifying their behavior.
  • Allowing substance use.
  • Providing them with money to support their habit.
  • Lying on their behalf.
  • Making excuses for your loved one.

How Do I Help?

If any of the above actions feel familiar, you may be enabling your loved one. There are many ways to positively help your loved ones and still show them you care about them.

Confront the Issue

Sit down with your loved one and discuss their substance use disorder. Avoiding the conversation does not help you or them. However, bringing attention to the issue lets them know you don't support their behavior yet still care about them and want to get them the help they need.

Set Boundaries

Set healthy boundaries with your loved one and uphold them firmly. If you break your boundary, it is likely your loved one will too. Make the consequences of your boundary clear to them, so all expectations are understood.

A healthy boundary may look like not paying for a lawyer or bail bond if your loved one gets in trouble with the law. Another boundary may be not letting your loved one in the house if they come home past curfew.

Participate in Family Therapy

Family therapy is both informative and healing for the family of someone struggling with addiction. Showing up to family therapy appointments shows your loved one that you care and are invested in their treatment and health.

Encourage Them To Get Help at Tennessee Wellness Center

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, sit down with them and discuss the option of getting treatment. They may not agree at first, but it will show them that you support them and love them.

At Tennessee Wellness Center, our family is on your side. We dedicate ourselves to the health and wellness of your loved one. Call (865) 205-2770 or get in touch with us online today to speak with a member of our team.