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5 Ways to Help an Addict Without Enabling

Resurgence Behavioral Health Five Ways to Help an Addict Without Enabling

How to Help an Addict in the Most Effective Ways

It’s a natural reaction to want to help someone close to you that you can see is struggling.  However, some efforts that seem like support can actually be detrimental to their eventual success in recovery.  This is usually referred to as enabling, because helping an addict, even when it’s done with the best of intentions, can end up enabling their addiction. There are ways to help an addict effectively without enabling them in the process.  Here are some things you should know.

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What is Enabling?

Enabling is an action that’s meant to be loving, supportive, and helpful but is actually harming the loved one in your life.  Of course you don’t want to see someone you care about lose their job, car, house, or marriage, but by acting as a crutch you are just perpetuating the circumstances regarding their alcohol or drug use. You prevent them from experiencing the natural consequences of their behavior, and thereby remove the pressure those consequences put on them to change. Here are two important things to think about before you go any further to see if you might be enabling someone’s substance abuse:

  • Am I doing for them what they can do for themselves?
  • Am I covering up for this person’s mistakes or misdeeds?

Questions to Help You Recognize Your Enabling Behaviors

If your answer to either of the above questions is “yes,” it’s time to look further. It’s important to know if you are enabling someone who is struggling with drugs or alcohol.  You may be doing this consciously and just not realize the impact, or unconsciously due to everyday stress or responsibilities in your own life. Nevertheless, there are questions you can ask yourself to help recognize your enabling behaviors.

  • When you observe a loved one drinking or using drugs, Do you experience stomach issues or other physical anxiety symptoms?
  • When you think about your loved one using or drinking, does it keep you up at night?
  • Do you feel that by ignoring your loved one’s drinking or drug use that they are headed for real trouble in their life?
  • Do you pay for things that you know should be another person’s responsibility knowing they are using their own money for drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you joke around with someone who is struggling with substance abuse instead of having a serious talk with them?

A lot of enabling may seem like acts of mercy but in the end they are only going to prolong and often worsen a person’s problem with drugs or alcohol.  Covering for a person at home, school or work or taking on their financial or other responsibilities is only making things worse.  There are things you can do to help without enabling once you realize your actions are not part of the solution.

5 Ways to Help an Addict Without Enabling

5 Effective Ways to Help an Addict

In addition to recognizing any enabling behaviors you may be exhibiting, there are definitely ways to help an addict in your life.  Here are a few things you can do to positively influence someone you know who is struggling with substance abuse:

1- Even if it never seemed to contribute to their drinking or drug use, stop using any substances around them. This will provide an example that shows that drugs and alcohol aren’t a necessary part of life.

2- Suggest healthy activities during times you know they would usually drink or use drugs. Offer to take them on a hike on a Saturday afternoon when you know they’d usually be home using or drinking.

3- Educate yourself about substance abuse and addiction. You don’t need to be an expert overnight, but having some ideas of what might be causing them to use or drink are good things to know.

4- Be sure to communicate in an open, positive way. Don’t give ultimatums except as a last resort, if ever. Speak to the good that alcohol or drug rehab could do for them as it has for others.

5- Offer to participate in family therapy. In this way you are actively part of the solution to their problem and you are showing them that the support they will need is there for them going forward.

Support for Families and Loved Ones at Resurgence

Resurgence offers all types of support and educational services in addition to our treatment plans. Knowing is half the battle is an often used phrase, and it definitely applies to substance abuse and enabling. If you think a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol and you’re not sure what to do, give us a call. One of our counselors will guide you with dos and don’ts and assist you with helping your loved one take the first steps towards sobriety. (855) 458-0050

Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.


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