Enabling and supporting a loved one’s addiction are very different behaviors. Supporting a loved one with a substance use disorder involves providing emotional support, understanding, and unconditional love during the person’s recovery process. Enabling involves helping someone to continue their addictive behavior by covering up for them or not holding them accountable for their actions.
Examples of Enabling Behaviors
When you enable a loved one’s addiction, you are constantly making excuses for their actions or providing them with assistance that makes it easy for them to continue their addiction. This can be anything from giving them money to purchasing them alcohol. Whenever you protect someone from the consequences of their actions, this minimizes the seriousness of their addiction and allows them to continue in their destructive behavior.
Some forms of enabling a loved one with a substance use disorder include:
- Making excuses for the person if they are unable to attend a family gathering or social function due to their drug or alcohol use.
- Apologizing to others for the person’s behavior while they are using a substance.
- Providing financial support to the person since they cannot support themselves due to their drug or alcohol use.
- Excusing the person’s substance use by saying they relieve stress or to relax.
- Not holding the person accountable for their actions, perhaps by bailing them out of legal trouble or covering up for their violent behavior.
- Ignoring the problem altogether and acting like their addiction does not exist.
Enabling someone is an easy trap to fall into. After all, addiction can be upsetting to everyone involved and seem easier to ignore than to confront. But not addressing the problem can have serious, life-threatening consequences.
Someone involved in a codependent relationship tends to gravitate toward enabling behavior. In a codependent relationship, the boundaries are nonexistent or unclear. The person who is enabling feels like their self-worth is wrapped up in how the other person feels about them, so they will do anything they can to keep the peace.
Remember that enabling only hurts the person with the substance use disorder. It keeps them trapped in their addiction. If you quit enabling them and let them experience the consequences of their behavior, they are more likely to be motivated to reach out for help.
Examples of Supportive Behaviors
Having a loved one with a substance use disorder can be challenging. What can you do to support them without enabling their addiction? Start simple: communicate how much you care about their well-being. You can also:
- Encourage them to seek help for their addiction and help them research treatment centers, insurance coverage, getting time off work, etc.
- Listen to the person without judgment and make them feel that they are safe to discuss their challenges with you
- Offer to help with childcare or housecare (mowing the lawn, watering plants, etc.) while they are in treatment
- Organize an intervention
- Attend family or group therapy sessions with them or join them at a 12-step meeting
- Refrain from drinking whenever you are around them, and keep alcohol and drugs out of your shared home
Invite them to join you in an activity that does not involve drinking, such as taking a walk, seeing a movie, or going out for coffee
- Take care of yourself and set an example by practicing healthy habits such as exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep
- Give your loved one space, and don’t be overly consumed with every aspect of their life
If you feel that you are unable to give your loved one the support they need in recovery, encourage them to find a sponsor or a counselor. Finding support and creating a solid network of people you can trust can help prevent relapse and can give the person in recovery trusted resources to turn to if they happen to struggle. Letting your loved one know that they are not alone can make a big difference in how they approach their new life in recovery.
Twin Lakes Recovery Center is Here to Help
If you or a loved one struggles with a substance use disorder, our dedicated staff is ready to help you get on the path to long-term recovery. To learn more about Twin Lakes Recovery Center’s services and programs and our facility near Atlanta, GA, please contact us today.