What is the Difference Between Supporting and Enabling an Addict?

Loving an addict is hard. Of course, you want to show them you still love them and support them through their recovery journey.

Knowing exactly how to support him or her can be tricky, though. Sometimes, it may feel like you’re helping them when you’re actually enabling their addiction. It can seem like a fine line sometimes, but there is an important difference between supporting and enabling an addict.

What Does It Mean to Enable an Addict?

Enabling behaviors come from a good place. If you’re enabling your loved one, you probably believe that you’re protecting them.

Some common examples of enabling behavior include:

Covering for your loved one – Making excuses for your loved one’s behavior or absences is never a good thing. In lying for your loved one, you’re managing their conflict for them rather than allowing them to face any real consequences.

Lending your loved one money – Again, this is another situation where you’re allowing your loved one to avoid consequences of their behaviors. Continuing to lend your loved one money helps them to continue getting their next fix.

Ignoring your loved one’s negative behavior – Sometimes, it’s easier to pretend the situation doesn’t exist or that they have it under control. In reality, you can’t expect anything to change if you ignore the evidence in front of you.

Enabling an addict can be dangerous. By lying for them, giving them money, or pretending everything is normal, you’re letting them think that what they’re doing is fine. They’ll have no reason to seek help if they believe you don’t have an issue with their addiction.

What Does It Mean to Support an Addict?

Supporting an addict, instead, means interacting with them in ways that help them work toward recovery. These supportive actions may seem small to you, but they could mean a lot to your loved one.

Every situation is unique, so there are no hard and fast rules. However, some general positive ways you can support your addicted loved one include:

Communicate – Don’t be afraid to speak to your loved one openly and honestly about how their addiction is affecting you. Doing so in a non-threatening way could even help them feel more open to getting treatment.

Establishing firm boundaries – Setting strict boundaries might feel like you’re showing the addict some tough love, but it’s important to take care of yourself as well. Setting boundaries signals to your loved one that what they’re doing is not okay with you and that you respect yourself enough to keep your distance from them until they change.  

Encouraging them to get help – You can’t force your loved one into treatment if he or she isn’t ready, but you can encourage them to go. Let them know that it’s a good thing to get help and how much it would mean to you if they did.

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Any Length Retreat is a 5 acre ranch in Austin, TX where addicted men and their families find lifelong recovery through the application of the Twelve Steps. Contact us to tell us your story.

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