Supporting Rather Than Enabling: Guiding a Loved One Toward Recovery

If your loved one is struggling with an alcohol or substance use disorder, the interactions you have with them can greatly influence their recovery journey. Understanding the difference between enabling and supporting is crucial to contribute positively to their path toward recovery.


What Does Enabling Mean?

At times, what appears as a supportive act may actually be perpetuating a harmful cycle. Enabling is a behavior where one unintentionally encourages a destructive habit. Often, it manifests when we try to alleviate the discomfort of a loved one battling addiction, thereby indirectly supporting their detrimental behavior.

Identifying enabling actions within your relationships is vital, as shifting these interactions can encourage positive behaviors instead of perpetuating harmful ones.


The Interplay of Enabling and Addiction

Individuals grappling with alcohol or drug use disorder often perceive their circumstances through a skewed lens, defending their harmful behaviors as they struggle to accept their condition. As loved ones, it’s imperative to avoid further encouraging these behaviors.


Identifying Enabling Behavior

There are several signs that you may be unconsciously supporting harmful behaviors:

  • Overlooking inappropriate actions: By ignoring unfavorable behavior to avoid confrontation, you may inadvertently discourage change.
  • Providing financial aid: Covering expenses, like paying bail or bills, can inadvertently support their addiction.
  • Denial: Negating the existence of a problem also aids the individual in doing the same.
  • Excusing them: Covering up for their actions at work or school subtly communicates that their behavior is acceptable.
  • Avoiding set consequences: This might ease immediate conflict but makes it harder for them to strive for a better life.
  • Partaking in substance use: Using alcohol or drugs alongside them reinforces the idea that it’s a normative behavior.
  • Unwittingly enabling triggers: Inviting friends who drink or use drugs, or taking your loved one to parties can trigger substance use.


Redirecting Enabling Behavior Toward Support

The first step to stop enabling is acknowledging the problem. Being honest with your loved one about their addiction, and the associated issues, is a key first step. If financial support is necessary, directly pay for their necessities rather than handing them money.

Establish clear boundaries and remain consistent. For example, if sobriety is a condition for living in your home, adhere to this rule. Facing real consequences can be a motivating factor for seeking treatment.

Learning to say ‘no’ can be challenging, particularly if it leads to confrontation. However, prioritizing their long-term health and your relationship is more beneficial than short-term pacification that may worsen the situation.

Foster a positive environment by engaging in wholesome activities such as going on hikes, watching movies, or exploring and discussing treatment options. This helps illustrate the fulfilling life they can lead post-recovery.


Support for Families and Loved Ones

If you need guidance while supporting your loved one’s recovery, don’t hesitate to reach out to our empathetic team at New Found Life. We firmly believe that addiction is a treatable disease, not a moral failing. We commit to treating every client with dignity and respect, assisting them in overcoming their addiction with evidence-based treatments within our empowering continuum of care.