How To Help an Addict Without Enabling

It’s never easy seeing someone struggle with drug addiction. You might even feel that there is nothing you can do for them except watch them unravel. This feeling of helplessness might cause you or your whole family to get desperate and begin enabling in an attempt to do something for them. But enabling only ends up hurting your loved one further and there are more effective ways to help.

In this article, you’ll learn the difference between helping and enabling, and specific things you can do to help a loved one struggling with addiction.

What is Enabling?

It’s normal for a family member or friend to want to help someone you care about who has a drug addiction. But it’s important to help rather than enable. Enabling is when you try to help someone with a drug addiction but end up further supporting their addiction instead.

Enabling behaviors include:

  • Giving them money
  • Making excuses for why they cannot work or maintain a job
  • Ignoring or excusing hurtful behaviors and actions towards themselves or others
  • Choosing not to report harmful behaviors
  • And many others

Friends and other family members (or even yourself) might enable with the intentions coming from a good place, but these types of behaviors only make it easier for your loved one to continue using and send them deeper into the addiction cycle. The longer you perform enabling behavior, the further they are from the addiction recovery process and the less likely they are to seek treatment.

What is Codependency?

Codependency often goes hand-in-hand with enabling behaviors. Codependency occurs when there is a very emotionally dependent relationship between two people, usually the family member/friend and the person struggling with the addiction.

Many people who enable addicts are in a codependent relationship with them and usually don’t realize this at the time. Therapy is an important part of the healing process for building a healthier relationship with themselves, feeling more comfortable being independent from the addict, and identifying self-defeating behaviors.

Ways To Help an Addict

1. Set Boundaries

One of the best ways to help someone struggling with drug addiction is by setting boundaries. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of someone’s life when you see they are having a difficult time or when you are worried about them. But setting boundaries is extremely important for the health of your relationship, for your loved one, and for yourself.

A few examples of setting clear boundaries can include not answering their phone calls after a specific time of day, not giving them money (regardless of what the reason is for why they are asking), and continuing to pursue activities each day that bring you joy. You can set boundaries and still care about their well-being at the same time.

2. Attend Family Therapy

By attending family therapy sessions, it provides both you and your loved one to have a safe space for communication and sharing your thoughts and feelings. Your therapist will also serve as the independent third-party and facilitator, which can help to reduce the change of aggressive conflicts. Joining your loved one in a family therapy session also shows how much you support them.

3. Keep Communicating

Communicating is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship with addicts. While sometimes it might be difficult or impossible to communicate with them, there’s usually always an opportunity to let them know you are there for them and that you care for them. This can be especially true if they are in a drug rehab program – sometimes, a simple text message letting them know you’re thinking about them can go a long way.

4. Ask Them To Hang Out

Asking them to hang out and do a fun activity you both enjoy is a great way to help without enabling them.

Not every person working through addiction will feel comfortable initiating things to do together. This is especially true if they are new to recovery or have just completed an addiction treatment program and are still learning new sober hobbies that they enjoy.

It might help if when asking them to hang out, you also offer a few suggestions such as going for a run, going out to eat at a favorite restaurant, or going to see a movie.

5. Avoid Using Substances Around Them

While it might seem obvious, you should avoid using drugs or drinking alcohol around anyone who is working through a substance use disorder. This can be very triggering to them and they might not feel comfortable telling you. You also might want to consider placing alcohol and other substances out of sight if possible to help further reduce their chances of wanting to use. This is especially true in the early recovery stage of substance abuse.

6. Tell Them You Are There For Them

Sometimes saying “I’m here for you” can mean all the difference in the world to those who are working through drug addiction. This also shows that you are thinking about them, are willing to listen if they need to talk, and is a way to provide emotional support at a time when they might feel alone.

Get Addiction Treatment Today

At Paramount Recovery Centers, we provide respectful, compassionate, and innovative substance use disorder treatment in Massachusetts. Our addiction treatment programs help individuals overcome substance use disorders and any co-occurring mental health conditions. Each program is customized based on each guest’s psychological and emotional health.

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