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Enabling vs Helping An Addict

Written on July 5, 2024
Enabling vs Helping An Addict

There is a fine line between helping versus enabling and staying on one end of the spectrum can be extremely difficult. Helping someone who is struggling with addiction does not mean being at risk for mental health or physical struggles.

Often, this is what occurs. Individuals who are trying to help the person end up going through things like depression, and anxiety, and sometimes they even experience physical illness due to a weakened immune system. Helping someone fighting addiction often turns into enabling, resulting in them further struggling. 

Defining Enabling

Substance abuse is a harmful behavior. Enabling is when someone else’s actions unintentionally support or encourage this behavior. This often occurs from a desire to help or protect the individual. Understanding that enabling the addiction only causes more harm is crucial for these individuals trying to help.

Common behaviors or actions associated with enabling can include making excuses for the person’s actions, fixing or covering up their mistakes, giving them financial support, or even completely taking over their responsibilities. Enabling versus helping an addict prevents them from being able to see and fully understand the true scope of their predicament so that they can see the need for change. 

Understanding Helping

Enabling versus helping is a fine line. However, understanding what it truly means to help someone struggling with addiction, and how to do so, is vital. Balancing support, empathy, and firmness can be the hardest part, but it is crucial. Being educated on the subject of addiction is important for understanding the challenges and complexities the individual is facing. Avoiding judgments and criticism is imperative.

Encouraging professional help such as counseling, therapy, or professional addiction treatment can help push them to decide to get help from a professional who fully understands their situation. Offer to help them find resources, and if they are comfortable, attend appointments with them. Clear and firm boundaries are essential as they help protect both the individual struggling with substances, as well as the person trying to help them.

Helping Vs Enabling Vs Codependency

Helping versus enabling and codependency are 3 very different concepts in terms of addiction. As previously stated, enabling someone who struggles with addiction is when actions unintentionally exacerbate or promote the individual’s struggles with addiction. Helping them is setting clear and concise boundaries and aiding them in the process of getting help to find recovery.

But what is codependency? This is a relationship dynamic in which one person excessively relies on another for emotional or physical support, and neglects their own needs and well-being. In terms of addiction, this can refer to the loved one prioritizing the addict’s needs over their own, often seeking validation from this caretaker role. Alcohol and drug addiction are detrimental to everyone, including the person who is trying to help. 

Establishing Boundaries

When trying to change the dynamic between enabling versus helping, it is crucial to set clear boundaries. These boundaries help protect both parties and prioritize the well-being of the individual who is trying to help their addicted loved one. Addiction is harmful, not only to the person using the substances but also to their loved ones. Consistency is key here.

Unwavering, clear, and firm boundaries are crucial to avoiding mixed messages for the person who is struggling. Offer them support, but also maintain self-support. Attending groups like Al-Anon can help provide support from individuals who have had similar experiences. Boundaries are crucial and help create a structured environment in which all parties are protected. 

Implementing Tough Love

The subject of tough love is hard. Enabling versus helping an addict often comes down to this. However, setting firm, non-negotiable boundaries and maintaining a compassionate approach can often save their life. It encourages accountability and promotes recovery. It all starts with clearly expressing concerns and notating the needed behavioral changes.

Outline the consequences of continued drug and alcohol abuse such as loss of financial support, having to leave the home, and restricting contact. Once these boundaries are laid out for the person struggling, it is important to stick to them. This does not mean that they are not cared for or about, it just means their loved one is helping versus enabling. 

How to Offer Genuine Help

As stated earlier, to help versus enable begins with education on the topic. Understanding as much of the ins and outs of addiction can help when it comes to genuinely helping the individual. Help comes in many forms, but is it crucial to not cross the line into enabling.

Offer support, provide them with different resources such as addiction support meetings, and encourage therapy or counseling. Addiction treatment can help these individuals find a safe and healing space to learn why they turn to substances and find healthier ways of coping.  

Enabling Vs Helping An Addict

Enabling vs helping can lead to devastating results. Continued drug and alcohol abuse can result in severe health complications, as well as mental health conditions that can be detrimental to them. However, their loved ones are not immune. The effects of addiction are far-reaching, and family and friends are often affected as well. Maintaining boundaries, and getting support are crucial to ensure safety all around. 

Prepare for a Life of Positive Change

There is a fine line between helping someone struggling with addiction, and enabling them. Often, it is very difficult to understand the difference between the them. However, the ability to set and maintain boundaries can help not only the individual but also the person struggling with enabling them.

Getting help for addiction is one of the best gifts someone can give themselves. At Flatirons Recovery we provide a safe and healing environment for those struggling with addiction to find themselves again. Our on-staff professionals help guide them through the process while providing support.

Call us today and begin a journey of healing.