Family Enabling vs. Family Support in Addiction

Last updated: July 27, 2017

Image girl getting drugsWhat is enabling? Enabling can be defined as making something practical or easy. So, what is support? Support is to give help or assistance to someone. There is a distinct line between someone making it easy for an addict compared to providing help to an addict. With families, these two terms often become blurred.

Some of the signs of family enabling an addict include the following:

  • Ignoring the addict’s negative or dangerous behaviors, overlooking problems, denying they exist
  • Difficulty expressing emotions; unsure how to express feelings
  • Prioritizing the needs of the addict before their own needs
  • Lying to others to cover up the addict’s behavior
  • Blaming people or situations other than the addict
  • Resenting the addict

Let’s say we have enabled them and we want to break the cycle, here are some suggestions to help someone stop enabling:

  • Leave messes as they are, do not get involved with the clean-up of the messes made while intoxicating/using
  • Weigh your short-term/long-term options. Will helping them one more time help or worsen the problem in the long run?
  • Get back autonomy; do not let the addict put you in situations to endanger yourself.
  • Follow through with plans; even if the addict refuses to participate, you should follow through with the initial plan.

So how do we help the addict without enabling them? You must first accept that you cannot fix the addict; the addict must make the changes. So, what can we do?

  • We can become more educated about addiction. Perhaps attend family support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
  • Do not continue to provide financial support for the addict. Remember, the addict is mentally sick and can manipulate love ones into giving them what they want.
  • Do not take blame! You are not responsible for their behaviors or actions.
  • Love without enabling.

It’s extremely important to remember that when you enable addicts you are not helping them, you are only hurting them!

For more information visit Alanon and Naranon.

For more information on Recovery Support Services, please call 410-222-7076.

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