How To Help An Addict Without Enabling

It’s a dilemma that happens often.  A person can either help their addicted loved one and risk prolonging the addiction. Or, they can step back and allow the individual to hit “rock bottom.” Some consider rock bottom to be the lowest point of someone’s life that gets them to stop using. 

This is the position many individuals find themselves in when dealing with someone they care about whose substance abuse has become something much more serious and life-threatening. 

It’s natural to have a wide range of emotions that span from profound sadness to extreme anger and disappointment. 

Of course, there’s almost always an intense desire to make the situation better. However, when help turns into enabling, destructive behavior, the relationship can suffer tremendously; it can also extend and worsen the addiction. 

The good news is there are strategies for helping an addicted loved one that don’t involve enabling or turning a blind eye to the problem.

Ways To Love and Help Without Enabling

Here are key ways to truly help someone who is struggling with addiction without furthering their addiction along.

Understand the Difference Between Help and Enablement

The heart of enabling is taking action that allows the individual to continue in their addiction. This could be by providing money, shelter, food, legal help, or even by making excuses or lying on their behalf. Many times, family members feel obligated to come to a loved one’s aid when they need help. However, when it comes to a person who has an addiction, the type of help given can potentially extend their problem and prevent them from getting the true assistance that they need.

Make healthier decisions by taking notice of the issues and holding your loved one accountable. Stick to your word and only help them if it’s related to them improving their lives with professional addiction treatment.

Take Care of Yourself

Positive help often includes directing the individual toward professional treatment. Of course, not everyone struggling with substance abuse is enthusiastic about embracing recovery. When this is the case, you can show love by letting them discover the repercussions of their actions and the ramifications of their disease.

It’s not easy to do this as a loved one battles an addiction, but you must step back and gain perspective on the problem. Joining a program like Al-Anon can be particularly helpful for those who are dealing with loved ones with addiction problems. In meetings, topics are discussed that relate specifically to addiction and enabling.

Set up an Intervention

One way to help without enabling is to address the person’s problem directly, though without blame, with an intervention. While confronting the problem in this way can be uncomfortable, loved ones can now be completely honest with the addicted person. In many cases, the individual agrees to start treatment.  

Make sure to research treatment facilities and have several options lined up before the intervention, to facilitate an easy and prompt transition. Seeking a professional interventionist’s guidance is often more effective in cases where the individual has refused treatment, or there’s minimal family support or volatile moods or relationships.

Believe Actions, Not Words

It’s an unfortunate reality that many people often obscure the truth when they feel that drugs or alcohol are essential to survival. In the throes of addiction, many will choose their substance of choice over a loved one. Don’t take it personally! Individuals will likely use deception and manipulation to sustain their habit. 

One of the ways to protect yourself is to realize that you will be lied to by your addicted loved one. Oftentimes, an individual will promise to quit, go to rehab, get help, or go to meetings. Unless you see actual proof, don’t believe them.

An effective way to avoid enabling someone is to tune out the lies and insist on seeing solid proof of steps toward recovery. Don’t engage in fights, but also, don’t be gullible and turn a blind eye to the problem. By being strong in these areas, it will prevent your loved one from taking advantage of you and help you avoid stress and heartache.

Set Clear Boundaries

Your primary role is to hold your ground during this difficult time. The individual may engage in fights, withhold love, tell lies, and manipulate situations to get what they want. Start by setting clear boundaries, just as you would with a child. The most important boundary is that the individual needs to quit using under any circumstances.

Help by Not Helping

Don’t be tempted to contribute money or resources. One of the most detrimental things you can do is to give your loved one anything other than the support they need to get treatment. This may be extremely tough, but in the long run, positively supporting them—not enabling them—will benefit everyone involved.

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