Skip to main content

Having to watch a loved one struggle with their addiction can feel like you’re living a nightmare. You fight to help them and try to show them the error of their ways, but they only seem to slip further away from you.

You reach out to lend a hand, but they ignore the gesture, as if you’re a stranger they’ve never met before. While your intentions to provide assistance may feel admirable, there is a strong possibility that you’ve actually been enabling their addictive impulses and negative behavioral patterns.

Understanding what enabling behaviors are and how to avoid them can be difficult. Every person responds differently to encouragement and aid, but some will latch on to assistance and manipulate the situation to take advantage and further their addiction.

For this reason, it is imperative to comprehend which behaviors best facilitate your loved one’s progress toward recovery and which should be avoided at all costs.

What is Enabling Behavior?

Simply put, enabling behaviors are actions that support your addicted loved one’s chemical use and dependency. When you enable a loved one, you are removing the natural consequences of their addictive behavioral patterns, prohibiting them from learning the valuable mistakes associated with a drug-addicted lifestyle.

The most effective method of helping a loved one address their substance use disorder and defeat their addiction is to allow them the opportunity to experience the consequences that stem from their substance use disorder.

Evidence has shown that an addict experiencing the damaging effects of addiction on their life has the most powerful incentive to change. Enabling behaviors perpetuate addiction, so making every effort to avoid these interactions with your addicted loved one is essential in aiding their overall recovery journey.

Top Enabling Behaviors

While there are a number of ways that you may be enabling your loved one’s addictive impulses, specific behaviors tend to stand out as the top forms of enabling:

Minimizing the Situation

It is natural to want the best for your loved one. Looking at their substance use trends may have you saying to yourself, “It’s not that bad,” or “They’re just experimenting.” But, the substance use only gets worse.

Minimizing their addiction allows the disease to grow, rooting itself deeper into your loved one’s life until it completely consumes their whole being.

Justification of Their Behaviors

Like minimizing, this form of enabling takes place when you begin agreeing with your loved one’s rationalizations concerning their addictive behaviors. Some common justifications may be:

  • They have a stressful job, so drinks after work are totally normal.
  • They’re just celebrating the holiday/birthday/event; everyone does it.
  • They drink or use drugs to help them focus and concentrate better.

These justifications of addictive behaviors further increase your loved one’s maladaptive confidence, driving their addiction and pushing them farther into their substance use disorder.

Protecting Them from their Addiction

This enabling behavior can take on a number of forms, such as:

  • Protecting your loved one’s image by lying to their boss or associates.
  • Protecting them from their actions by giving them money to cover their bills after they’ve spent all their money on drugs or alcohol.
  • Protecting them from their irresponsibility by completing their social obligations or personal commitments when they neglect to get them done.

However you are protecting your loved one, your actions are doing the opposite of what you intend. While you may be solving some short-term problems, you are eroding their ability to learn and setting them up for long-term failure.

Avoiding Necessary Confrontations

This is perhaps the most difficult enabling behavior to avoid when dealing with an addicted loved one. Ignoring the warning signs of your loved one’s addiction in order to keep the peace and avoid upsetting them is only exacerbating the situation.

While it is not recommended to instigate verbal conflict with your loved one, approaching them in a calm and collected manner in order to discuss your concerns regarding their addictive behaviors is essential.

This establishes the necessary dialogue to inform them that their addiction is not a secret and that they need to address their substance use disorder with the help of clinically qualified professionals.

How to Stop Enabling an Addicted Loved One

The most effective manner in which to cease your enabling behaviors and confront the disease of addiction plaguing your loved one is to initiate open and honest communication. This will remove the mystique from the situation and confront the realities of their addiction.

If you are nervous about having this conversation on your own, you can always contact a qualified mediation professional to guide you through the process and ensure that the conversation maintains its civility and avoids unnecessary escalation. Al Anon can also serve as a powerful support group to help you quit enabling behaviors.

How to Help an Addict Without Enabling

Helping a loved one address their addictive behaviors and get the help they need can be a precarious balancing act. While it is important to convey your feelings and perspective, avoiding argumentative tones and judgmental comments is necessary to facilitate open lines of communication.

This is why it is imperative to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally prior to discussing the situation with your loved one and before removing all existing behaviors.

Putting an end to the enabling behaviors you have been perpetuating is an essential component to their recovery process and establishing how you will interact from this moment on.

Christian-Based Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Covenant Hills

Every addict can get clean. If your loved one has expressed the desire to get help and recover, there is hope. At Covenant Hills, we believe that your loved one can get back to being the person you know is still inside them.

Through our Christian-based treatment program, their whole person health will be treated – an approach that focuses on restoring the mind, body and soul.

Learn more about our Christian-based drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs, or contact us for a free and confidential assessment.