Dealing with a loved one’s addiction to drugs or alcohol can be difficult, but it’s crucial not to become an enabler.

It’s natural to want to help your loved one in any way you can – especially if you’re a parent with a struggling child. 

However, enabling does the opposite of helping someone defeat an addiction. Instead, it gives a person the ability to continue down a destructive path without dealing with the consequences. Find out if you’re enabling a loved one’s addictive behaviors to break the cycle.

You Often Do Things the Person Should Be Doing 

The line between helping and enabling is clearer than you might think. Helping means doing something for the individual that he or she cannot do alone. 

Enabling is doing something for the individual that he or she can and should be doing alone. 

Before you make that meal or give your loved one money, ask yourself if he or she can do it without your help. 

If the answer is yes, it is in your loved one’s best interest to take a step back. Withdrawing your help in these situations can do more to aid in recovery than simply doing everything for your loved one.

You Make It Easier for Your Loved One to Drink or Do Drugs

You might think housing and feeding your loved one are your duties as a friend or family member, but (if the person is an adult), these are things the individual should be doing on his/her own. 

These forms of “helping” could simply be enabling your loved one to continue drinking or doing drugs without consequences – such as losing a job or having no place to live. 

These would be the real repercussions of addiction if your loved one didn’t have you to lean on. Refusing to enable an addiction can be the wake-up call your loved one needs to finally get (and stay) sober.

You Solve Your Loved One’s Problems

Wanting your loved one to get help and solve your loved one’s problems for him/her are two different things. It is one thing to call a treatment center and request professional help. 

This is something your loved one might not be able to do by him/herself. It is something else to call the addicted person’s boss and make excuses as to why he or she didn’t show up.

This is something the individual should do alone, so he or she can face the consequences of getting too drunk or high to go to work. 

Notice when you’re solving problems related to the addiction. Instead, make your loved one face the consequences of his/her own actions alone. This can help them face the reality of how much their addiction is impacting their life, hopefully inspiring treatment.

You Lie to Others on Your Loved One’s Behalf

If you catch yourself telling lies to cover up the fact that your loved one is binging on drugs or alcohol, you may be an enabler. 

Don’t let the fear of what others may think to cloud your judgment. Damage to your spouse’s or child’s reputation may be exactly what he or she needs to realize the necessity for change.

It can be difficult to stand by and watch your loved one suffer broken relationships, lost jobs, or missed opportunities, but these losses could be exactly the push he or she needs to get sober. 

If your loved one would have hit rock bottom by now (the point many people struggling with addictions need to reach before finding the motivation to change) without your help, it may be time to stop covering up and let your loved one take responsibility.

You Have a Hard Time Setting Boundaries

It generally does not work to give someone an ultimatum, such as, “Stop drinking or I’ll divorce you.” 

This attempts to force the person to quit drinking. Instead, set boundaries as to what you will allow in your life or home. An example could be telling your loved one you won’t have drinking or drug use under your roof.

Making the decision about the behaviors you’ll allow in your life can show your loved one the real possibility that he or she will lose an important relationship unless he or she gets help. 

This can lead the person to the decision to attend treatment and stay motivated on his or her own, rather than by force (something that rarely works).

Setting boundaries requires a level of detachment for your loved one that may be difficult to achieve, but it can help you view the situation more objectively. 

If you need more help with a loved one’s addiction, contact Burning Tree today. Seeking help from a team of professionals can be just what your family needs to take the first step toward real recovery.