When a loved one is dealing with addiction, you want to do what you can to help; you want to be gentle, supportive, and encouraging. What you don’t want to do is unwittingly aid your loved one in behavior that is unhealthy, dangerous, or destructive. The trouble is, it can be hard to identify where helping ends and enabling begins.

As you seek to stay on the right side of that line, we would offer a few quick tips that may help you know where you stand, and judge which behaviors truly help and which ones only enable.

  • First and foremost, remember that you cannot “fix” anyone, or force anyone to change, to seek treatment, or to get better. Your friend or loved one is responsible for his or her own actions. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have control over them.
  • Also remember that what you ultimately want is to help your loved one live a healthy and long life—so if there is ever truly a life-or-death situation, your role, of course, is to err on the side of life. Normally, for instance, you wouldn’t loan money to someone with an addiction, because that could be enabling—but if you know the situation to be life-or-death, then by all means give them what they need.
  • Note that enabling behavior is anything that allows your friend or loved one to continue engaging in self-destructive behavior. Some common examples of enabling behavior include loaning money, providing shelter, assisting with legal aid, or doing anything else that might shield the person from consequences.

Enabling ultimately hurts everyone—so when in doubt, be a true helper by urging your friend or loved one to seek addiction treatment and care from a center like Seacliff.

Share this article with someone you know who may be struggling with enablement.

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