enabling addiction

When you find yourself enabling addiction, it’s hard to know what to do next. You don’t want to enable an alcoholic or addict, even if you care about them, but you also don’t want to hurt them or push them away. All of those feelings are completely normal, and that’s why we’re providing this resource on how to stop enabling.

If you suspect that you might be enabling addiction in your loved one, keep reading for seven actionable tips on how you can shift to healthier behaviors for the both of you.

What Is Enabling?

alcohol abuse

Enabling a drug addict or alcoholic usually happens by accident. You don’t want them to keep drinking or using—you just want them to stay safe and know that you care. Unfortunately, this good intention can lead to enabling behaviors.

For example, if your friend or family member is an alcoholic, they may drink so much that they lose their job and, eventually, their home. You may offer to let them stay with you because you want them to feel supported and have a safe place to be, but the reality is that you’re only shielding them from the consequences of addiction. If your home is open to them, then they don’t have to worry about treating their addiction because nothing bad will happen to them.

In addition to protecting your loved one from the consequences of their addiction, other signs of enabling include:

  • Taking Responsibility: If you are constantly worried about whether or not your loved one is drinking or using, you’re inadvertently enabling addiction. This is doubly true if you feel a sense of responsibility for whether or not your loved one is sober.
  • Ignoring Addiction: If you don’t want to confront your loved one about their addiction for fear of upsetting them, you may be enabling them. You may find yourself hiding money or otherwise trying to “fix” the problem without acknowledging their addiction, and this behavior only serves to allow them to keep using or drinking without consequences.
  • Making Excuses: When bad things happen as a result of your loved one’s addiction, it can be easier to brush them off as understandable or not their fault. But when you do this, you deny the harmful effects of addiction, which signals to your loved one that they don’t need to change anything.

As you can see, there are many ways to enable addiction, and they almost always come from an attempt to care for and support someone with an addiction. Thankfully, there are other ways to show you care that are healthier both for your loved one and for yourself.

7 Ways to Stop Enabling Addiction

Just like there are many ways to enable addiction, there are just as many ways to break the habit. If you’re struggling to stop enabling an addict in your life, try these healthy behaviors instead.


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1. Create a Support System

An important thing to remember is that you are not the first person to care about someone with an addiction, and you are not the first person to accidentally enable someone. If your loved one with a substance use disorder is a family member, try to band together with other family to stop enabling their addiction and present a united front. Not only is this better for your loved one in the long run, but it’ll give you support as you commit to no longer enabling.

Additionally, you could attend support group meetings like Al-Anon, which is a group for family and friends of people with substance use disorders. If you’re not comfortable, you don’t have to share your story. But even just attending meetings and listening can be a great reminder that you’re not alone, and your loved one’s addiction is not your fault or your responsibility.

2. Draw Personal Boundaries

Enabling often starts due to a lack of boundaries. So to stop it, you need to clearly communicate with your loved one what you will and will not tolerate from them. For example, boundaries might include not letting them stay in your home, not taking their phone calls outside of a set time, or not bailing them out of trouble. The boundaries can be anything, but they need to be clearly communicated, they need to ensure that you are not taking responsibility for someone else’s addiction, and most importantly, they need to be followed at all times, without exception.

3. Never Give an Addict Money

People with substance use disorders are not fundamentally bad people. They have a disease, and the things that they do while in the throes of addiction should be understood in that context. All of that said, there is never a reason to give money to an alcoholic or drug addict. Addiction makes people lie about why they need money, and it makes them desperate enough to do things that they would never normally do, like lie to people they care about or steal from family. You should not hold these actions against them in the long term, but until they’re sober for an extended period of time and show real commitment to recovery, any financial assistance is only going to enable them to hurt themselves.

4. Let Consequences Happen

If something bad happens to your loved one because of their addiction, you cannot step in and stop it. This means not giving them any money, not letting them stay with you, not trying to cover for them, etc. The only way they will seek help is if their actions have consequences, so you have to let them experience the negative effects of addiction.

5. Take Care of Your Own Mental Health

enabling drug addicts

Part of the problem with enabling is that it makes your loved one the focus. Instead, take the time to care for your own mental well-being. This could mean engaging in your favorite hobbies, seeing a mental health professional, or any other way that you take care of yourself. You can only live your life, and making sure that you feel healthy and comfortable is the best way to stop enabling addiction.

6. Know That Distance Is Not a Punishment

Oftentimes, people experience a rift between themselves and a loved one once they stop enabling. That is completely normal, and it’s nothing that you should feel ashamed of. Your boundaries are not your way of punishing them; they’re your way of protecting yourself and helping your loved one in the long run. So if feelings of guilt surface, remind yourself to stand by your boundaries and advocate for yourself and what you need to be healthy and happy.

7. Provide Resources Instead

Just because you cannot enable someone’s addiction does not mean you have to withhold support. If your loved one comes to you and says that they want to stop drinking or using, you can provide them with resources like information about local rehabs in Ohio. But be careful that you limit yourself to only providing resources, not trying to take responsibility for their recovery. Expressing a desire to quit drugs or alcohol is not the same thing as quitting, and it’s unfair to yourself to change your boundaries before your loved one proves that they are serious about getting and staying sober.

Getting Help Is Possible

Addiction doesn’t only affect the addict, it also affects the people who care about them. If you or your loved one are at a place where you’re ready to start addiction recovery, we’re happy to help you take the next step.

Our dual diagnosis program is ideal for people suffering from addiction and underlying mental health concerns. In cases like this, a mental health issue leads to addiction, or vise versa, and the two need specialized treatment to truly heal. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, call our compassionate admissions specialists at 937-483-4930 or fill out our confidential contact form. Addiction recovery is a complicated journey, and we’d love to help guide you along the path.

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