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Helping Versus Enabling an Addict


Helping Versus Enabling an AddictDrug addiction has become an epidemic in the United States. Almost everyone has a friend or a loved one who has or is currently suffering from substance abuse. According to a study in 2013, around 22.7 million Americans needed treatment for a substance abuse disorder, but only about 2.5 million people received professional addiction treatment. Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be extremely mentally and physically taxing, especially considering that all you want is to help them. 


Although your intentions are purely to support them, sometimes you may be doing more harm than good. It is common to begin to feel bad for them. Feelings of pity cause people to want to fix the situation by doing things for their loved ones that they could be doing themselves. When someone continually denies their loved ones the ability to face the full consequences of their addiction, they are enabling them to continue their substance abuse. 


Helping an Addict or Alcoholic

When you see someone you love struggling, it is normal to feel the desire to help them get through their dilemma. When it comes to helping someone who is struggling with addiction, there is a thin line between helping and enabling an addict. So, this poses the question, what exactly can you do to help? 


First, it is important to look for and identify the signs of addiction to be certain about whether your loved one is suffering from substance abuse. The general signs of addiction include, but are not limited to:

  • Tolerance, or a need for more of a drug to get the desired effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the person does not take the drug
  • A decline in mental stability and physical appearance
  • Financial issues 
  • A dramatic shift in priorities 


If you notice that one of your loved ones is displaying one or many of these symptoms, they may be suffering from addiction. In order to help an active addict, it is vital that you find them a drug and alcohol treatment center as soon as possible. In the meantime, staging an intervention in order to shed light on your loved one’s addiction can be extremely helpful. Interventions are intended to allow an addict’s family to give their loved one evidence that their substance abuse has gotten out of hand. The overall goal of an intervention is to allow the addict to admit that they have a problem and ultimately, seek help. 


Until the addict or alcoholic has realized that they have a problem, all you can do is stay hopeful and keep them accountable. It is imperative that you make yourself a priority because if you aren’t taking care of yourself it is impossible to help others. 


When does helping turn into enabling?

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between helping your loved one and enabling their addiction. To “enable” an addict is an act of completing tasks for them that they could otherwise do while they were sober. 


Examples of enabling an addict:

  • Providing them an alibi when they get in trouble
  • Putting your needs aside to take care of theirs
  • Continuously loaning them money 
  • Bailing them out of jail, providing legal assistance 
  • Taking care of their basic responsibilities such as household chores, bills, or their children. 
  • Making excuses for their behavior
  • Ignoring their drug abuse after repeated promises to quit


When you enable an addict, you are unintentionally keeping them sick for a longer period of time. Until an addict sees the damage, chaos, and consequences that their addiction is causing they will see no incentive to seek treatment


Enabling not only affect the addict but the family as well. When you continuously put your loved one’s needs before your own, you will begin to suffer tremendously. This is referred to as codependence. When you are codependent on someone, you overly rely on their emotional well-being and safety; neglecting your own in the process. For this reason, there are support groups for the families of addicts. Al-anon is a support group that follows the 12-steps used in Alcoholics Anonymous but is intended to help the alcoholic’s family recover as well. 


How to stop enabling your loved one

If you believe that you have been enabling your loved one, you may be wondering how you can stop. You may feel conflicted by your want to help your loved one, but there are ways to prevent enabling behaviors while supporting them:


  • Stop loaning them money
  • Stop lying for them or making excuses for their behavior
  • Do not pity them
  • Address boundaries and stick to them
  • Prioritize yourself
  • Educate yourself on drug addiction and alcohol abuse
  • Do not take responsibility for your loved one’s disease
  • Gain support and advice from peers
  • Attend Al-Alanon meetings and therapy 
  • Host an intervention to confront their substance abuse


Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Fort Lauderdale 

Once your loved one is ready to start a new way of life, it is imperative that they seek out a professional addiction treatment center. Our addiction specialists at Agape Treatment Center are highly qualified to help your loved one recover in a safe environment. Using evidence-driven addiction therapy, we help individuals acquire the tools needed to recover from addiction. We offer an extensive family therapy program to help reconnect addicts and their families while setting healthy boundaries. 

Agape Treatment Center is conveniently located in the Fort Lauderdale area of South Florida. We pride ourselves in prioritizing each individual patient’s needs so that their families can rest assured. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and is in need of treatment, call us today to speak to one of our addiction specialists.

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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