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Stop Enabling Substance Abuse and Start Supporting Addiction Recovery

(781) 622-9190
stopping enabling behaviors

Enabling behavior refers to actions that unintentionally support drinking or drug use while shielding the addicted person from natural consequences.

In addiction recovery, individuals undergo physical, psychological, and social changes. They participate in therapies, join support groups, consider medication-assisted treatment if needed, and make lifestyle adjustments to maintain sobriety. However, historically, addiction was stigmatized and seen as a moral failing rather than a chronic disease.

This belief limited options for recovering from substance use and hindered our understanding of practical approaches for long-term recovery. Lack of understanding leads to family members making excuses for a person struggling with addiction, and this can make it incredibly difficult to seek help for addictive behaviors.

Recognizing the Enabling Behavior that Supports Substance Use

Enabling behavior, actions, or behaviors that unintentionally support or encourage a loved one’s addiction instead of helping recognize their negative behaviors can hinder recovery. Recognizing enabling behaviors is crucial to breaking the cycle of alcohol or drug use and providing practical support.

When supporting someone with a substance abuse problem, the goal should be empowering them to wake up and take charge of their addiction rather than depending on other family members’ help. Enabling behaviors can take many forms, but some examples include:

Providing financial assistance without accountability

Giving money to someone struggling with addiction may seem compassionate, but it enables them to continue feeding their habit without facing the consequences. If a family member wants to provide financial support without enabling addiction, they can help a loved one get into an addiction treatment program for alcohol or drug use.

Covering up mistakes

Making excuses for a loved one’s addiction and irresponsible behavior is another example of shielding them from their own actions. Accepting blame is an important part of taking responsibility — a necessary step in a program for substance use.

Ignoring boundaries

Family members with enabling relationships often overlook personal boundaries by accommodating a loved one’s addiction, allowing it to persist without consequence. Constantly bailing someone out of trouble or sacrificing the well-being of one’s own life reinforces the idea that alcohol or drug use is acceptable. Healthy boundaries are necessary to help a family member struggling with addiction – protecting one’s own health and basic needs are important so your your loved one can realize that they are responsible for sticking to a plan for stopping drugs or alcohol.

The Negative Impact of Enabling on Addiction Recovery

One of the main ways enabling impacts addiction recovery is by removing the consequences of substance abuse. Enabling removes the consequences, allowing people with an addiction to avoid facing their behavior’s actual consequences, fostering a sense of entitlement, and allowing them to continue using drugs or alcohol without taking responsibility.

Enabling also perpetuates dependency, as constantly rescuing people with an addiction from difficult situations prevents them from developing essential life skills and coping mechanisms. This hinders self-sufficiency and personal growth, fostering dependence on others.

Moreover, enabling can undermine an addict’s motivation to change. When someone always fixes things or makes excuses for their behavior, it sends the message that they don’t need to change because others will always come to their rescue. This can lead individuals down a path of complacency instead of actively seeking help and making positive changes.

Shifting Focus towards Supportive Actions

In supporting addicted family members, it is essential to shift focus away from enabling behaviors and instead adopt more supportive actions. Enabling behaviors, like providing financial assistance without accountability for where that money goes or covering up consequences of addictive behavior, can unintentionally hinder an individual’s progress. The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides valuable insights into how to help through harm reduction behaviors.

By understanding and implementing approaches, loved ones can continue providing help without enabling an addicted loved one with money or lack of blame.

encouraging friend or family with substance use disorder

Offering Encouragement

One effective way to help someone without enabling is by offering encouragement. This involves recognizing and acknowledging their efforts and progress toward sobriety from alcohol or drugs. We can instill confidence and motivation by expressing belief in their ability to overcome challenges and lead a healthy life.

Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries is crucial when supporting someone with a substance abuse problem. It helps establish a healthy dynamic that fosters growth while avoiding enabling behaviors. Boundaries may include communicating expectations, maintaining personal space or privacy, rules about money, and refraining from participating in activities that may lead to using alcohol or drugs.

Providing Resources

Another way to support a loved one is by providing them with the resources they need to realize they have a problem and get help. It can be easy to enable a family member when you try to help them alone, so connect them with local groups or organizations that specialize in alcohol or drug use.

How long does alcohol stay in system

Get The Care You Need and Deserve

Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is a leader in the addiction treatment field, with proven success in facilitating long-term recovery. Our team of top clinical & medical experts specializes in treating addiction coupled with mental illness, ensuring that each person receives individualized care. Call us – we’re available 24/day, 7 days/week.

(781) 622-9190

Practical Strategies for Supporting A Loved One’s Addiction Recovery

When it comes to supporting an addicted child or a loved one with addictive behaviors, there are practical strategies you can implement that don’t enable their drug use. These strategies aim to provide support and create an environment that promotes healthy relationships. Here are practical ways you can support your loved ones, family, and friends without enabling:

Attend Support Groups Together

Encourage your loved one to attend a mutual help group or meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Offer to accompany them if they prefer having someone by their side.

Meetings at a support group provide a safe space for individuals to share experiences, connect with others facing similar challenges, and gain insights from those who have successfully maintained sobriety.

Seek Professional Help

Encourage your loved one to seek help from therapists, counselors, or rehab centers. Offer assistance in finding a reputable recovery program. Don’t enable a person struggling with addiction by suggesting they can do this alone, but instead encourage reaching out for help.

This can be really important if a person has a history of physical abuse or other trauma. Having help to understand underlying factors can help with breaking the cycle of substance abuse.

Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

Ensure that the physical environment supports sobriety by removing triggers or substances that may tempt a loved one into old habits. This includes getting rid of alcohol or drugs from the house and avoiding social situations where substances might be present. Don’t enable your family member by allowing them to abuse substances in your home. Set a clear boundary about the behavior you expect.

Educate Yourself about Addiction

Take time to educate yourself about its causes, options to help, and potential challenges. Learn more about enabling behaviors, other signs that your loved one has returned to addictive behaviors, and what they might be going through. This will better prepare you to provide empathy and help without enabling destructive behaviors.

learning about addiction

Practice Active Listening

Be active when conversing with your loved one about their struggles and progress. Avoid judgmental remarks or trying to solve their problems for them; instead, offer an empathetic ear and validate their feelings.

Support Family Members

If your loved one is receiving professional help for alcohol, prescription drugs, or use of other drugs, let them know you are proud of them. Professional help might include individual therapy, family sessions with children or other loved ones, or medication-assisted treatment. Aide their efforts without enabling them by reminding them of appointments, helping with transportation if needed, and offering encouragement to stick with their plan.

The Importance of Self-Care as a Family Member

Supporting someone while resisting activities that enable them can be emotionally challenging. To provide practical help without sacrificing your well-being, prioritize self-care.

As a supporter, set clear boundaries and limits for your loved one by recognizing your limitations. Communicate these openly with the person to prevent burnout and maintain a healthy balance in your life. Reach out to a support group to connect with others who are also helping a loved one with substance abuse.

spending time hiking with family

Don’t neglect your needs while helping someone else. Schedule regular breaks to engage in activities that bring you joy or help you relax and recharge. This could include hobbies, exercise, spending time with loved ones, or practicing mindfulness through meditation or yoga. Avoid placing unrealistic expectations on the person struggling with substance abuse.

Celebrate small victories along the way instead of expecting immediate results. Regularly reflect on your emotions and reactions when faced with the challenges of supporting someone recovering from alcohol or drug misuse.

Acknowledge any feelings of frustration, fear, or resentment that may arise. Seek healthy outlets such as journaling, therapy sessions, and talking to trusted friends to process these emotions.

Take Control of Your Life at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment

At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we understand the importance of supporting your loved one rather than enabling destructive behaviors, and our treatment programs can help address this.

Our drug and alcohol rehab program offers a structured environment for safe detoxification and individualized treatment plans. With our experienced professionals, we prioritize safety and comfort during this critical phase.

At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we recognize that substance abuse often co-occurs with mental health disorders. Our dual diagnosis approach simultaneously addresses both conditions through evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma-informed care.

family therapy at addiction center

If you’re ready to stop enabling destructive behaviors associated with alcohol or drug use and instead provide emotional support for long-term mental health and sobriety, Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is here to help, so send us a message or call us at (781) 622-9190. Our comprehensive range of services and experienced staff are committed to guiding you or your loved one towards lasting change and a brighter future.

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Medically Reviewed By

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC Clinical Director
Learn about Inessa Maloney

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC has been dedicated to the mental health and substance abuse field for a decade, providing her expertise to guarantee quality and accuracy.

  • Specializes in outpatient services with a focus on substance abuse
  • Expertise in reality-based therapy, CBT/DBT, and motivational interviewing
  • Holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling
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