When a friend or loved one struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is not uncommon to want to help, but not know-how. Addiction is a disease that impacts more than the addict. It can also hurt those they love the most. When someone has a substance use disorder, they change. Using drugs or alcohol affects their personality, behavior, and physical health, usually not for the better. If you have a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is natural to feel worried and sometimes helpless. Wanting to help a friend or loved one is normal, but you want to help without feeling like you are contributing to their addiction. This challenge, known as enabling, is a common struggle for those with loved ones who drink or use.

What Does it Mean to Enable Someone’s Addiction?

The term enabling is used to describe what happens when you help someone continue making potentially harmful choices such as using or drinking. When you enable, you often unwittingly promote and encourage your loved one’s bad behavior without encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions. Although it may feel helpful, enabling is usually the reverse. While you believe you are helping them feel better or encouraging them to want to get sober, the actions and interactions you have as an enabler typically encourage ongoing harmful behaviors.

What is the Difference Between Helping vs. Enabling?

If someone you love or care about is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is natural to want to help them get well and put their struggles behind them. Unfortunately, there is a very fine line between helping and enabling. But what is the difference between helping and enabling? How do you know if you are doing one or the other?

Simply put, when you help someone, you support or help with things they cannot do on their own, or you do things that help an addict regain control of their health and behaviors. Enabling, on the other hand, allows your loved one to avoid acknowledging the harmful and potentially dangerous repercussions of their actions (such as drinking or using drugs). Allowing them to avoid addressing their unhealthy behaviors enables them to continue engaging in them because they believe it is ok or acceptable to do so.

Why is it Important to Avoid Enabling Someone?

When you care for someone who struggles with addiction, it is natural to want to do anything you can to help them overcome their struggles and get well. People often believe their actions are helpful because they feel helpful. Sadly, the opposite is usually true. It is essential to avoid enabling someone because enabling behaviors inevitably worsen their addiction while also worsening the severity of physical, psychological, and behavioral challenges associated with substance use disorders.

Enabling can lead to several harmful and potentially dangerous effects. When you enable, you are supporting your loved one’s addictive behaviors. While many people do not realize they are acting in an enabling way, their behaviors and actions allow their addicted loved ones to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Also, enabling behavior often makes it easier for an addict to avoid responsibilities and obligations in favor of seeking and using substances.

Enabling can also directly impact the physical and emotional health of the enabler. When someone enables an addict, it leads to stress for that person and their family. These stressors will, in time, affect your mental and physical health. The longer you act as an enabler, the worse your struggles will become.

How to Get a Loved One Addiction Treatment

Seeking addiction treatment help at a professional rehab like Ardmore Recovery is the best way for your loved ones to get the support and guidance they need to overcome addiction. The best treatment programs will help your loved one and your family heal through comprehensive, inclusive therapy programs. At Ardmore Recovery, our team of skilled treatment professionals will work with your loved ones to help them learn about the roots of addiction. As part of therapy, they will learn and practice essential relapse prevention skills necessary to maintain lasting sobriety. In addition to helping your loved one, our treatment programs help members of the addict’s family examine their behaviors and emotions to understand better how to avoid using enabling behaviors in the future. To learn more about our programs at our Savannah, GA rehab, contact our admissions team today. Let us help your family start their journey towards lasting health and wellness.

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