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How to Stop Enabling a Person’s Substance Use

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Addiction is a powerful disease. It can change the way a person behaves or feels. It can do considerable damage to the body. Its effects can even spread to the family members around the person struggling with addiction. A loving, supportive family can be warped into a structure that assists in sustaining substance abuse. That’s why it’s important to know what enabling is, how to identify the signs of enabling and what you can do to provide the support your loved one truly needs.

What is Enabling?

When you hear someone talk about enabling addiction, they’re describing behavior that encourages continued substance abuse. This can be as obvious as loaning someone money when you know they will use it on drugs or alcohol, but enabling can take other more indirect forms. In fact, any behaviors or attitudes that simply allow addiction to continue can be viewed as enabling.

According to some studies, nearly 90% of the people estimated to be struggling with addiction are in denial about their problem, and enabling can play a significant role in perpetuating their delusions.  For this reason, it is wise to become familiar with the signs of enabling before it creates consequences you can’t handle.

Signs of Enabling Behavior

Some examples of behaviors that sustain addiction may include:

  • Blaming negative behaviors on others and not the addiction itself
  • Helping with tasks or activities that your loved one should be able to handle alone
  • Ignoring or overlooking the problems caused by addiction
  • Making excuses to others to protect your loved one from dealing with repercussions
  • Picking up neglected responsibilities
  • Putting the addict’s needs before your own
  • Repressing emotions
  • Resenting your loved one for the addiction and associated behaviors

Knowing the signs of enabling will help improve family dynamics and increase their loved one’s chances of lasting recovery.

How to Stop Enabling and Start Helping

If you truly want to help, be prepared for some challenges. You may need to allow your loved one to face social or even legal consequences for him or her to realize the gravity of the situation. Reevaluate any financial support you are providing.

Always encourage treatment for addiction and try to have serious discussions about the situation when he or she is sober. Approach the subject from a place of love and concern and not from one of judgement. Al-Anon and other addiction support groups for families can help you cope with your struggles and connect you with others who are going through the same thing. These support systems can provide encouragement and stability as you try to help your loved one find healing.

Get the Help Your Family Needs at Design for Change

Design for Change Recovery provides quality 12-step holistic care for those struggling with addiction. By combining a variety of proven therapy models, we customize treatment plans for each client’s individual needs. If you need help getting through to your loved one, we can help you stage an intervention. Once in treatment, we can address the underlying causes of addiction and begin working on finding healthier ways to cope with difficult emotions, trauma or any underlying mental health issues that could be contributing.

We also work with families to educate them about the effects addiction can have on their loved ones and how you can help them avoid relapse. If paying for treatment is a concern, we work with a number of popular insurance providers. Not sure if you qualify? Our admissions team is standing by ready to answer any questions you may have about your insurance coverage or any other ways we can help.


Sources: – What is Enabling?

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