Supporting vs Enabling Someone in Addiction Recovery

Supporting vs Enabling Someone in Addiction Recovery

In 2019 alone, more than 70,000 Americans fatally overdosed on a substance. This is the worst nightmare for family and friends, and why it's so important to know the difference between supporting and enabling.

Addiction recovery is a neverending process, and the addict's support system has to carefully evaluate whether their actions are enabling continued addiction or relapse. If you are here, reading this page, you have made the most important first step -- recognizing that the family system needs to change.

Keep reading to find out more about the difference between supportive and enabling behavior. 

What Is Enabling Behavior?

Enabling is not exclusively a negative behavior. There is positive enabling, known as empowerment. The negative sense of the word refers to enabling dysfunctional behavior, like an addiction.

Signs of Enabling

There are many red flags that can warn a person about enabling behavior if they recognize them. They include:

  • Sacrificial choices or actions
  • Failing to assert boundaries
  • Avoiding, ignoring, or covering up the problem
  • Protecting the addict from consequences
  • Feelings of anger, disappointment, or resentment

Some of these actions are natural instincts for the loved ones of an addict. It's okay to make mistakes as long as the family system can recognize them and changes course. Alcoholism is a family disease.

How to Stop

Enablers should aim to empower the addict in their life to get sober, not to help prolong their dysfunctional behavior. To stop enabling, in a negative sense, start to:

  • Go to therapy
  • Assert boundaries
  • Communicate openly
  • Acknowledge the problem
  • Make consequences clear

Enabling someone means providing them with the means to accomplish something. The problem is when that something is harmful. It is not easy to end enabling behavior, and family members often have to endure abuse from the addict. 

What Is Supportive Behavior? 

When you stop enabling someone, that doesn't mean you stop supporting them. Addicts benefit from a strong support system. So, what does the right supportive behavior look like?

The steps to stop enabling are actually supportive behavior. Enforcing clear boundaries is a supportive behavior. Allowing the addict to experience their own consequences in a supportive behavior. The hope is that the combination of all these supportive behaviors will lead them to recovery, and then keep them in recovery.

There are other supportive behaviors like driving them to appointments, buying them books about alcoholism, attending meetings with them, giving them recovery coins for their accomplishments, and simply listening to them talk about their feelings.

Other Tips for Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery takes a toll on the system of family and friendships connected with the addict. Enabling behavior is nothing more than a family member's or friend's way to show love and care for the addict. However, this disease needs a different treatment plan.

You can also join our online Zoom meetings to help strengthen that support system and keep the recovery strong.