How Families Can Help an Addicted Loved One Without Enabling Them

How to Truly Help Your Addicted Family Member

When a family member suffers from substance use disorder, it’s easy to fall into the enabling trap. It’s only natural to want to help when you see someone you love battling addiction, and offering aid may seem like the right action to take.

Whether it’s paying the rent for an adult child whose drug use has made keeping a job impossible, buying groceries for your brother when he is spending all his money on drugs, or offering your niece a safe place to land when her drug abuse has led her to homelessness, these actions may be well-intentioned, but that does not mean they are actually helping.

What Is Enabling?

The dictionary definition of enabling encompasses the support of harmful, self-destructive, or otherwise problematic behavior. In the context of drug addiction and substance use disorder, it’s easy to see how the most ordinary actions family members take, from buying groceries to offering a rent-free room, can fall into the category of enabling.

How can you provide support and love for your family member without allowing dangerous, self-destructive, and potentially fatal behavior to continue? Here are some tips to help keep you and your loved one safe:

Harness the Power of Peer Support

The power of peer pressure is immense, but that power can help and hurt. If you want to support your addicted family member without resorting to enabling, start by teaming up with others who are in the same boat.

Peer support can take many forms, but groups like Al-Anon Family Groups are prominent places to start. These types of groups meet in many different communities, so finding a meeting should not be a problem.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help.

Talk Openly About the Things You Want to Change

Spend some time reflecting so you can get clear on what you expect from your loved one.  Once you outline your expectations, you can start to have open and honest discussions with your family member about them.

It’s essential to choose the right time and place for these discussions, and if possible, your family member must be sober at the time. As the conversation unfolds, emphasize that the changes you ask for arise from a place of love, and you do not want to punish or seek revenge.

Use the Team Approach

You can accomplish a great deal more as a team than you can individually, so use the divide and conquer method to support your family member without enabling. If you want to act as the voice of reason for your addicted family member, you will need other family members’ support, and that is always the right place to start.

For instance, one family member may take the lead in intervention and confrontation, while others provide background support and research. These methods can be very effective when dealing with a family member struggling with addiction.

Never Make Excuses for Your Loved One

People in the throes of active drug addiction can make terrible decisions, including stealing from their family members, committing crimes, and violating society’s rules. When facing these realities, it’s easy to excuse these behaviors or explain them away, but that is also a form of enabling.

If you genuinely want to help your addicted family member, avoid the temptation to excuse or explain their behavior. No matter the circumstances, drug addicts own their actions, and they need to be held accountable for the things they do.

Never Buy, or Offer Drugs or Alcohol

There are many forms of enabling, including providing drugs and alcohol to an addicted family member. Some family members may rationalize this behavior, claiming that using drugs or drinking in a controlled environment presents safer options than using those substances on the streets.

That may seem like a valid argument, but it does not stand up to closer scrutiny. Offering drugs or alcohol to an addicted family member, or worse yet, buying them, does nothing to reduce the risk, and in the long term, it will only make a bad situation even worse.

Reassess Your Financial Relationships

Providing ongoing support for a family member struggling with drug addiction could be counterproductive, so reassess those financial relationships and look for ways to cut back or cut them off entirely.

Helping an addict financially can backfire badly, not only in terms of their long-term health but in terms of your financial well-being as well. Giving money to your addicted son or daughter will not help them get better, it will only make it take longer for them to realize they need to change.  And it’s likely to leave you in a much worse situation as well.

Work With a Counselor

Living with a substance abuser can be difficult at best and unsustainable at worst, but you do not have to do it on your own. Getting help from a professional counselor can help immensely, so you can learn to manage problematic behaviors, avoid enabling and build a better family relationship.

It’s also important to recognize the physical manifestations of living with an addicted family member. Family members may experience sleeplessness, digestive issues, panic attacks, depression, and other symptoms resulting from the stress they’re feeling. Talking to a doctor or working with a psychological expert can reduce those issues until the loved one in question agrees to enter rehab.

Place Emphasis on Treatment

Enabling your addicted family member will not help them, but getting them into treatment certainly will. As you work to avoid your own enabling behaviors, never lose sight of the end goal – getting your family member the help they need to overcome their addiction once and for all.

If you are ready to help your family member without enabling their behavior, pick up the phone and give WhiteSands a call. We understand the unique family issues that addiction creates, and we have the tools necessary to help your loved one heal.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.