If a loved one is struggling with substance use, it can be challenging to understand the differences between helping vs. enabling when trying to provide support. But, what are these differences and how can we tell which one we are providing in a certain situation? In most cases, it’s simply a matter of identifying the signs of both helping and enabling, so your honest support isn’t mistaken for enabling their actions.

What is Enabling?

When a loved one is dealing with substance use, we instinctively seek to provide support in whatever way we can, but sometimes the help we provide isn’t the best kind of help for the individual who is struggling. Enabling occurs when support does not help your loved one confront their substance use disorder or the consequences of these actions, but instead assists them in continuing their negative behavior. Enablers act as cushions for individuals suffering from a substance use disorder and can oftentimes result in a mutual loss of respect between both parties. Enabling perpetuates a permissive attitude toward substance use in general, and often prevents the struggling individual from seeking proper help and treatment.

How to Stop Enabling Someone

In order to know how to stop enabling someone, it is necessary to understand the signs and behaviors of enabling. These behaviors are often rooted in the responsibility a person feels when a loved one is struggling, making sacrifices that they believe are reducing the user’s pain and suffering, when in reality they are creating barriers to recovery. Common behaviors for enabling substance use include:

  • Denial – Loved ones often refuse to accept that someone is struggling with substance use. They instead believe the user can fix their own problems, or that treatment isn’t necessary because the alleged behavior isn’t as severe as it seems.
  • Justification – This is often linked with denial, as loved ones may often attempt to justify the user’s behavior. They can make up reasons for these actions, or believe that the conditions are only temporary and will eventually fix themselves.
  • Taking Part – Sometimes people attempt to manage a loved one’s conditions by engaging in activities with them. Whether it’s to monitor their intake or to isolate the misuse to a specific location such as at home, engaging is detrimental to the proper guidance needed to seek complete recovery.
  • Minimizing – People may often feel as if the substance use is a phase, or that the user could be in worse situations that jeopardize the severity of the problem.
  • Control – Exerting control over the struggling individual can worsen the issues. By considering them inferior and restricting their regular decisions, these actions can cause greater separation and leave the individual seeking the comfort of other users.

How to Support Without Enabling

To properly support someone without enabling their actions, it’s important to establish an open communication with the user, and to help them seek professional assistance without judgement. Attending meetings or family therapy is a great way to help everyone involved in coping with the situation, and to encourage the user to seek treatment. Eliminating excuses is also crucial to the process. Even though it’s difficult to say no, maintaining a firm stance and refusing to condone their actions will help them recover faster in the long run.

Synergy Health Programs

The path to recovery is never easy, but engaging in the necessary actions is the first step in properly treating someone with Substance Use Disorder. Synergy Health Programs seeks to provide compassion, respect, and acceptance to individuals and families struggling with these conditions, in ways that include cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance-commitment therapy. Our behavioral health services aim to address problematic behaviors and the negative thought patterns at their roots. If you believe treatment is right for you or for a loved one, contact us today to learn how we can help.