August 3, 2023

Enabling Addiction

image of woman representing promethazine abuse

Enabling addiction involves doing things for the person that they should be doing themselves, while helping means assisting them with things they can’t do on their own due to their condition. If you have a loved one struggling with substance or alcohol use disorder, you might wonder if you’re enabling their behavior instead of genuinely helping them.

This brief guide on how to not enable an addict highlights the following issues:

  • What is enabling in addiction?
  • What is an enabler in addiction?
  • Enabling addiction: why enabling a drug addict or enabling a drug addict is counterproductive.
  • How to love an addict without enabling.
  • How to stop enabling an addict and connect them with treatment in Southern California.

What is Enabling?

Enabling is a complex behavioral pattern that often occurs in the context of addiction, especially with alcohol or substance abuse disorders. It involves providing support or assistance to a person struggling with addiction in ways that shield them from facing the consequences of their actions. Instead of allowing the person to take responsibility for their behavior and experience the natural outcomes, enabling inadvertently prolongs and perpetuates the destructive cycle of addiction. Examples of enabling behaviors include covering up for the person’s substance use, providing financial aid to sustain their addiction, or neglecting your well-being to cater to the needs of the person with an addiction.

people are consoling a man how to love an addict without enabling

How to Stop Enabling an Addict

Stopping enabling behaviors is crucial to help the addicted individual break free from the cycle of addiction and take accountability for their actions. Here are some steps to stop enabling an addict:

  • Recognize the signs: The first step is to acknowledge and understand enabling behaviors. Be honest with yourself about how your actions may be contributing to the problem.
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear and firm boundaries with the person struggling with addiction. Let them know what behaviors are unacceptable, and be prepared to enforce those boundaries.
  • Stop financial support: Refrain from providing financial assistance that enables the individual to continue their destructive behavior. This may be difficult, but it is central to their long-term recovery.
  • Encourage treatment: Offer support and encouragement for the individual to seek professional help and treatment for their addiction. Let them know that you are there for them throughout their recovery journey.
  • Practice tough love: Sometimes, tough love can help to break the cycle of enabling – allowing the person to face the consequences of their actions can be a wake-up call for them to seek help.
  • Seek support for yourself: Dealing with a loved one’s addiction can be emotionally challenging. Consider joining support groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon to connect with others who have experienced similar situations.

How to Help an Addict Without Enabling

Helping an addict without enabling requires a delicate balance of support and boundaries. Here are some ways to provide assistance without contributing to their addiction:

  • Learn about addiction and the recovery process to gain insight into what the person is going through and how you can best support them.
  • Communicate your love and concern for the person, emphasizing that you want to see them healthy and happy.
  • Suggest and assist in finding appropriate treatment options, such as counseling, therapy, or rehabilitation programs, to help the individual address their addiction.
  • Be there for the person struggling with addiction, offering emotional support and a listening ear without judgment.
  • Acknowledge and praise any positive steps the individual takes toward recovery, reinforcing their progress.
  • Encourage healthy activities and hobbies that can replace addictive behaviors and support their overall well-being.

By following these guidelines, you can play a constructive role in an addict’s journey toward recovery without enabling harmful habits.


What is the difference between helping and enabling?

Helping involves assisting someone with things they genuinely cannot do themselves due to their condition, while enabling involves doing things for the person that they should be doing themselves, even if it enables their destructive behavior.

What are examples of enabling?

Examples of enabling include covering up for the person’s actions, providing financial assistance that supports their harmful behavior, neglecting your own needs to care for the person, and avoiding confronting the problem.

What are the four types of enabling behavior?

The four types of enabling behavior are denial, minimization, rescuing, and bargaining. Denial involves downplaying the severity of the problem, minimization is making excuses for the person’s actions, rescuing is constantly coming to their aid, and bargaining is making deals to prevent the consequences of their behavior.

Image of a group of people represent setting up an intervention

Get Treatment for Drug & Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

If you know someone who requires professional assistance combatting addiction, place your trust in Gratitude Lodge in Southern California. We treat all types of addictions and mental health conditions at our pet-friendly facilities on Long Beach and Newport Beach, CA.

Your loved one can engage with a supervised medical detox for the safest and most comfortable route to detox and sustained recovery from addiction. Following detox, they can move into ongoing inpatient treatment where they can access these interventions:

Call 888-861-1658 and get immediate assistance if you or a loved one has an addiction to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs. 

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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