enabling addict

The difference between helping and enabling is significant in that enabling can harm a person with addiction more than help. Learn the characteristics of both and how to avoid falling into the trap of enabling a loved one with addiction.


Helping or Enabling

A fine line exists between enabling behavior and helping a loved one. Some of the behaviors a person may exhibit who is enabling can include:

  • Doing anything to make life easier for person with addiction
  • Doing extras chores or working overtime for extra money
  • Coming home to unmade dinner and home which is unkempt only to clean up and make dinner for person with addiction to eat and enjoy without helping


Not Helping

It is important to differentiate between actions which help and ones which do not. Lines may become blurred when children are involved but being clear is important. Do not do anything more than a fair share for the sole reason a loved one is getting high because this enables the behavior to continue. Without reason to stop, a person with an addiction will continue. The natural instinct to help a loved one is an honorable and noble pursuit but when someone is deeply entrenched in addictive behaviors it can destroy relationships, home, work and family. When a person with addiction knows or believes another individual will take over and care for overall needs and responsibilities, the responsibility will never fall on that person to take care of those things.



The most effective way to support a loved one with addiction is to set healthy boundaries around what can be expected. When a loved one struggles, it is in the best interest of all parties involved to create boundaries and stay focused on those goals. The safety net must be taken away to allow space for the person with addiction to decide life is not manageable in the current state and change must occur. At some point, the individual with addiction must decide enough is enough. When the time comes to help, it will become evident. Promises to get clean and sober must be right in that moment, not next week or months into the future.


It will become obvious the time is now to help because the person with addiction will want to receive help right away and not continue going down the current path a moment longer. This is a good time to step up and help the loved one find a treatment program. The best way to support a loved one in this situation is to offer help as long as the individual remains in recovery. The loved one may relapse but as long as the individual returns to recovery and chronic relapse is not commonplace, the love and support which are offered is still the best thing to do to help in a healthy way.


Boundaries are a healthy part of a recovery plan. If you or a loved one need help, call us at 800-910-9299 for more information.

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