Supporting Recovery Without Enabling

Supporting Recovery Without Enabling

If you are not a support professional for alcohol addiction, you are likely to find it difficult to determine how best to handle your loved one’s addiction. Support for alcohol-dependent individuals requires caution because there is often a thin line between support and enabling. What is the difference?



Support is a productive way of helping an addicted individual get and stay free of addiction. This can be by simply providing a listening ear, but it can also involve active support like providing advice, engaging in activities or providing resources to help in one way or the other.



Enabling is an action – or the lack thereof – that causes an addict to continue to need and access the abused substance. This can be deliberate or unintentional.


Unintentional Enabling

Many of times, people are enabling where they actually intend to provide support. Here are some examples:

  • Providing the addicted individual with cash
  • Continually getting the addicted person out of unfavourable situations that are a direct result of their addiction
  • Complaining, criticizing or being judgmental
  • Pushing the addicted individual out to get help or ceasing support without the right explanation


Deliberate Enabling

This is where you feel that you have little or no option so you enable your loved one’s addiction.

  • Alcohol addicts have a way of blackmailing loved ones into enabling their drinking. Usually, you are accused of not caring enough about their pain.
  • You may have tried to get the addicted individual into treatment on several occasions without success so you enable their addiction to ease their pain.

The tricky thing with unintentional enabling is that you may not know how your actions will influence the addicted individual until you have acted. Most times, it depends on the intentions and personality of the addicted individual.

In general, here are some ways to support without enabling:



Have a tough, honest but loving conversation with the addicted individual. Let them know how their addiction is affecting both parties. Don’t be harsh, judgmental or condescending. Focus on the addiction and its practical adverse effects.

Be sure to have this conversation only when the addicted person is completely sober.


Be Wise With Cash

When you must provide financial support, do it wisely. Instead of giving the addicted individual money to solve a problem, solve the problem yourself. However, be on the watch to see if your actions will make the addicted individual even less responsible.

Draw a line, make rules and stick to them. It may be time to withdraw financial support if the addicted individual’s damaging actions persist.


Focus On Your Relationship

Build or strengthen your relationship with the addicted individual. Spend more time together doing things they love. Be there for them, make them feel valuable. Listen when they talk, give advice when it’s right (always do proper research on their situation).

Build a relationship that the addicted individual will think is worth more than the gratification from their addiction.

Providing the right kind of support to an addicted loved one is tough. There are no clear lines and you can get frustrated when your best intentions are not yielding results. It is always better to enlist the help of professionals who can provide support and advice to you as well as to your loved one.


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