Enabling vs. Helping a Loved One

It can be difficult to watch a family member struggle with substance abuse. While substance abuse is a serious and life-threatening disease, we sometimes don’t want to admit or accept that they have a problem. It can be easy to sweep the issue under the rug or make excuses for their behavior. But ultimately, we are harming them even more when we do so. It is also natural to want to help a loved one struggling with substance abuse. We “help” by taking actions that bail them out of discomfort, instead of pushing them towards a healthy solution. Oftentimes, when we try to help, we are actually worsening the situation by enabling.

Since enabling behaviors can often look like helping behaviors, it’s important to understand the difference between enabling and helping. Enabling is when we do something for a loved one that while well-meaning, may allow them to remain in their substance abuse and unhealthy behavior longer. When we enable, we are allowing them to continue self-destructive behaviors by often hiding their problems entirely. Contrarily, when you help a person with substance abuse, you are giving them an opportunity to get healthy and supporting them in that process. An example of enabling is making excuses for a loved one after they get a DUI, or justifying their substance abuse and bad behavior. An example of helping is providing love, and supporting someone in getting sober through a structured recovery program.

Below are five ways to help a loved one struggling with substance abuse, instead of enabling.

Infographic showing enabling behaviors on the left side with an arrow pointing to helping behaviors on the right side.

You can also help a loved one through empowerment. Encourage and empower them to find recovery by:

  • Connecting them with effective addiction professionals
  • Connecting them with a structured and positive peer support system

At New Life House, we provide the support and guidance to help young men become happy, independent adults. With our healthy structure, unparalleled life skills support, one of the largest young adult recovery communities in the nation, and an immense focus on family, we help young men, and their family members, find long-lasting success in recovery. To learn more about our community, visit our website or contact us today.


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    Call Us Now: (888) 357-7577