How to Quit Enabling Substance Use Disorders

Someone who is dearly loved can fall deep into harmful substance use behaviors. Enabling their behavior only makes it worse. It is hard to identify the signs of enabling behavior because it seems closely related to “helping” them figure things out or alleviating discomfort. Spending lots of time and energy on a loved one like this is only going to end in heartache. Eventually, it ends up with the person resenting the entire process and feeling stuck in the cycle with the loved suffering from a substance abuse disorder. Find some tips on how to identify what is going on and how to quit enabling behaviors for good.


Defining Enabling Behavior

Enabling is complicated. Most people don’t even realize they are engaging in enabling behavior. The line is an essential one to draw, and it is vital people understand the ways enabling behavior can keep everyone locked inside a substance use disorder. Enabling occurs when a behavior keeps someone from experiencing consequences or the truth of their behavior, and they may not ever experience the pain of their reality. Some common ways people enable loved ones with substance use disorders include:

  • Secretive behavior, sneaking substances to them or “covering” for them.

  • Making ultimatums but not following-through with any consequences.

  • Providing care-taking for a person with a substance use disorder when their ability to provide self-care is impaired.

  • Ignoring or dismissing undesirable or dangerous behavior.

  • Prioritizing their needs above those of others in the family possibly creating conflict.

  • Bailing that person out of jail, financial trouble, or any bind that they could correct themselves.

The enabling behavior continues because they love them so much, but love is not enough to fix the challenges. Those with substance use disorders who struggle must be accountable for their choices if they want to change. It may be a hard lesson to learn for both the enabler and the person dealing with addiction, but responsibility for self shouldn’t be compromised.


Enabling From Fear

One of the key ways people continue to enable is from fear. They worry if they don’t care for their loved ones, something bad will happen. A caring mother may offer a home to the child because it seems safer than living on the streets. Fear is not a good motivator for loved ones of those with a substance use disorder. Many loved ones want to shield the person from pain rather than let them face harsh consequences. They don’t realize it also encourages them to continue doing what they’re doing. It proves to the person with substance use disorder that this way of living is acceptable and encourages them to manipulate others to get what they want.


Become Educated

The more a person learns about substance use disorders, the better they become at dealing with it. The more objective the person can be in support of a loved one, the better off they will be. There are many myths surrounding substance use disorders, including that helping them is healing. They are not going to help if they are enabled to keep using substances or drinking. Education means learning the true nature of substances and alcohol and how it affects everyone. Recovery is beneficial when family and loved ones are all involved in the process. Every person plays a role in reinforcing substance use behavior. Recovery is more beneficial when everyone knows how to play a part in doing better.


Seek Support

Don’t try to help the loved one alone. Peer support groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and others provide resources for loved ones struggling with substance use disorders. The meetings are helpful, and they provide support for those who need it most. Participation is not required all the time, but people can show up as they please and feel supported. Talking about the issues can help find solutions they may not have thought about and find healing for their issues, along with a loved one’s substance use disorder.


Create Space Financially

One way that families often enable loved ones is by taking care of them financially. They may pay their bills for them, give them credit cards to use, or offer bank account information. There is a good chance a loved one is taking advantage of this opportunity. Consider ways to stop the financial issues in their tracks. Set limits by refusing to bail them out of consequences, require rent payments, and limit the money you give your loved one. Don’t freely give if it is funding drugs or alcohol, because this keeps them in the cycle. Cutting them off helps them feel the consequences and forces them to try and seek other means of getting help.


Seek Help

Interventions, treatment programs, and family support groups are key to healing. An intervention most often is successful when set up by a professional. Every person needs to participate that is impacted by the substance use behavior to be effective. Be sure to be ready for whatever outcome arises. They will not quit until they are ready to quit, but the support of loved ones in a healthy way is essential to the journey of recovery.


Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their own values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 1-844-955-1066.

(844) 955-1066

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey LinkedIn Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon
  • Grey YouTube Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon

© Copyright 2019 The Foundry, LLC - All Rights Reserved