If your loved one has struggled with substance addiction, then you may have heard the term “enabling” or being an “enabler.” 

  • Enabling is defined as doing things for an individual with a substance use disorder that they normally could do for themselves if they were sober. 
  • The term also includes making excuses for your loved one or protecting them from the consequences of their substance use. 

It’s important to understand that enabling is most definitely a misguided practice. In many instances, it’s born out of the best intentions, causing you to think you’re actually helping. 

However, it’s essential to learn how to stop enabling your addicted loved one to help facilitate their actual recovery. That’s why learning the difference between enabling and helping is an important step.1  

With that said, it’s common for us to wonder how to love an addict and truly help them without enabling dysfunctional, addictive behavior — and that’s what this article will explore. 

Once someone can recognize that they’re functioning as an enabler, they can explore practical techniques on how to stop enabling and begin working with their loved one as they work toward true sustained sobriety.

Are Healthy Relationships Possible with Addicts?

Oftentimes, while trying to help your loved one, you may actually be making their situation worse by enabling their addictive behaviors, such as giving them money that they will use to purchase more drugs or making excuses when they fail to meet their personal obligations. 

Maintaining a healthy relationship with your addicted loved one requires that you offer them help but avoid enabling.2

  • This means being there for them emotionally if they need guidance or support but holding them accountable for their personal decisions and daily behaviors. 

This may seem like a balancing act because it most certainly is. But setting boundaries and expectations with your loved one is the best way to establish a relationship that is healthy and supportive.

How to Love an Addict: The End of Enabling & the Start of Setting Boundaries

At this point, you may have realized that you’ve been enabling your loved one and are wondering how to change the dynamic in your relationship. In a way, learning to stop enabling your loved one’s drug or alcohol use can be extremely empowering. 

That’s why it’s helpful to remember that you can’t change other people, but you can change your personal behaviors and the way you react toward those individuals. 

If you’re worried you may have been enabling your loved one’s addiction, change is possible. You can help your loved one without making it easier for them to continue abusing drugs or alcohol by discussing your concerns with them and altering the way you respond to their addictive impulses and maladaptive behavioral patterns. 

This begins to set the tone that they are solely responsible for their addictive behaviors and will be forced to deal with all consequences associated with their substance use disorder.3

How to Love an Addict by Setting Boundaries

The reality is most people enable another’s addiction in an attempt to meet their own needs. They desire attention, stability or love. 

But, over time, their perceptions, reactions, and even their emotional needs become warped because of the damage and distortion of the disease of addiction. 

A few techniques you can implement to set appropriate boundaries with your addicted loved one include:

  • Stop immediately bailing them out 

Right now, stop covering them monetarily. That means they need to be responsible for paying their bills, buying gas for their car, covering their own expenses and managing their own financial obligations. 

If they can afford to perpetuate their addictive behaviors they can find a way to cover all other expenses and obligations in their life. It’s called personal responsibility for a reason.

  • Stop covering up for their addictive behaviors 

Whether it’s lying to their employer to cover for their substance use or making excuses to family and friends to avoid your addicted loved one getting into trouble of some sort, covering for their addictive behaviors is helping no one. 

Their addiction may be negatively impacting other areas of their life and they need to feel those consequences to begin learning from the mistakes.  

  • Stop doing things they’re capable of doing themself 

Your loved one is capable of researching job openings and local community-support groups. They can buy their own groceries and clean their own clothes. A major part of a successful recovery is achieving self-efficacy and sustained self-reliance. 

Encouraging your loved one to conquer the daily tasks on their own works to build their self-confidence and helps them take necessary steps forward on their personal recovery journey.4

How to Guide a Loved One Toward Recovery

To help your loved one overcome their addiction and actually start their recovery, you must first begin by holding them accountable for their unhealthy behaviors. 

By creating a situation in which you can communicate openly and honestly with your loved one, you start to lay the foundation of trust and respect in your relationship. 

This helps them process the fact that when you stop enabling their behaviors, you’re not abandoning them; you’re helping them become self-reliant. This trait will serve them well as they begin their recovery journey and better prepare them to stay the course throughout the entire recovery process.

Holistic Addiction Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery

You can exhaust every avenue and resource to help your loved one quit abusing and get clean. Ultimately, their recovery must start with them recognizing they have a problem and wanting to get better. 

Breaking an enabling cycle could be the exact thing your loved one needs to wake up and realize it’s time to get help.

Offering an alternative to the traditional 12-Step program, Ranch Creek Recovery offers a variety of all-encompassing, holistic in-patient treatment services. Your loved one’s situation is unique; their treatment must be customized to fit their individual recovery needs. 

We also offer family therapy programs for addiction recovery that can help family members who may be enablers and the person in recovery have clear communication and set healthy, effective boundaries.

Learn more about Ranch Creek Recovery, including what we offer and what we treat.

Have questions? We’re here to help in any way we can. Contact us today. 


CALL NOW: (877) 997-8931



1 Psychology Today. Stop Enabling Your Addicted Adult Child. Accessed July 30, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/liking-the-child-you-love/201411/stop-Enabling-your-addicted-adult-child.   

2 Very Well Mind. How to Know When You’re Enabling Addiction. Accessed July 30, 2021. https://www.verywellmind.com/enabling-alcoholic-is-not-helping-63297.

3 Harvard Health. When a loved one is addicted to opiates. Accessed July 30, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/loved-one-addicted-opiates-2017041911375.

4 Healthline. What Is an Enabler? 11 Ways to Recognize One. Accessed July 30, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/enabler.