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As family members and friends, we will often do everything in our power to help a loved one with addiction. More often than not, however, our actions are feeding or further enabling their addiction.
Drug addiction in any form is a complex disease that not only affects the user but their friends and family as well. It is important to understand that there is a difference between enabling and helping someone who is struggling with addiction. Although it may appear as a very fine line at times, crossing the line from helping to enabling can be devastating for all involved (


Assisting the struggling person with something that they are truly unable of doing themselves.

Assisting the struggling person with something that they are truly capable of doing, and by all means should be doing, themselves.

Warning Signs Of Enabling Behavior Toward a Loved One Struggling with Addiction
  • Do you rationalize their irrational behavior?

  • Do you make excuses for them?

  • Do you loan money to them over and over again?

  • Are you surprised when they use the money to get their next fix?

  • Do you end up finishing projects that they never completed?

  • Do you pay their bills?

  • Have you bailed them out of jail?

  • Have you paid their legal fees?

  • Have you ever called in sick to school or work for them?

  • Have you cleaned up their messes?

  • Have you believed their lies?

  • Do you blame yourself in part for their behavior?

  • Have you lied for them?

  • Have you covered up for them to avoid embarrassment?

  • Do you think that you can fix them?

  • Do you give them one more chance--time after time?

  • Do you threaten to leave but then never do?

  • Do you threaten to kick them out, but don't follow through?


It is important to remember that we did not cause their addiction nor can we "fix them." We can, however, change the way we treat them and react to their addiction.

Specific Actions To Stop Enabling Behavior Toward a Loved One Struggling with Addiction
  • Do not lie for them.

  • Do not make excuses for them.

  • Do not loan them money.

  • Do not be their alarm clock.

  • Do not bail them out of jail.

  • Do not pay their bills.

  • Do not be afraid to file a police report for theft, violence, etc.

  • Do not be afraid to obtain a restraining order if necessary.

  • Do not clean up their messes or destruction.

  • Do not participate in arguments.

  • Do not give them an ultimatum if you are not 100% confident that you will stick with it.(

This is not easy and many of us find ourselves "relapsing" back to our enabling behaviors.

But in the end, it just might be the most loving and important thing we can do.

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