How to Avoid Enabling an Addicted Family Member

When somebody is addicted to drugs, they are not the only person who suffers through some of the difficulties associated with addiction. Not only does the addict struggle – all members of their family struggle.

When family members are exposed to addiction, they often adopt a number of roles. These are related to their own emotions and the way that they respond, either consciously or unconsciously, to addiction. Understanding these roles can help you improve your family dynamic to ensure that the struggling drug user gets the help that they need.

Enabling and Family Roles

When most people have a family member who struggles with addiction, their first instinct is to protect that individual. They know that they’re struggling and they want to do everything that they can to ensure that they remain in good health. This often means providing them with shelter, food, and in some cases, money.

While these things are certainly good supports, one must also realize that they’re enabling the addict to continue with their addictive behaviors.

So then, how are you supposed to help your family members without enabling them to continue their addiction? This is one of the most difficult questions that family members must answer.

One of the most realizations that families with addicted members must come to is the reality many struggling drug users must hit rock bottom before they decide to make a change. Rock bottom is different from the person, but the basic essence of rock bottom is that a person reaches such a low point in their life that they have no possibility but to take responsibility for their actions.

When you are enabling a struggling drug user, even if that enabling comes in the form of helpful actions such as providing a safe shelter and money, you’re actually hindering their recovery. Only once an individual has come to terms with their addiction can they commit to their recovery.

Why would somebody want to sober up, if they are living in a comfortable environment where they don’t have to take responsibility for their drug use?

How Do You Support Without Enabling?

Unfortunately, when it comes down to it, some of the things that you might have to do to encourage your loved one to get sober might not seem very supportive. Ultimately you have to learn how to differentiate between helping your loved ones and enabling them.

  • Only assist with actions that support your loved one’s recovery
  • Take time to listen and try to open up a dialogue about the underlying cause of their addiction
  • Don’t make excuses or cover up their behavior
  • Try to encourage them to take responsibility for their actions
  • Using “I-statements” and avoiding confrontation or judgmental words, try to express how their addiction upsets you

Ultimately there are no easy answers to this question. Your best bet would be to connect with a drug or alcohol therapist who can help guide you in the right direction.


One of the biggest struggles faced by the families of addicted individuals is learning how to support them without enabling them. While this is a challenge, it is by no means impossible. Connecting with a rehab company like medical detox centers in San Diego or a counselor can help you move forward in a healthy direction.

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