Skip to main content

One of the hardest experiences a family may ever have to navigate is helping a loved one overcome addiction. The experience often makes us feel isolated, frustrated, fearful, and helpless all at the same time. Often, this is because we don’t have the proper information or tools needed to effectively support our loved one as they heal. This support is also something that is needed to help guide us as we navigate the critical concept of “enabling vs. empowering.”

It can be hard to see our intentions from the inside looking out. When we think we may be helping a loved one get past their addiction, we may actually be making it worse. We may actually be enabling their addiction to continue to manifest and progress. It is critical to address and replace enabling behaviors with behaviors that will empower our loved one’s recovery. The Phoenix Recovery Center can help make this happen.

Understanding the Dangers and Risks of Enabling

When it comes to enabling vs. empowering, the first thing to remember is that no one enables a loved one because they want to harm them. Nothing could be farther from the truth; in fact, the opposite is true.

Enabling happens because we want to do everything in our power to make sure our loved ones are safe. Often when we see what a loved one’s addiction is doing to them we react in enabling ways out of fear. Unfortunately, when someone, even a close loved one or family member, is struggling with substance use disorder (SUD), they can use that fear to manipulate their way into further fueling their addictive needs.

While we will discuss some specific enabling behaviors in a moment, the important thing to remember about enabling is that it is any action that protects a loved one from experiencing the consequences of their addiction. The issue with this is that when this happens, addiction continues to progress. Moreover, without intervention, addiction only progresses in a negative direction.

Understanding the Benefits of Empowering a Struggling Loved One

One positive aspect to remember about enabling is that it is never too late to reframe such behaviors into a state of empowerment. Still, there are probably going to be some difficult times during the transition from enabling to empowering.

When an individual struggling with addiction is empowered, they take responsibility for their own actions. If they have been enabled to avoid this responsibility for some time, this can be hard at the beginning. There could be economic consequences, occupational consequences, and even legal consequences that they must face. However, while these consequences may seem overwhelming at the moment, over time your loved one will see how accepting the consequences of their addiction actually got them closer to much-needed treatment and recovery.

Another aspect to remember is that sometimes dealing with “enabling vs. empowering” is harder on the family member than it is on the loved one that is struggling. Remember, addiction is a “family disease.” This means that the entire family may need to get some form of professional help to fully heal from a loved one’s addiction.

Enabling vs. Empowering: Spotting the Differences

Now that we know the differences between enabling and empowering, the following are a few examples of both. Enabling may look like the following:

  • Allowing a loved one to stay in your home even after they have broken set rules of not using substances or having substances in the house
  • Giving a loved one money to buy substances to avoid them from using illegal means to get them
  • Allowing a loved one access to their children even though they have been told not to use substances around them or before seeing them
  • Taking care of legal fees and fines that they have accrued due to their addiction
  • Paying their bills so they don’t end up without a home or a vehicle

All of these enabling behaviors will always eventually do more harm than good. Now, here are a few examples of how enabling behaviors can be transformed into empowering behaviors:

  • Allowing a loved one to stay in your home only if they follow a set of rules
  • Telling a loved one that you will no longer support them financially unless they get help
  • Making yourself accessible for support, but only after they have chosen a path of recovery
  • Promising to get yourself the help you need from being an affected loved one of SUD if they get the addiction help they need
  • Being there after they complete treatment and transition into long-term recovery

Here at the Phoenix Recovery Center, we believe in empowering our clients as they recover from their addiction struggles. We also believe in empowering the family as members recover from the effects of active addiction interrupting their lives. When these two things happen, then we know we have created the best chances for long-term recovery success.

For more information on how to stop enabling and start empowering, or for help on how to give your loved one the support they need, please call The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT