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When Help Could be Enabling an Addiction

Help without Enabling the Addict

It's the question on the minds of all parents: when is helping not helping? There's a point in life when an addict or alcoholic has to come to terms with the reality of addiction. He or she has only two options: choose to get well or continue on the downward path of drug or alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, the burden of getting help for an addict usually falls on the shoulders of the family. It takes all the strength of the family to persuade, convince, direct, threaten or lure the addict or alcoholic to seek quality addiction treatment.

Drug or alcohol addiction is not a rational disease and there are times when the addict, cushioned by the love of his or her family, will take advantage of the generosity offered by loved ones and squander it. There may be a turning point when offering help to a son, a daughter in the grips of addiction when the help of the family does the exact opposite -- it enables the addict.

To help without enabling the addict, you'd have to treat him or her the same as anyone with a chronic illness. Tell the addict why you continue to support to them but also anchor conditions for them to take steps toward finding help for their substance abuse problem. You wouldn't let your son or daughter suffer from a medical illness like pneumonia but you also wouldn't stand on the sideline if they refused to go the doctor to get better.

The hardest part of this process is when the addict or alcoholic doesn't or refuses to take action. Ultimately, they need to have a willingness to be a part of the solution but the family needs to remain firm and remind the addict that they are standing by when he or she finally decides to get help. Until then, there's no amount of help the family can give without enabling.

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