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How to Support, Not Enable Your Addicted Loved One

It can be devastating to watch a loved one struggle with addiction. It’s painful, personal, and brings feelings of helplessness, anger, fear, and hurt. You want to do everything in your power to help them get well. But when it comes to addiction, there’s a fine line between helping and enabling your loved one. Friends, family members, and loved ones need to learn how to support not enable an addicted loved one. It can be a challenge. Fortunately, The Ranch PA has deep experience in this area and can provide the necessary family therapy and information.

Why You Can’t ‘Love’ an Addict Into Sobriety

Though your intentions are in the right place, some of the ways you may think you’re helping your loved one could be keeping them stuck in their addiction. Many of us try to “love” the addict well. We think if we can just give them what they ask for and prove our love for them, they’ll stop abusing drugs or alcohol. We think we’re helping them by giving them money, paying their bills, giving them a place to live, helping them get out of various “jams” and other well-intentioned efforts. The truth is, if you could “love” your loved one well, they’d be well.  A tough reality to accept is that all of the energy you’re putting into trying to protect them and “loving them sober,” could be doing more harm than good. Often, it’s not until addicts feel the repercussions of their behaviors and understand how they’re impacting their loved ones that they are motivated to get well. Think about it. If someone is always around to clean up your messes, why would you be motivated to change? Studies have shown that people are usually motivated to stop abusing substances when the negatives of their addiction outweigh the positives.

Healthy Ways to Support Not Enable an Addicted Loved One

Though it might be difficult, there’s something to be said for “tough love.” When you hold your loved one accountable, you’re helping them. Some ways to set healthy boundaries include:

  • Don’t Make Excuses: If your loved one misses work, school, or personal obligations, don’t make excuses for them. They need to address the questions and consequences that result from these absences. If they don’t feel the unpleasant outcomes that result from their drug or alcohol use, why would they want to stop their behavior?
  • Set Boundaries: Set firm, healthy boundaries, and maintain them. Decide for yourself which of your loved one’s behaviors are unacceptable. It’s useful to write these down and have your loved one read and sign the document (when they are sober). Don’t waiver in your boundaries. If you go back on the rules you’ve set, it will take longer to gain any ground you’ve made.
  • Help Yourself: Addiction is a disease of the family. Everyone must recover in their way. A big part of this is getting help and support for yourself. Seek out support groups created for loved ones of addicted individuals. You may also consider seeing a mental health counselor. Additionally, don’t let self-care practices fall by the wayside. Exercise, yoga, proper nutrition, activities, and hobbies can do wonders for your mental and physical health.
  • Be Vocal: Holding healthy boundaries doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t empathize. Let them know you love them and want to help them get better. Let them know the boundaries you hold are because of your love for them. If they’re actively trying to get sober, some of the ways you can show your support are by driving them to treatment, participating in treatment as requested by their clinicians, visiting them, and working with their treatment team.

How The Ranch PA Can Help

At The Ranch PA, we realize it can be challenging to support not enable an addicted loved one. For this reason, we offer our clients a comprehensive family therapy program. Here individuals can confront their issues, work through them, and find support. Whether it is couples or spouses, parents to children, children to parents, or siblings, family therapy teaches the technique to support not enable an addicted loved one. Some other treatment programs we offer include:

These programs, coupled with our numerous therapeutic options, give clients their best chance at a lasting recovery. They can also provide friends, family, and loved ones with the tool necessary to help. To find out more about our programs at The Ranch PA call 717.969.9126.

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