When Friends Enable an Addicted Individual
Healthy relationships should be trusting and mutually beneficial, but sometimes, there is a fine line between enabling and being a supportive friend. If your close friend is struggling with addiction, you may think you are helping by trying to ignore their problems and pretend nothing is wrong, but in doing so, you are actively hindering their progress. Here’s how friends enable.
How Friends Enable
Enabling is anything that allows problematic behavior to continue. When you provide any form of support that allows your loved one’s behavior to worsen, you have become an enabler. Most enablers aren’t intentionally malicious or toxic people; they just aren’t assertive enough to set and enforce reasonable boundaries.
Though the ways in which friends enable can take many forms, some of the most common examples include the following.
- Making excuses for someone: Addiction is an illness characterized by risky and self-destructive behavior like lying or stealing. You could enable your friend by covering up for them or apologizing on their behalf, shielding them from any real repercussions.
- Hiding evidence: Your friend may experience blackouts during which they do not remember anything they did or said. Quietly fixing anything they break or moving them into bed when they pass out are types of enabling behavior.
- Lending them money: If your friend has spent too much money on drugs and alcohol and is now in financial trouble, you are enabling if you offer to cover their bills or buy substances for them.
- Pretending everything is OK: Trying to ignore the harm a friend’s addiction has done is dangerous because it allows them to continue living in denial.
How to Stop Being an Enabler
In some cases, a crisis like a DUI or an overdose is the epiphany someone needs to confront the reality of their illness. Enabling a friend may include helping them avoid these harmful consequences, perpetuating the fiction that their addiction is “under control.”
Speaking up and telling a loved one they have a problem may seem like a challenging thing to do because it requires you to confront the fact that you’ve played a role in worsening a friend’s illness. However, consider the damage you are doing in continuing to turn a blind eye to their harmful behavior – and the lifelong regrets you might have in the future if you don’t try to make a positive difference today.
You Have the Power to Change Your Friend’s Life
There is no cure for substance use disorders, but with therapy and support, your friend can learn to manage their disease and prevent a relapse. Rather than continuing to enable, you can be the catalyst that encourages them to take the first steps on their recovery journey.
Many people with a drug or alcohol problem claim it isn’t the “right time” to get help, or that they can solve the problem on their own. During a remote consultation, one of our trained interventionists will teach you to overcome these objections and make a convincing case for seeking professional addiction treatment. Our team will equip you with the tools you need to effectively communicate and establish boundaries with a close friend who refuses to seek treatment for their addiction. Reach out to us to schedule your same-day or next-day appointment.