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Loving an addict - Enabling addiction

At our addiction treatment centre, we regularly meet families of patients who are struggling to stay behind the invisible line that separates “supporting” a loved one from “enabling” territory.

The truth is, no one likes to see their loved ones in any pain or distress, and our need to alleviate their discomfort is only natural.

Enabling an addict - drug rehab South Africa

Addiction is a selfish disease that affects the entire family, its effects are never isolated to just the addict.

Often the families of addicts are left with making conflicting decisions, leaving them uncertain about what action to take.


  • Do they allow their loved one the dignity of their own consequences or do they warn them about the possible pending outcomes?
  • Do they hold their loved one accountable for their choices by confronting them? Or do they reluctantly let the decisions and consequences take their course?


What does it mean to enable an addict?

Enablement is what happens when you help your loved one either avoid the consequences of their using drugs or drinking or by helping them, they are put in a position where they are able to make bad decisions.

E.g. Lending money to an addict to pay for personal expenses – after they have spent their own money on drugs.

Could I be co-dependent?

Addiction is the addict’s disease; co-dependency is the family’s disorder.

Co-dependency occurs when the loved ones of an addict becomes preoccupied with the addicted or dysfunctional behaviour of that addict.

Although you may not be the one needing addiction treatment, co-dependency also requires its own recovery in the form of detachment.

We will be discussing co-dependency in detail in our next article.

Why is enabling an addict dangerous?

It may seem as if you are attempting to help your loved one through their addiction struggles and woes, however your kind-hearted gestures and “support” may actually just allow them to continue on their path of self-destruction and further into addiction.

Moreover, enablement sends a dangerous psychological message from the ‘enabler’ to the addict – conveying that there will always be someone there to pick up their pieces whenever they slip up.

How can I stop myself from enabling?

People addicted to substances are often very manipulative and therefore enabling can easily be disguised as helping/supporting.

In times when you may find it difficult to distinguish between the two, the following questions may be used to help find clarity:


  1. If you help your loved one, will it prevent them from taking responsibility for their own actions?
  2. Will helping them allow them to continue use drugs or drink alcohol?
  3. Will it prevent your loved one from facing the consequences of their actions?
  4. Am I making excuses for my loved one’s behaviour to myself or anyone?


Step Away Alcohol and Drug Addiction Rehab South Africa

Often the families influence on their addicted loved one’s life is over-looked or avoided.

Successful addiction rehabilitation not only requires change from the addict but also from the family.

For more information, please contact us.

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