Having a friend or loved one who deals with an addiction of some kind is difficult. It’s frighteningly common, as 19.7 million Americans battled a substance disorder of some kind in 2017 alone. You may want to help them break free from it, but you do not want to hurt or upset them in the process.

At the same time, if you are too soft and defend your colleague’s actions too much, you may find that their addiction is not improving at all. In fact, you might find that their addiction is becoming worse and their actions may lead to worse consequences, not only for the addict in question, but for you and other friends.

But how can you find the balance, and how can you see whether you are helping or actually enabling your friend’s addiction?

Excuses, Excuses

One of the worst things you can allow is for your alcoholic friend to make excuses; or even worse, make excuses for them. If you simply accept that they are still feeding into their addiction while they tell you they are “trying their best”, you are letting them give in to their weaknesses and not encouraging them to get stronger or try harder.

Making excuses for them is even worse—you are essentially telling them that their addiction is okay and that you support it. It only reinforces their addiction, rather than help you break them away from it.

When helping someone break free from an addiction, you will more than likely argue with them and upset them when you are helping them. But to help with their recovery, you may have to accept the possibility of doing so and ultimately help them in the end.

Feeding and Providing for an Addiction

It’s one thing to allow a friend or family member to feed into their own addictions by allowing them to continue buying drugs and alcohol with little to no intervention, but have you ever helped them and bought the products of their addiction for them?

It’s easy to feel bad for your friend dealing with withdrawal from an addiction and want to help them buy just one bottle or pack for them. Doing this will only enable them. You have to be willing to break them from their addiction, even if it means watching them through difficult times.

Rather than fueling their addiction, however, consider acting more as emotional support for your friend, helping them through recovery, or distracting them with other activities.

Ignoring Your Own Needs

One common trait of a person who is enabling their friend or family fighting an addiction is how little they take care of themselves compared to the victim. They may often be self-sacrificing, not worrying about their safety or health so they can assist the victim.

The saying “Before you help others, you must first help yourself” is quite applicable here, as you cannot expect for one broken and hurt individual to be able to fully help another. Keep yourself in good health, watch your emotional health, and know your limits.

You may find that a healthier you could help a broken friend or family member fight an addiction much more efficiently.

If you are having trouble helping a friend or loved one through an addiction, consider contacting your local Tennessee alcohol or drug addiction program, or read into Discovery Place’s own recovery programs in Burns, Tennessee. You can also reach us at 1-800-725-0922.


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