How to Stop Enabling Your Addicted Loved One

How to Stop Enabling Your Addicted Loved One

stop enabling your addicted loved one

When your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is natural for you to want to help them. You see them struggling, often being challenged with even the simplest of everyday tasks. While helping may seem a positive thing for you to do, when the help crosses the line into enabling it can have negative consequences for you and your loved one. Knowing how to stop enabling your addicted loved one is important for a successful recovery for everyone.

What is Enabling?

When you are trying to help your loved one, you may do things that actually end up supporting their addiction. Enabling behaviors are those that, in the end, support your addicted loved one’s substance use. Most people don’t do this intentionally and, in fact, may not even realize that they are enabling.

By not allowing your loved one to accept the consequences for their own actions, or inactions, you provide a cushion for them every time they stumble and that doesn’t help anyone. When they don’t fully see or experience the impact of their addiction, it will be even more difficult for them to recognize that they need help.

Enabling Behaviors

Some of the typical behaviors you might exhibit when you are enabling your addicted loved one include:

  • Justifying their actions to others, agreeing with their rationalizations. You may support their decision to drink, for example, because they have a stressful job.
  • Denying that your loved one has a problem or is not able to control their substance use. You may even accept the blame for their use.
  • Avoiding the problem, trying to keep the peace.
  • Protecting your loved one’s image with friends, co-workers, and family members.
  • Minimizing the situation, saying to yourself and others that your loved one’s substance use is not that bad. You may justify their behavior, saying when they get a better job, for example, they won’t drink as much.

What You Should Not Be Doing

Recognizing that you have been enabling your addicted loved one is a positive first step. Learning how to stop enabling can be empowering for you and can be the beginning of the process of recognition and treatment for your loved one. Keep in mind that you can’t necessarily change someone else’s behavior, but you can change your attitude toward them, and you can change your own behavior.

To stop enabling, you must stop:

  • Making excuses for them
  • Taking over their responsibilities
  • Doing things that allow their behavior to continue
  • Giving them money
  • Saving them from the legal consequences of their substance use.

If you are paying your loved one’s bills because they can’t keep a job or are not taking responsibility for their own debts, you are enabling their behavior. It can also put a financial burden on you and your family to continue to cover their expenses. As difficult as it may, you should stop paying their bills and stop bailing them out of dire financial situations.

Likewise, you will need to stop making excuses for your loved one. If they are not able to go to work or to hold a job because of their substance use, you should not be making up stories for their employer, co-workers, or friends. If your loved one loses a job and cannot pay the bills, that may just be the wake up call they need to recognize the impact of their addictive behaviors.

What You Can Do

Explain and hold firm to boundaries with your addicted loved one. You will need to detach to some degree, to let go of your loved one’s substance use, so you can look at the situation objectively. Tell your loved one what you will and will not be able to do going forward. For example, you will not pay their bills or take over their chores for them. The most important thing you can do to stop enabling your addictive loved one is to let them deal with the consequences of their behavior.

Tell them that what you will do for them, however, is to support their recovery efforts. You cannot force them to seek treatment but when they do, be there for them. Encourage them to participate actively in their treatment program and to follow up with support group meetings.


At Sober Austin, we want your loved one to find the resources they need to overcome their addiction and move forward with a successful recovery. We also understand that life can be even more challenging during the coronavirus pandemic. The dangers of denial are greater, though, so it’s important for your loved one to know when it’s time to get help and how to get that help for their addiction. Browse our site to learn more about finding support in Austin. Please feel free to contact us directly by calling (512) 522-7135 or emailing