The Difference Between Helping vs Enabling – Goals 1 & 2 of a Successful Intervention

The Difference Between Helping vs Enabling - Goals of a Successful Intervention

If you’re a family member of a loved one who is struggling with addiction, it can be difficult to tell the difference between helping vs enabling their problem. 

There are seven primary goals of a successful intervention, and each one involves developing and encouraging healthy interactions between the patient and their family members. These goals are so important because family members often think they are doing everything in their power to help their loved ones overcome addiction. Still, in reality, they may actually be making things harder.

Let’s look at the difference between helping vs enabling as they relate to the first two goals of a successful intervention. Please use this ongoing series as a guide to rooting out your enabling behaviors so the whole family can focus on coming together in a healthy way.

Goal 1: Empowering and Educating the Family About Helping vs Enabling

Do you ever handle tasks or situations for your loved one because you fear they wouldn’t be able to solve the problems alone? Chances are, you have done this at least once. When you love someone, you don’t want to watch their life fall into ruin. It’s easy to rationalize that, if they were sober, your family member would be on their feet and able to face the challenges of daily life without help, so why not offer a helping hand while they are in need?

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You may cover for their absences, tell small lies for them, or make excuses. Or, perhaps it seems harmless at the moment for you to take over their finances, just until things start to look up. Some people even go so far as to bail their family member out of legal trouble, or worse.

The problem with this mentality is that it enables your loved one to escape the consequences of their addiction and continue as they have been, without facing the harsh realities that may serve as a wake-up call. This paves the way and makes it easier for the person to continue with the addiction rather than taking the harder path toward recovery.

Goal 2: Removing Enabling Behaviors That Are Contributing to Or Allowing the Addiction to Continue

No one is asking you to stop helping your loved one. You can still feel free to offer emotional support and guidance toward healthy behaviors. However, when you recognize yourself stepping over the line into enabling rather than helping, that’s a sign that you need to pull back and stop protecting them from consequences.

For example, if your loved one asks you to cover rent for a month when they come up short, that is a perfect opportunity to transform your enabling behavior into a helpful response. Instead of saying yes and allowing them to fall back on you as a safety net that protects them from the addiction, it is more beneficial for their long-term health if you refuse.

It may be easier for you to enforce these new boundaries if you come up with a list of ways to help your loved one without being an enabler. Continuing the above example, you could provide assistance developing a monthly budget or offer to look over resumes and applications for new jobs.

These solutions encourage your loved one to take healthy steps in the right direction. It is tempting to take over responsibilities when it seems your loved one can’t handle them on their own. It’s even harder to remove enabling behaviors when you know they can’t function without you as a safety net. For example, the rent may not get paid this month. Or perhaps your loved one will wind up in a living situation you are not comfortable with. As long as the situation is not dangerous, it is okay, even helpful, to let them experience these consequences.

If you fear your loved one may be in real danger, however, it’s imperative to get help from an addiction therapy services center.

Beyond Helping vs Enabling, Get Treatment for Your Loved One

Knowing the difference between helping vs enabling is valuable, yet your loved one may require professional help recover from addiction. At Clear Life Recovery, we know how challenging it is to support a loved one through addiction recovery. The best place to start is by reaching out for help. Contact us today to learn about our addiction treatment programs and services. 

About Benjamin Hogan

Over the years, Benjamin has held positions in many different areas of alcohol and drug addiction services all over the country. He made a name for himself as an interventionist and has held certification as a Certified National Drug and Alcohol Interventionist (CNDAI-II). Benjamin specializes in helping support families of people struggling with addiction by focusing on education and instilling healthy boundaries to ensure lasting changes. Addiction is a progressive disease, but using an evidence-based approach, an intervention, when done correctly, can help to increase the willingness of a loved one to seek sobriety faster.

"In my experience, by helping families make necessary changes, they not only get their lives back, but they also help change the mind of their loved one more quickly. In an intervention, family and other loved ones take a proactive approach, instead of waiting and being stuck between fear and (false) hope. I realized in my own recovery, that when my family changed, I had to change in response. That is where I found sobriety. This is why I believe in what I do!"