Enabling versus helping

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There has been an ongoing debate about the differences between enabling and helping an addict. When a family is confronted with the situation where a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, their immediate response is often to find ways to fix the problem on an immediate basis. This may mean helping to pay for their loved one’s bills, rent, even paying off debts to drug dealers and liquor stores. Families believe handling these immediate crisis situations for their loved one is helpful. 

Too often, this type of help from family winds up being enabling. The term “enabling” refers to any behavior by the friends or family of a drug user that would allow them to continue to use drugs or alcohol without consequence. This has sparked heated debates about what would be considered enabling and what would be considered helping. In my opinion, anything that would prevent someone from seeking drug or alcohol rehabilitation would be considered enabling. Paying debts, rent, etc., is enabling because it doesn’t allow the person who is addicted to receive any consequences for their choices. If a person believes they can continue their lifestyle with no consequences, there’s often no real reason for them to stop. 

It’s a heavy subject, but I can say this: Helping an addict or alcoholic is cutting out all behaviors that would protect them from the consequences of their choices, however, helping them get treatment wouldn’t be enabling since it’s an attempt at solving the actual issue. Just giving them money doesn’t solve anything. 

I believe the more our community is aware of addiction, the more our community can to do to fight back against it. If I can be of any help to any of our community members, please reach out at 970-484-2023 or visit narconon-colorado.org/blog/loving-an-addict-without-enabling-them.html.  

Jason Good is the deputy executive director of Narconon Colorado. 

This opinion does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.