There’s a fine line between helping and enabling; it can sometimes be difficult to know which side of the line you’re on. You have to pay close attention to understand if your well-intentioned behavior supports or harms your loved one’s chances of recovery. Learn about the difference between helping vs enabling.

What Is Helping?

Help means to assist or support someone. It’s an act of kindness. Helping loved ones is for more than just the benefit of those receiving aid. Overwhelming evidence suggests assisting others is a great way to help. There are many ways to help someone in need. You can offer advice, prepare a meal, lend a hand, or simply listen. Helping is undoubtedly positive, but it can sometimes lead to enabling.

So What Is Enabling?

Enabling can look like helping, but it ends up being the opposite. If someone has mental health issues or a drug problem, an enabler will allow them to continue engaging in destructive behavior or habits.

An enabler often has good intentions but supports their loved one’s negative habits, showing them that their harmful actions don’t have consequences. There are many different types of enabling behavior:

  • Taking on their responsibilities for them
  • Providing financial assistance
  • Lying to cover up their mistakes
  • Making excuses for their behavior
  • Joining them in blaming others for their problems
  • Avoiding bringing up issues out of fear
  • Coming to the rescue repeatedly
  • Sacrificing your own needs
  • Not following through on established boundaries

These are some of the ways a person enables negative behavior. No matter what form it takes, enabling doesn’t help. It’s difficult for someone to start helping themselves if they’re being kept unaware of the consequences of their actions.

Empowering vs Enabling

It can be challenging to distinguish between helping and enabling. You are lending a hand to help someone accomplish something they would struggle to do on their own. It’s essential to note the difference so you can empower and not enable. Enabling perpetuates the problem rather than solving it.

Meanwhile, empowering gives a loved one the tools or the confidence to solve the problem themselves. It supports growth and independence. Solving problems for them often makes their situation worse because an enabled person will be less motivated to fix their negative patterns if they keep receiving help that reduces their need to change. Addiction recovery undoubtedly requires support from friends and family. Offering the right support can help them take positive steps in the right direction.

Five Ways to Stop Enabling and Start Helping

If you’re struggling to empower a loved one, here are five expert strategies to help end enabling behavior.

1. Set Boundaries and Stick to Them

Setting clear boundaries has to be your first step when addressing enabling behavior. You should inform your loved one about what kind of behavior you’ll no longer tolerate and be consistent in enforcing those boundaries.

You can tell them you want to keep helping them, but not in ways that enable their negative habits and cycles. Establishing ground rules lets them know what is and what is not acceptable.
If they have a drug addiction, begin setting boundaries by telling them they’re not allowed to use in your home or bring others who use into your home. Whatever boundaries you set are only powerful if you stand by them. You’ll quickly become an enabler if you give up on your chosen boundaries.

2. Confront Them

Avoiding or ignoring their unacceptable behavior is to enable. Talk to them about their negative habits when they’re sober and in a good state of mind instead of sweeping the issues under the rug. Be supportive while being clear about your boundaries and expectations.

3. Get Professional Help

Addiction and destructive patterns can negatively affect an entire family. It can be a minefield to try and help them yourself, so you should do your utmost to lead them toward professional help or a rehab treatment center. You can talk to a therapist if you think your actions enable a loved one.

4. Learn to Say No

Saying “no” to a loved one can be hard, especially if you’re worried about the consequences. Giving a firm “no” can be the spark that empowers them to take positive action. Your “no” is to help them recover instead of enabling them to destroy their lives and those of the people they love. Refusing to enable might be considered tough love, but it’s also a form of self-care.

5. Take Care of Yourself

If you can’t find healthy ways to care for yourself, there’s no way you’ll make someone else’s life better. Take some time to do things you want to do, get support from friends and family, or seek a therapist. Trying to help someone stuck in destructive patterns can be exhausting, so find ways to take care of your own well-being.

Helping vs Enabling: Know The Difference

Caring for someone with a mental health or drug problem is difficult. Yet, knowing the difference between helping vs enabling can be instrumental in ensuring your loved one is empowered to solve their problems and fix their negative behavior. Get in touch with us today to learn more about dealing with mental health and addiction.