Empowering VS Enabling: Which Side Are You On?



As families and friends of someone dealing with substance or behavioral addiction you may feel that you are at your wits’ end trying to figure out how you should behave towards the addict. At times, you may even bicker among yourselves how you should let the addicts be or impose stricter rules. Either way, you are all coming from the same place of concern and love for the addicts.


At times, you teeter-totter between trying to do the right thing to make the addicts recover and finding it difficult to see the addicts sad and suffering. So where do you draw the line?

What’s Wrong with Wanting to Help

It pains us to see our loved ones suffer. And when they get into financial troubles or brush with the law, it is very tempting to bail them out. When they fail to pay the rent, we cover it for them so they would keep their home or that they will become comfortable. But the problem with addicts is when they can see that you are there for them, they are more likely to exploit you.

The best thing to do is to set limits on the amount of financial help you will provide them, as well as the kinds of help that you will give. It’s hard but not helping them is actually what is helping them.

Setting Rules

You have to understand that you are dealing with addicts who are being controlled by their own compulsions. You have to set clear-cut rules and stand firmly by them to prevent yourself from enabling.

You also have to learn the ways addicts may manipulate you to get what they want so you have to strictly enforce your rules. Addicts want what they want when they want it–and more often than not, they want it right now. This unhealthy tendency and disregard for rules is what you need to combat so you better stick to your guns.

Empowering the Addict is Hard

When the addicts are happy with your decision, chances are you are enabling them. It is when they are having a hard time with you that you are actually empowering them. This is because you are going against what has become their norm and their compulsions.

If you want to empower the addicts in your lives, expect the best for them. Set them up for great things and right decisions. Don’t settle for weak or illogical excuses, or for manipulations.

Keep a high standard and if they cannot meet it, then offer them help. You may find them getting angry, frustrated, or depressed but with the right support, you are helping them to be the best that they can be.

If you or a family member is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to call or text us:

+63 915 645 2703 / +63 917 509 8826

2 Responses to “Empowering VS Enabling: Which Side Are You On?”

  • carolraymond / / Reply

    It’s always been a struggle for me and my husband dealing with our daughter’s opiate and heroin addiction. There seems to be a fine line between helping and hurting. Every time we think we are beyond being manipulated or sucked into enabling her, we find ourselves tottering on the edge. I love the criteria that you note in order to determine enabling versus empowering: the addicts reaction to our decisions. This is very helpful.

  • Why You Should Stop Enabling « Bridging Hope for Recovery / / Reply

    […] many past posts, we have written about how to draw the line between enabling and empowering and how families can help their loved ones who are in recovery. Addiction and recovery can be a […]

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