To Family and Friends: Learn to Love Without Enabling

For the family and friends of an addict, it is often difficult to distinguish between loving and caring for your loved one versus enabling their harmful behavior. It is safe to say no one wishes to encourage their loved one’s destructive addiction, however choosing recovery and wholeness sometimes demands tough love. Loving your family member or friend with the long-term view of healing in mind makes it easier to say “no” to their requests granting merely their short-term satisfaction.

First, it is essential that every supporting member (whether they are a family member or friend) is on the same page. This means having good communication of goals, boundaries, and being open about personal struggles is essential to the wellness of their loved one. Further, forming a united front determined to love and support and not enable is crucial to their ultimate success. Recognize that recovery cannot be possible without the committed support of a loving community of family and friends.

Second, it is important to stay educated about addiction as well as the process of recovery. Knowing what is going on physically, psychologically, and behaviorally throughout the process will allow you to know how to address different difficulties and obstacles throughout this journey. Know that you are not alone. Many have gone before you and have walked this difficult road. Therefore, take advantage of the vast amount of resources that have come from those who understand exactly what you are going through.

Recognize saying “no” or disappointing your loved one in the moment is ultimately loving them in the long run. Learn to see manipulative behaviors for what they are and resolve to give a little tough love. In the end, you will be happy you chose to focus on their long-term recovery rather than their short-term “needs”. They will ultimately thank you for it!

Finally, do not be afraid to seek help throughout this difficult process. Family therapy has proved to be incredibly helpful for family members and friends of those recovering from addiction. You are an essential part of their journey, and admitting you are struggling is not weakness. When you are healthy and thriving, you are better equipped to be present in their recovery. Demonstrating care for your own health sets a great example for others!

“Tough love may be tough to give, but it is a necessity of life and assurance of positive growth.” – T.F. Hodge