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Are You Enabling Your Loved One’s Addiction?

Enabling is a loaded word in the recovery world. We never want to enable another’s addictive behaviors, or let someone enable us. We don’t “cosign” someone else’s “stuff” so that we don’t enable them to continue acting in a way that is harmful to them. Enabling someone’s addiction means giving them the authority to do whatever they please. It might mean that we enable them to lie, to cheat, to steal, to continue using or to hurt us and others that they love. Out of the goodness of our hearts, we do everything we can to stop them from suffering. We see how much they suffer as it is and we know we can do our part to prevent it from happening anymore. As if their addiction were our own experience, we became a part of the sickness.


Maia Szalavitz, a leading author and expert on addiction, wrote for Vice that “there is no reliable research support for codependence and related concepts.” She argues that everything we commonly believe about codependency and enabling a loved one’s addictions is wrong. There are enabling behaviors which are positive and enabling behaviors which are negative. For example, continuing to buy a loved one heroin so they don’t get “dope sick” and enter withdrawals is negative enabling. However, Maia argues, providing clean needles, safe housing, or treating an overdose with Naloxone is not negative enabling. These behaviors are considered harm reduction practices which many governments are fighting to adopt. Research has found that such practices actually increase an addict’s chance of seeking recovery, rather than encourage them to keep using.

Showing love and support to someone is not necessarily enabling but being a human. “Love the addict, hate the addiction” is a popular saying for the loved ones of those with addiction. Showing love and support for someone who is sick and struggling is an honest practice in separating the addict from the addiction and letting someone know they are cared for.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and are ready to seek treatment, call Harmony Place today for a private consultation and more information on our residential treatment programs at 1-855-652-9048.