When someone you love is struggling with addiction, it’s impossible to not want to help in every way possible. Watching someone fight this battle is difficult and painful to watch. As a loved one, you want to do everything in your power to fix it. However, sometimes, when reaching for the easiest and fastest way to fix the problem, it can become enabling and not supporting. There’s a fine line between supporting and enabling, and enabling can be dangerous for both your loved one and yourself. However, there are plenty of ways to support someone struggling with addiction and many ways that will help them to heal.
The Difference Between “Supporting” and “Enabling”
Supporting a person with an addiction means helping them toward recovery and healing. Enabling them can mean helping them to maintain their addiction – most commonly it’s not intentional or direct. Instead many people find themself indirectly enabling a loved one. Although enabling can be an easy fix for the problem, it always ends up doing more harm than good.
As a general question when helping your loved one with an addiction, ask yourself: “Is this decision going to support their recovery and healing, or is it going to support their addiction?” This question should give you a clearer picture of the best way to show them you love them, not just the easiest or fastest way to solve the problem.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
One of the hardest parts of loving a person with an addiction is setting boundaries with them. Boundaries can be difficult, both to determine and to maintain. When you love someone, it’s difficult to maintain boundaries that might hurt both the person and you. It’s important to remind yourself that the goal of these boundaries is to help your loved one in the long run, even if it might hurt in the beginning.
According to The Sober World, there are two questions you should ask yourself when deciding on what boundaries to set with a loved one dealing with addiction: 
- What is the most loving thing I can do for the person I care about?
- What is the most self-respecting thing I can do for myself?
Reminding yourself that these boundaries are being set out of love, and not out of resentment or anger, is always a helpful way to stay firm in your boundaries. Some examples of boundaries that can be set with a loved one struggling with addiction are, but certainly not limited to:
- Acknowledging dangerous and harmful behavior
- Refusing to pay your loved one’s bail, debts, rent, etc.
- Refusing to lie or make excuses on their behalf to family, friends, employers, etc.
- Keeping distance between yourself and your loved one in order to give them space to recover
The last one can often be the hardest because no one wants to put distance between themselves and a loved one. However, sometimes this can be the best thing for someone with an addiction. When they know their loved ones will not be around them out of hurt from watching their addiction for too long, they are often faced with the severity and harm of their addiction and are encouraged to get help.
Understanding How to Support Someone Struggling with Addiction
Although it’s easy to confuse enabling with supporting, there are plenty of concrete ways to support your loved one if they are struggling with addiction. 
1. Ask them how you can help.
This one seems simple, but it’s often easy to dance around the subject of addiction and to avoid talking about it with your loved one. However, like most issues, addiction is best faced by being addressed head-on. Find a time when your loved one will be sober, and ask them what they would consider the best way for you to help them.
Ask them whether they’d prefer you to call and check up on them daily, or to give them space. See if they would be willing for you to find them a place to get treatment, or would they want to find a place on their own. Being involved in the recovery process, without others making decisions for them, can be seen as supportive.
2. Come to them out of love, and not judgment.
The easiest way to make someone with addiction feel isolated and alone is to talk to them from a place of judgment. When talking to your loved one, remind them that you want to help them because you love them, and not because you judge or condemn them for their behavior. Remind them that we all struggle, even if we don’t all struggle with addiction.
3. Encourage them to get treatment.
The best way to help someone struggling with an addiction is to encourage them to get treatment. Although you want to fix their addiction and to help them heal as best you can, there are certain aspects of recovery that professionals can do best. At the right treatment center, your loved one can receive medical treatment, a safe place to detox, and an uplifting and peaceful environment in which to be around people who are recovering from the same addictions they are.
Get Professional Help and Support Someone Struggling with Addiction
At Ocean Hills Recovery, we offer a variety of treatment types that have proven successful for many people struggling with addiction. We specialize in helping those who struggle with addiction to feel safe and encouraged to work toward healing and hope. Ocean Hills Recovery provides a community where they feel uplifted in doing so. Contact us today for more information on how to support someone struggling with addiction and find the healing they deserve.
Sources: Soberworld. “Setting Boundaries: Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself.” The Sober World, 3 Aug. 2020, www.thesoberworld.com/2020/08/01/setting-boundaries-loving-an-addict-loving-yourself/  “6 Ways to Support Someone During a Depressive Crisis.” The Mighty, 18 Aug. 2020, themighty.com/2017/04/how-to-support-someone-in-depressive-crisis-episode/
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.