How to Love Someone in Recovery Without Enabling Them?

How to Love Someone in Recovery Without Enabling Them?

Enabling is helping someone accomplish something or a goal they cannot accomplish on their own. So many people don’t realize that when they help someone cover up problems, that person can have a more challenging time achieving a true resolution. This action and behavior can do more harm than good.

Everyone who cares about anyone wants to help them because they love them. This might be the only way a family has learned how to show support for one another. Rather than see the people we care about go through a hard time, we most likely do all we can to help them so that they do not struggle.

Addiction is not easy to overcome, but with the right resources and support, it is achievable. However, when we see our loved one in distress or in physical pain, we want to do whatever we can to help them feel better, calm, and happy again. Although this is with good intentions, it is not always a healthy choice, especially if our loved one is in recovery.

Dangers of Enabling Someone in Recovery

When our loved ones are in recovery, we may see an array of emotions and behaviors. Some of these characteristics can come from experiencing withdrawal and cravings to use. These side effects can cause someone to feel sick, depressed, and have low energy levels.

We must help them get through it and not provide substances or anything harmful that can set them back in their recovery. This includes not providing the financial means to access any substances that can cause harm and set back.

Positive Reinforcements That Lower Risk Factors of Enabling Behavior

There are options of activities that we can suggest to someone we love and care about. We can create an agenda for physical activities that can help them build strength physically and mentally. It has been studied that physical inactivity is a risk factor that can cause chronic conditions.

If someone is already struggling with addiction and are in recovery, physical activity can help reduce these risk factors. All it takes is even a little physical activity to help increase mood and energy. When physical activity is activated, it can improve overall well-being.

Promoting healthy behaviors—such as eating better, outdoor activities, and group activities—can help to keep busy during recovery. Healthy activities enable the body and mind to activate good sensors. These are things that can truly help our loved ones battle their recovery for success.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries to Avoid Enabling Someone

Setting healthy boundaries for someone in recovery may feel as if we are being hard on them, but in reality, healthy boundaries make them feel safe. The elements in life that are uncomfortable for anyone usually are what is best. Discover ways to set healthy boundaries to avoid enabling someone in recovery.

When someone is vulnerable with us in their recovery efforts and journey, it is because they trust us to help them. It can be easy to give in to what they want because we don’t want to see them in pain or agony, but there are ways to help them overcome the triggers to use.

Suggest getting together for a casual good time where alcohol or substances are not promoted. We can gather with someone for coffee or lunch or participate in an activity that promotes well-being. When we can enjoy these types of casual outings with someone in recovery, it does not leave the opportunity for enabling the negative things that can be harmful to them.

Support their passions and interests, or find new recovery-friendly activities or hobbies that you can do together. Make an effort to find out and adapt to things they can begin to enjoy. The positive outlets can set healthy boundaries and influence their success in recovery.

Pros and Cons of Enabling

It is important to know what positive and negative outcomes can come from enabling. Enabling is not always a negative thing.

When we find positive outlets for someone in recovery, we can enable the positive parts of their new life by helping create healthy daily routines and activities.

Understanding the full length of addiction and enabling behavior and all that it entails is important when trying to help someone in recovery. It is important not to be hard on ourselves as we do not intentionally want to enable those we care about to continue on a self-destructive path.

We can either help assist someone in their recovery, or we can enable them to continue engaging in problematic behavior. There are ways to support someone with creating positive patterns during recovery. Saying no to enabling can feel like we are not helping them, but the reality is that we are making them responsible for their actions and consequences.


When someone we care about struggles with addiction, it is difficult to stand by and watch them be in pain. When they finally seek treatment and go into recovery, this is just the beginning of the healing journey. Being in recovery will come with challenges, so it is essential to prepare to support them. We must restrain ourselves from enabling their habits and urges. Brazos Recovery Center is not just for those in recovery; it is for the support system as well. This support system is composed of family and friends that the individual can rely on. Call Brazos Recovery Center today at (254) 232-1550 to help you set healthy boundaries for your family and loved one.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.