enabling vs intervening

Their Crisis is Not Your Crisis: Enabling vs. Intervening

Substance use disorders are a common health concern. The problem is that only around 1 in 10 people who are suffering receive treatment.1 If you have a loved one battling an addiction, you may find yourself in the middle of a tough road. Whether you’re enabling vs. intervening can make a difference in the likelihood of your loved one deciding to reach out for help. So, what’s the difference? Let’s dive into enabling and intervening so you can determine which response is more helpful to your loved one and which is healthier for you.

What Is Enabling?

When you love someone, your first gut response is to help them. However, that choice can negatively impact your loved one’s likelihood of getting sober. Enabling is bailing someone out so that they don’t experience the consequences of their actions.

For example, when someone is fighting an addiction, they are likely to have financial trouble. If they ask you to give them money, and you do, that is enabling. Bailing them out of jail and allowing them to live with you are other forms that enabling often takes.

The chances of someone with a substance use disorder deciding to get help is much greater when they deal with the consequences of their actions. Some people just need to hit rock bottom. While it may seem like tough love, it is necessary for them to heal. 

When you enable your loved one, you are effectively hindering their chances of recovery. So instead, what you want to do is intervene.

What Is Intervening?

Intervening means establishing firm boundaries with the person who is addicted. If you choose to hold an intervention, you and some other important people must set boundaries surrounding which behaviors you will not accept. You also need to set consequences that will happen if they don’t seek treatment. 

For the intervention to be effective, you have to mean what you say. When someone with substance use disorder has to choose between going to treatment or losing the support of everyone they care about, they usually choose treatment.

Often, people in active addiction don’t know how much their choices hurt the people they love. They may feel like their choices only affect themselves. However, addiction is a family problem. Everyone suffers. 

If you decide to intervene, tell your loved one that you will no longer tolerate their behavior. Then remove yourself as their cushion. They will have no choice but to examine the issue. They may accept help and choose a life of recovery if they see the pain their addiction is causing everyone around them.

Help Your Loved One With Whitman Recovery Services

As you can see, enabling your loved one doesn’t accomplish anything. It allows them to continue in the cycle of addiction. Choose to intervene instead.

Contact Rich Whitman today at Whitman Recovery Services for a consultation. He has a 98% success rate for convincing people to accept treatment, and he can help you and your family through the process of an intervention. 


1. NIH National Library of Medicine, “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health”