Empathy Over Enablement: Navigating Addiction with Compassion

Nov 17, 2023

Addiction can be challenging not only for the person living with it, but also for their loved ones. To manage the complexities that come with addiction, balancing support and avoiding enabling behaviours is crucial.Our words and actions play a pivotal role in this journey, reflecting our thoughts and beliefs about those we care for.

The Power of Destigmatising Language:

The language we use to describe addiction can either perpetuate stigma and shame or encourage understanding and empathy. It's important to recognise that addiction does not define the entire identity of a person. Rather than using derogatory labels like "alcoholic," "drug abuser," or "user," opt for more compassionate terms such as "a person living with addiction." This simple shift in language helps reduce the negative stereotypes and judgements associated with addiction.

Support vs. Enable:

  1. Educate Yourself: Understanding addiction is the first step in providing effective support. Educate yourself about the nature of addiction, its causes, and treatment options. This knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions and provide better guidance for loved ones. 

  2. Set Boundaries: It's essential to establish clear and healthy boundaries with your loved one living with addiction. While offering support, ensure that you don't compromise your own well-being or enable harmful behaviour. Be consistent in enforcing these boundaries. Remember to communicate often and early about your boundaries so you can establish and maintain them at all times.

  3. Avoid Financial Assistance: Giving money to a person with addiction often enables their destructive habits. Instead, consider offering to pay directly for necessary expenses like rent, groceries, or treatment. Setting time limits as well can be helpful to ensure your loved one is getting the support they need so they can start to make long-term changes.

  4. Encourage Professional Help: Be a resource for your loved one in seeking professional assistance. Encourage them to connect with therapists, addiction specialists, helplines or support groups. Offer to help find suitable resources.

  5. Express Empathy, Not Judgement: Use destigmatising language when addressing the issue, and express empathy rather than judgement. Let your loved one know that you care about their well-being and are there to support their journey to recovery.

The Role of Our Words:

Our words are a reflection of our thoughts and beliefs. Using destigmatising language not only helps reduce the shame and guilt associated with addiction but also sends a powerful message of support. It conveys that we believe in the possibility of recovery and growth, fostering a sense of hope for our loved ones.

Supporting a loved one living with addiction is a delicate balance that requires empathy, understanding, and firm boundaries. By using destigmatising language and taking appropriate steps to assist rather than enable, you can play a significant role in their journey to recovery. Remember, recovery is possible, and your words and actions can make a difference.