When To Stop Helping an Addict

There is no question that addicts need help.

There are times when you can catch an addict on the right day and allow them to see what they are doing to themselves. You can also show an addict love and create boundaries which force them to get help. Sometimes, a serious event will cause an addict to seek help. Other times, an addict may come to the conclusion that they need help on their own.

So how can you tell when your “intervention” can actually help, or not? We discuss the difference between positive and negative help here. Then, we invite your questions, personal story, or comments at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all comments with a prompt reply!

Positive Help For An Addict

If you love an addict there are ways that you can help, but there comes a point when you need to stop helping because the help has transformed into enabling. Where’s the line between the two? Let’s use some concrete examples to help you understand the distinction. Productive help includes things like:

Performing an intervention with a specialist, friend and family
Setting up a place for recovery
Loving the addict from a distance (Let go and let God)
Setting up boundaries for the addict
Enforcing the boundaries
Supporting the addict when THEY decide to go into recovery
However, most loved ones of an addict have tried these routes and many of us have failed.

Addiction is an illness. The families of addicts feel so sorry for the addict or have guilt about their addiction that they want so desperately to help, control, or be a catalyst for change. In some cases, an addict will see what they are doing to their loved ones and go into recovery. But in most cases, the drugs have gotten to a point where they can no longer make choices. In many cases, there are severe underlying mental illnesses that the addict is self-medicating for and cannot see another way to deal with.

I describe most addicts as, “Self-medicating people that deal with the demons and the void they feel on a daily basis through substances”. However, what happens when the demons win and the addict will do anything or destroy anyone to continue to use?

If you are reading this article then you probably have experienced this. But families of addicts need to see addiction from the other side. When our guilt, fear and love for a person override our rational self, then we are most likely no longer helping and more than likely hurting or enabling the addict.

Negative Help For An Addict

If you have tried to assist the addict with Positive Help but there has not been any success and you are continuing to “help” then chances are you are providing negative help. Negative help – a.k.a. enabling – DOES NOT HELP and includes things like:

  • accepting chronic relapses
    begging the addict to stop
    cleaning up after the addict
    crying over and over again for the addict to stop
    giving the addict an ultimatum to stop (recovery) and then not following through
    giving them a place to stay when they are homeless
    lending money to the addict
    making excuses for the addict to family and friends
    making excuses for the addict to their work
    paying bills for the addict
    showing unconditional love by taking on things that the addict has dropped
    taking on extra responsibilities because the addict cannot function
    yelling at the addict to stop

Still, this list is not exhaustive and there are more items that can be added but the sentiment is the same. When you do anything to make it easier for an addict to continue to use you are:

  • Enabling their addiction
    Prolonging their addiction
    Prohibiting them from hitting rock bottom
    Letting Go Of An Addicted Loved One

Many loved ones of addicts will search feverishly for ways that might help them help the addict. And they have convinced themselves that leaving an addict is too hard. When they run into information that tells them to let go of the addict for the addict’s own good, incredulously they reject the information.

This is the point where a loved one needs to start looking at their role in the addict’s addiction. If you are at a place where things do not change in regards to the addict and your interactions with them, then something else needs to change.

You will need to stop “helping” in this situation. This is the time to let go and offer your support from a distance. That means you can extend to the addict the following support.

SUGGESTION 1: When they are truly ready and ask for your help for getting into recovery, be there for them.

SUGGESTION 2: As long as they continue to use and lie, do not assist them.

SUGGESTION 3: No longer be a party to helping them to be able to use. Period.

4 thoughts on “When To Stop Helping an Addict

  1. I came upon your site last year in the midst of my husband disappearing for weeks for the first time since he started using. I just re-read my comment and yours, I should’ve followed your advice then. I have stayed married to him so he could share my insurance and get treatment, but we haven’t lived together for 8 months. He has promised ro go to rehab and just will not go. I have separated from him, given him an option of treatment whenever he’s ready, and loved him from a distance. I still cry for him daily, I cry for the life he has lost, the father his daughter lost, and the life I always imagined with my soulmate. I cry for the handsome, smart, charming man that is now just a shell of that person. I will recover and move on eventually but I will always regret losing my husband to addiction. He deserves a better life. Is there anything I can do to help him at least try treatment?


    • Chloe,
      Have you read Hope Street? I understand exactly what you are going through. Letting go is the hardest thing but it will end up being the best decision you make for you, your daughter and even for him. As long as you are there for him as a safety net is as long as he will go on using. This is the nature of addiction. There are no tricks or tips I can give you, I gave up my life, my soul and tried everything to help my ex-husband but none of it works. That person is on their own journey and they may or may not ever recover but the decision has to be theirs. You keep searching for answers to help him when right now you need to focus on what will help you and your child heal and move on


  2. So sad passing though this as well. After almost eight years now finding out that am living with an addict it was hell for me with him now i no it was because of d addiction that he was behaving so selfish. Now my 4 an 11 month old have to get on with our life. I have end it. No he needs us but he jus wont admit that he is useing. So i cant help him.


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