Stop enabling by setting clear boundaries

Carers and the loved ones of those in addiction are vulnerable to enabling addiction to continue by blurring their own boundaries because they want to protect the one they love. Clear boundaries help you to support someone whilst making it clear what behaviour is acceptable to you and end the chaos that addiction causes

Addicts can live chaotic lifestyles, losing sight of what is appropriate behaviour as they become consumed by their addiction. Addicts behave in this manner as they are desperate and solely focused on meeting the needs of their addiction, forgoing any consequences regardless how predictable and dire these may be.


Addicts, in the grip of addiction are driven by the most primeval of drives, that of instant reward or “Instant Gratification”. The addict has lost any sense of control of their usual inhibitions, if they are triggered to think about their addictive behaviour this will almost immediately manifest itself as an urge to react and will dominate both the thoughts and the actions of the addict. At this point they may be so consumed by their addictive drive of instant gratification, a drive that leads to them obsessing about experiencing that addictive process, that they may be unmoved or undeterred by any apparent consequences.


Even during the times that they are not responding to instant gratification, addicts often get accustomed to living without any clearly maintained boundaries or structure in their lives. This can be demonstrated by how they fail to plan, miss appointments, are late for important occasions; if attending at all. They can also neglect recognised social conventions, like queuing, being patient, accepting that procedures are followed and that they themselves are responsible for their own actions.

To support someone in addiction, demonstrate through your own actions that boundaries control addiction and addictive behaviours. Do this by maintaining your own clear boundaries. Be consistent with the messages you give, be on time, allow the person that you are supporting to experience the consequences of their actions.

Empowerment is the way to support someone

The more that you assert boundaries, the more that you design clear roles and responsibilities and allow the consequences of neglecting those responsibilities the more that you are empowering someone to learn from their choices. Learn more about empowering here.


The greatest threat to an addict that those around them pose is enabling addiction to take place. This is someone who enables or makes it possible for an addict to continue to repeat their addictive behaviour, by either giving or lending money, but also by clearing debts, putting food in the fridge when they have spent their money on their addiction or taking responsibility for the consequences of the actions of the addict.

Recovery from addiction is built on building self esteem and this in turn is built on personal responsibility. Until the addict takes responsibility for their lifestyle choices they will not be able to live successfully in recovery, free from their addiction. By friends and family of addicts maintaining their own boundaries, they are no longer inadvertantly sustaining the addiction, the addict is able to expereinces the consequence of their actions, is able to take responsibility for them, build self esteem  as they make small changes and have the confidence to live without responding to instant gratification and ultimately without their addictive behaviour. Find our more about if you are empowering or enabling here.

Return to Home Page from Enabling

Return to Top