Learning to Listen, Be Supportive and Avoid Enabling

Having a loved one, be it a family member or friend, struggling with an addiction can be hard in more ways than one. It can leave you feeling confused, especially if you don’t understand how or why the addiction started. You can feel helpless, not knowing what to do for your spouse, sibling or friend. No matter how confused or helpless you might feel, there are more effective, concrete ways you can be a support system more than you might have realized. 

Suggest treatment 

Obviously, unless you yourself are a certified mental health professional, there’s little you can offer your family member by means of therapy. However, you can and should put into their minds the consideration of addiction treatment. Addiction treatment facilities, such as those offered in Pennsylvania by Mazzitti and Sullivan Counseling, will not only provide a road to recovery, but they will offer medical and mental health support that you yourself could not be asked to provide. 

If your friend or family member is resistant to the idea of treatment at first, that’s okay, it can be a scary thought, but don’t give up. If possible, talk with them about the option of treatment as a means of overcoming addiction, a healthy and structured way to get their life back in their control and a safe space where they would be able to grow and struggle through recovery under the compassionate guidance of a therapist. 

Ask what you can do to help 

If you feel helpless, ask your friend or family member what you can do to help, or if they even want your help. At the end of the day, it’s up to them to desire a change in their behavior, but they may be too ashamed, shy or just afraid of asking for help. By ensuring them of your desire for what’s best for them, your refusal to cast judgment on the situation and your listening ear, you might be able to offer them the support they’ve been desiring. 


If your family member opens up about their addiction, listen. Don’t cast judgment, no matter how difficult it might be, and don’t offer your opinion unless it is asked of you to do so. Your friend or family member’s story might not make sense to you. it might be very different from your experiences, but that doesn’t make it any less valid or worthy of your compassion. 

Someone willing to open up about their addiction is someone who is very brave indeed. Honor this bravery by extending a compassionate, listening ear and offer to work alongside them to come up with the best plan needed to ensure their recovery.


If you don’t understand addiction, how addiction works or what effects alcohol or drugs have on the brain and body, take the time to research it. Perhaps you want to understand why opioids are addictive. Maybe marijuana is a struggle for your loved one, but you didn’t realize how marijuana can cause dependence. It may be a struggle with alcohol addiction and you want to know how it turns from a social activity into a problematic one. 

Taking the time to learn about the particular addiction at hand not only allows you to better understand what’s going on but gives you the ability to have a knowledgeable conversation with your family member about the addiction. This allows you to empathize from a place of understanding the addiction on a deeper level. 

Do not enable 

There are a lot of ways you can help your family member battle addiction through things you do, but there are also a few things to not do in order to help. One of the most important of these is refraining from enabling your loved one. For example, it’s important to not loan your family member money for rent if they used said rent money to purchase drugs or alcohol. While it would be a kind gesture to offer them money, in the end, it would only be enabling their addictive habits. 

While it might be very difficult to witness the consequences of your loved one’s addiction (such as what happens when one pays rent late or not at all), it’s absolutely vital in the recovery process for them to feel the effects of their actions. 

Contact Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling today 

Whether or not your family member is ready to enter into addiction treatment, you can always reach out to a trusted counseling service for help. Whether you need guidance in converting your loved one to the idea of addiction treatment, you need to talk to a counselor yourself about the difficulties of addiction within the family or your loved one is ready for treatment, there are resources and support. Reach out to Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling today at 800-809-2925.