When someone we love has a drug or alcohol problem it is natural to want to help them, but expecting yourself to become an addiction expert over night is unrealistic and can be very damaging to the person and the family unit.
Sometimes, because we are so emotionally invested in a loved one, our well meaning efforts actually empower the addict to continue using - often this is because our reactions to the alcoholic or drug addict allow them to carry on with the same patterns and actions, but they avoid the consequences of their behaviour. This is enabling.
Of course you care about the person and you don’t want to see them encounter social, financial or legal problems, but by allowing the person to continue with no consequences, effectively giving permission to continue on the same path, is not the best way to help the one you love.
In the same way that physical problems are treated by a medical professional, addiction problems require the support of a addiction specialist to help the addict address what is motivating their substance abuse. We wouldn’t expect ourselves to be able to match our GP in their clinical knowledge so we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be able to match the skill of a addiction clinician. What we can do is get some help - both for the ones we love and for ourselves, to gain an understanding of the complex nature of an addiction and ultimately help our loved ones to regain control and live free from the constraints that their substance abuse has put on them.
Enabling is a complex relational issue and one that most people may not realise they are doing, but there is help available.