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Are You Enabling Addiction?

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Enabling involves doing for others what they can and need to do for themselves.

The concept of enabling sounds straightforward, yet it’s often incredibly hard to distinguish between helping, supporting, and enabling. When alcoholism or addiction is a factor, enabling refers to allowing the alcoholic or addict to avoid the consequences of their behavior.

People suffering from addiction or alcoholism often make promises to stop using or drinking. They may even intend to keep their promises. Unfortunately, real addicts and alcoholics will be unable to do so as a result of the neurobiological disease of addiction. All may even go well for a time. Then something else happens: The person doesn’t show up for work; they fail to stay on top of their bills; they land themselves in legal trouble. When this happens, many people with addictions look for someone that will bail him out. This person is often close to the user.

The relationship between an addict and an enabler is highly dysfunctional.

Enabling behavior is harmful to the enabler, mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

Enablers often think they are helping the addict when they are actually supporting the addiction. As the behavior continues, the enabler may feel the need to control every situation, often at great cost to their well-being. The result is that the substance user often continues to drink or use. In turn, the enabler continues to suffer.

Enabling behavior is also harmful to the addict or alcoholic mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

Simply put, enabling shields people from experiencing the full impact and consequences of their behavior. Enabling is different from helping and supporting in that it allows the enabled person to be irresponsible. Since enabling discourages alcohol and drug users from addressing the problem with professional help, it can lead to situations that cause physical, mental, and psychological harm.

Learning to identify the signs of enabling behavior is vital.

Enabling behavior:

  • Protects the addict from the consequences of their behavior
  • Ignores the addict’s negative or potentially dangerous behavior Involves overlooking problems or denying that a problem even exists
  • Keeps secrets about the addict’s behavior from others
  • Prioritizes the addict’s needs above the needs of others
  • Makes excuses for the addict’s behavior
  • Bails the addict out of trouble (pays debts, fixes tickets, hires lawyers, etc.)
  • Blames people or situations other than the addict to protect the addict from the consequences of drug use
  • Sees “the problem” as the result of something else (loneliness, childhood experiences, anxiety, or another illness)
  • Gives money that is undeserved or unearned
  • Attempts to control that which is not within the enabler’s ability to control
  • Makes threats that are inconsistent or have no follow-through
  • “Care takes” the addicted person by taking responsibility for what the addict is expected to do for themselves
  • Creates resentment toward the addict while simultaneously enabling the addiction

Both the addict and the enabler deserve professional treatment.

As enablers recognize ways in which they have neglected their own life and needs, they explore why they feel compelled to help compulsively. Both the addict and the enabler deserve professional treatment and peer support. 12-Step support can offer support and a model for life with boundaries and enabling behavior reduction. Local 12-Step meetings may include Al-Anon or Alateen support as well as ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics).

When seeking treatment on behalf of a loved one, look for comprehensive addiction treatment that includes family program services.

Call the “life’s got to get better” people/number at 844-843-8935.