Enabling is a term used to describe the action taken by a person that allows another person to continue doing whatever it is that they are doing. In many cases, enabling someone can be beneficial, especially if the behaviors they are exhibiting are positive and healthy. But when a person is enabling an addiction, several problems can arise.
Enabling an addiction is the latter — it is not helpful or healthy for anyone to enable an addict or alcoholic at any point during their active addiction. If someone is an enabler, they can effectively prolong the individual’s substance abuse and potentially “love them to death”, meaning that they are enabling them so much that it eventually becomes fatal. The difficult part of this result is that most people who are enablers do not try to do anything but be supportive of their addicted loved one. Enabling is not typically intentional, but unfortunately this is one of the ways that addiction impacts people around the addict or alcoholic. Enabling behaviors tend to stem from wanting better for a loved one, being anxious about a loved one’s wellbeing, and feeling responsible for protecting a loved one from harm.
So, how does enabling actually occur?
Signs of Enabling in Addiction
Enabling can look different for everyone, as it can manifest itself in a number of different ways. At the end of the day, however, enabling produces negative effects when it is co-occurring with addiction. Some of the most common signs that a person is enabling an addicted loved one can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Ignoring the user’s behaviors — The behaviors of an addict or alcoholic tend to be obvious and problematic. They can include neglecting responsibilities at home, not showing up for work, constantly asking for money, lying about whereabouts, and even stealing from loved ones. Someone who sees these behaviors and chooses to ignore them is effectively enabling. An addict or alcoholic is going to continue to use, especially if those around them do or say nothing about their troublesome behaviors.
- Covering up for the user — The behaviors of the addict or alcoholic often cause them to find themselves in some level of trouble. For example, they might miss certain engagements, forget to pay bills on time, etc. It is enabling behavior when someone does things such as makes excuses for why an addict or alcoholic didn’t show up to an event or quickly pay their bills for them before they get reported. An enabler might also be dishonest about how much a loved one is using when talking with others to help protect their image.
- Blaming others — Even though addiction can stem from traumatic events not orchestrated by the addict or alcoholic or biological circumstances, it is the responsibility of the user to learn how to manage their addiction appropriately. Unfortunately, those abusing drugs or alcohol tend to point the finger at others for their situation and the enablers around them can begin doing the same, too. An enabler might blame a loved one’s boss for overloading them with too much work or their parents for bringing them up in an unhealthy home. Placing blame does nothing but continue to perpetuate the individual’s substance abuse.
- Problems expressing themselves — So much of one’s everyday focus is placed on the addict or alcoholic that it can become easy to forget to identify and acknowledge their own emotions. Expressing themselves can start to feel like a secondary priority and in some cases, not a priority at all. When an individual is not expressing their emotions and does not feel like they can do so freely, it enables their loved one to continue their toxic behaviors.
Enabling can also include being resentful of the user, acting out of fear, and putting the needs of the user first. It may also look like providing money, housing, and clothing for the user or engaging in any behaviors that prevent them from hitting rock bottom.
How to Stop Enabling an Addiction
If you are an enabler, it can be extremely difficult to break the habits you have developed in response to your loved one’s substance abuse. But, the sooner you stop enabling, the more likely it becomes that your loved one will be able to get the help they need to survive. To stop enabling someone in their addiction, it is important to:
- Learn how to set healthy boundaries
- Acknowledge your emotions as a priority
- Refrain from providing your loved one with any material things that allow them to continue using
- Be honest with yourself and others about the severity of your loved one’s addiction
- Stop blaming others for your loved one’s addiction
- Stop accepting excuses from your loved one
- Practice good self-care, which can include attending individual therapy sessions or support groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon
- Continue to offer your support to your loved one in ways that encourage them to seek professional help
Breaking the cycle of enabling is not easy, but it can be done. One of the most effective ways to do this is to work one-on-one with a therapist who can help you examine and adjust your behaviors to help preserve your wellness and the wellness of your loved one.
Addiction Treatment in Phoenix
If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can be extremely upsetting to try to go about your everyday life. We understand that you are likely hurting just as much as your loved one is. And while the disease of addiction can feel impossible to defeat, it is possible to achieve great success not only in your own personal life, but in the life of your addicted loved one.
So, if you have a loved one who is ready to get the help they deserve, reach out to us right now. We can help them get started on their own personal road to recovery, as well as help guide you towards the services we have available to you.
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