How to recognize enabling behaviors

Watching a loved one suffer from the disease of addiction can drum up several emotions ranging from deep sadness and fear to resentment and red hot anger. There is no way to walk away from the wreckage of an addiction unscathed, even if you are not the one who is drinking or using drugs. This disease has the potential to permeate every single life it touches, which is why addiction is often referred to as a “family disease”.

If someone in your family is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you play a role in their addiction whether you intend to or not. Countless people approach the addict or alcoholic in their family with the best intentions but still find themselves working hard to keep them from experiencing any repercussions of their disease. This is known as enabling.

What is Enabling Behavior?

Anyone can become an enabler to an addict or an alcoholic. The desire to keep a loved one from failing comes from a place of love and compassion. For example, a person does not want their loved one to lose his job, get in trouble with the law, or grow withdrawn from others because of addiction. A person’s natural response is to protect their loved ones at all costs, so doing anything but seems disingenuous. But addiction is a highly complex disease, so sometimes doing what seems “natural” does not always bring about the desired results. In fact, attempting to protect a loved one while they are actively addicted to drugs or alcohol is unequivocally counterproductive to affecting any positive, lasting change.

It is important to know how to identify enabling behavior so that if you are actively enabling your loved one, you can take action to stop doing so immediately. Enabling someone while they are drinking or using drugs will only give them the resources they need to keep using, which is the exact opposite of what you likely want. So, what exactly are enabling behaviors? Consider the following:

Ignoring the user’s negative behaviors. When you ignore negative behaviors such as getting into trouble with the law, growing violent when under the influence, or neglecting responsibilities due to substance abuse, you are signaling to your loved one that their behaviors are not inappropriate or outrageous enough to bother you. Turning an eye to their behaviors is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on an already lit fire.

Rationalizing the user’s behavior. Addiction is a scary disease. No one ever wants to think that their loved one is an addict or an alcoholic simply out of fear for what that could mean for their future. So when you see your loved one engaging in substance abuse, your reaction might be to immediately minimize their use in your mind and find ways to rationalize it. You rationalize an addiction when you find acceptable reasons for why your loved one is using it. And while that is understandable, it is dangerous because it gives the user the power to keep using.

Covering up for the addict’s behavior. Covering up for your loved one’s behavior while under the influence means that you are always right there to clean up the mess before anyone even gets to see it. When an addict or an alcoholic does not experience repercussions of their use, they convince themselves that they can continue to use without consequence, which is extremely dangerous.

Blaming others for your loved one’s addiction. Whether you do this on your own or alongside your addicted loved one, allowing the actions of an addict or alcoholic to be the fault of anyone else but themselves in enabling behavior. For example, someone’s husband goes out to dinner with his friends and comes home drunk. It is enabling behavior to say that he’s only getting drunk because his friends encourage it.

Walking on eggshells (emotionally). A loved one’s addiction can have everyone feeling like they are walking on eggshells around them, meaning that if they say or do anything that is not in keeping with the opinion of the user, they will upset the user. An example of this would be a mother who withholds her real feelings about her son’s addiction for fear of him no longer speaking to her. Rather than being honest about her concerns, the mother instead continues to go along with her son’s actions even if they are dangerous.

Making threats with no follow-through. For example, saying that you are going to kick your loved one out of the house if they come home high one more time and then not following through with that consequence is enabling behavior. Anytime you tell your addicted loved one that there will be repercussions for their actions but fail to uphold those repercussions, you are enabling their continued use.

How to Stop Enabling Behavior

So, what are you supposed to do when you realize that you are enabling your loved one? You probably feel overwhelmed by the thought of changing so many of your own behaviors, but ending your enabling does not have to be a major overhaul. Some of the things that you can do immediately to stop enabling behavior include the following:

  • Encourage recovery — Instead of engaging in enabling behaviors, encourage your loved one to get help. Let them know that you are willing to help them get the process started and that you will support them along the way.
  • Set boundaries –Decide for yourself what your personal boundaries are and make a commitment to yourself to not let your loved one cross them. This can be extremely difficult even though it is necessary. For example, you may decide that you do not want your loved one to visit when they are under the influence. So, when your loved one knocks on the door, simply informing them that they are not allowed to visit when high or drunk is all you need to do to uphold your boundaries. Keeping it as clear and simple as possible is key.
  • Don’t react with them — Addicts and alcoholics tend to have a lot of chaos surrounding them, as their lives are out of control. If your loved one is high or drunk and starts to pick a fight with you, don’t react. If your loved one is panicking that they do not have any more alcohol in the house, don’t react. When you react alongside an addict or alcoholic, you fan the fire. Maintaining control during times of reactionary behavior is where your power lies.

Learning how to stop enabling a loved one can take hard work and effort. If you are ready to stop enabling someone, reach out for help. Therapists and support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can show you the way.

Do You Have a Loved One Who Needs Help? Call Us Now.

Your loved one does not need to keep abusing drugs or alcohol. Addiction is a disease that is treatable and can be managed for a lifetime. If your loved one is ready to seek professional help for their substance use disorder, reach out to us right now. We can help.

How to recognize enabling behaviors

Call 800-926-9037 to speak with an alcohol or drug abuse counselor.
Who Answers?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

According to the University of Pennsylvania Health System, “Enabling behaviors are those behaviors that support our addicted loved one’s chemical use.” Enabling is a common behavior that the loved ones of an addict can fall into. If your friend, family member, spouse, or another important person in your life is an addict, one of the best ways you can help them begin to recover is to look for any enabling behavior you are currently performing and end it.

Recognizing the Behavior

Whether a person is in recovery or is still abusing drugs or alcohol, enabling behavior is harmful. By recognizing this behavior and putting a stop to it, you can help your loved one realize the need to change. Once you stop enabling them, the addict will not have your implicit encouragement of their behavior any longer, and they will also feel more strongly the consequences of their actions. It isn’t easy, but it is better in the long run for both you and the addict to identify and put a stop to these actions.

How Can I Recognize Enabling Behavior?

How to recognize enabling behaviors

Criticizing an addict will only encourage them to continue their destructive behavior.

These acts are the ones you engage in every time your loved one gets in trouble, falls back into old, dangerous habits, or otherwise continues in their abuse of substances. Below are some of the common ways you can enable a loved one and why it is not beneficial to them or you.

  • Denying the problem: Denying the problem does not put a stop to it but merely ignores the issue entirely. Behaviors associated with denial are saying things like “Well, it isn’t that bad” or “It isn’t really a problem because…”
  • Justification: Justifying someone else’s drug abuse occurs when you try and explain away the reasons why they do it. “They have had a difficult life,” “They have a stressful job,” etc.
  • Laying blame: Laying blame and criticizing the addict is not helpful. It only pushes them farther away from you and back to their drug of choice.
  • Superiority: Some individuals take on an air of moral superiority, which is harmful to both parties. The addict feels even more resentful and self-loathing, and the enabler feels good about themselves based on of the addict’s problems.
  • Protecting the addict: Many people attempt to protect their loved one by playing their parent, lying for them, or taking over their responsibilities in order to keep others from finding out about their addiction.
  • Using with the addict: If you use with the person in order to watch them and make sure they don’t take too much, you are just letting them know their inability to control their drug use is not their concern––it’s yours.
  • Trying to control the addict: Parents are guilty of this often, but other individuals can do this as well. It is important to remember that just trying to dictate to a person what they can and cannot do isn’t helpful and will probably just drive them away.

Any family that experiences addiction in any capacity will undoubtedly fall victim to enabling behaviors. It’s vital to know how to identify these behaviors and why they can be so destructive to people struggling with addiction.

Family members and loved ones of a person struggling with addiction will often look for any way to help. Unfortunately, these good intentions tend to lead to dangerous patterns of enabling that can prolong their loved one’s addiction, rather than ending it. You can prevent this within your family by knowing the signs of enabling and addressing them swiftly.

What Is Enabling?

“Enabling” in the substance abuse world a very broad term that can apply to any behavior that prolongs an addiction. A person struggling with addiction may enable is or her own habit with negative behaviors, such as:

  • Selling personal property to pay for alcohol or drugs
  • Neglecting financial obligations like bills and rent
  • Committing crimes like burglary or theft

Ultimately, a person with an addiction will do whatever he or she feels is necessary to support the addiction. Family members, friends and other loved ones of an addict engage in enabling when they prevent their struggling loved one from experiencing the full consequences of the addiction.

What Are Some Common Signs of Enabling?

How to recognize enabling behaviorsThese are a few of the top signs of enabling the addicted person and shielding them from the consequences of their actions:

1. Ignoring unacceptable behavior. This can extend all the way from overlooking negative attitudes and actions to denying that there is a problem at all.

2. Feeling resentful of the responsibilities one has taken on. The enabler begins to feel angry with the addicted person while continuing to enable them.

3. Consistently putting the needs of the addict ahead of one’s own.

4. Having trouble expressing emotions honestly. Enablers are often unsure what kind of reaction they will get if they express their feelings openly – to the addict or acquaintances – and are afraid it will be negative.

5. Being fearful that something one does will start a big fight or make the addict threaten to leave. An enabler will do everything possible to avoid these frightening situations.

6. Lying to cover for their mistakes. The enabler will lie to keep the peace, rather than becoming confrontational.

7. Blaming other people for the addict or one’s own problems. Enablers know who is really responsible to protect the addicted person from consequences (the addict himself or herself).

8. Continuing to offer help when it is never acknowledged or appreciated.

Enabling entails several possible long-term complications as well, and these typically revolve around an addicted person’s one-on-one relationships with his or her loved ones.

When Enabling Evolves to Codependency

Patterns of enabling behavior may eventually evolve into codependency, a relationship in which both parties feed off one another for their emotional needs in an unhealthy way. A person struggling with addiction may manipulate or threaten a loved one into helping maintain the addiction, sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

The other person in a codependent relationship feels compelled to help out of fear of losing the relationship. The longer a codependent relationship exists, the more difficult it is to fix.

Why Is Enabling Destructive?

Ignoring negative or potentially dangerous behavior or allowing it to continue puts everyone involved at risk. When enabling relationships to develop, it’s essential for everyone involved to recognize their negative contributions to these cycles and work to change things.

Breaking Down Family Barriers and Bad Habits

Enabling typically occurs within families or intimate relationships. An enabler could be a spouse, romantic partner, sibling, parent or even the grown child of a person with an addiction.

When people who are enabling addiction acknowledge their contributions to these destructive cycles, change can happen in the family dynamics and the interpersonal relationships with the addicted loved one.

Stopping enabling behaviors often requires reflection over short- and long-term pain. While it may be painful to stop enabling a loved one’s addiction in the short term, doing so could potentially save his or her life and prevent other tragedies in the future.

The Importance of Interventions

An intervention is one of the most crucial parts of a recovery experience because it can set the tone for healing and rebuilding within a family or circle of loved ones. During an intervention, the people closest to an individual with addiction will let him or her know how the addiction has affected them.

It’s also an opportunity to encourage a struggling relative to enter rehab and show him or her that the family cares about what happens next. The best interventions provide opportunities to discuss and overcome patterns of enabling behavior within the family. If the enabling continues when the loved one returns home from rehab, the recovery is likely to fail.

Identifying and Avoiding Enabling Behaviors

During an intervention, the family and friends of a person struggling with addiction can address their enabling behaviors and explain how they will no longer continue. For example, if a parent has been covering an adult child’s rent because the child has spent all of his or her savings on alcohol, the intervention would be a good time to tell him or her that this financial support is over. This can come as a shock, but it must happen for him or her to recover.

We encourage you to explore our intervention resource page to learn more about how an intervention could help with your family’s situation. Addressing enabling behaviors is a crucial step in recovery, and an intervention is a perfect time for this to happen.

How to recognize enabling behaviors

Learning to stop enabling destructive behavior may be difficult, but it’s vital for an addict’s successful recovery.

When someone you love is an addict, it is very easy to slip into a habit of enabling destructive behavior. This does not happen on purpose, of course. It is a natural thing to want to help someone you love.

The simple truth is, however, that your becoming an enabler does not help the addict. Rather, it has disastrous effects on both you and your loved one in terms of reinforcing negative behaviors for the addict and losing your own sense of self-respect.

Enabling Impedes Addiction Treatment

What does it mean to “enable an addict?” According to Huffington Post‘s “When You Enable an Addict You’re Not Helping, You’re Hurting,” a simple definition of an enabling behavior is “one that will keep the addiction going.”

In other words, an enabler is a person who helps facilitate a person’s addictions by shielding that person from the negative consequences of addictive behaviors. When an enabler intervenes to solve problems for an addict, he or she takes away the addict’s incentive to seek appropriate addiction treatment.

Enabling can occur on many levels. Some enabling behaviors are obvious, like financing a loved one’s drug habit directly. Others are less obvious, like purposefully ignoring signs of addiction in a loved one rather than pointing them out so the person can seek treatment.

How to Know When Kindness Turns Into Enabling Behavior

Since there are varying degrees of enabling, how can you determine whether the way you are handling your relationship with an addict is helping or enabling his or her addiction?

Psychology Today‘s “Are You Empowering or Enabling?” gives the following questions for reflection on whether your behavior harms rather than helps:

  • Do you often ignore the addict’s unacceptable behavior?
  • Do you find yourself resenting the responsibilities you take on?
  • Do you consistently put aside your needs and desires in order to help the addict?
  • Do you ever cover up for the addict’s mistakes?
  • Do you consistently assign blame to someone else rather than to the addict when his or her behavior is really to blame?
  • Do you continue to offer help even when it is not appreciated or acknowledged?
  • Do you have trouble expressing your own emotions or asserting your own opinions?

Some additional questions to answer honestly are:

  • Do you find yourself giving your addict second, third, and fourth chances?
  • Is your need for avoiding confrontation clouding your judgment about the seriousness of your loved one’s addiction?
  • Do you ever engage in risky behaviors with your addict?

Generally speaking, if you have to lie to yourself or to someone else to “help” an addict, you are probably enabling, rather than helping, the person suffering from addiction.

How to Stop Enabling Destructive Behavior and Start Helping

There are a number of things you can do to stop the cycle of enabling and start to make a positive impact on your loved one. First, you must accept that when you stop enabling the addict, uncomfortable situations will arise.

How to recognize enabling behaviors

Putting a stop to enabling destructive behavior ultimately helps the addict.

However, think of it this way. Suppose your loved one had a terminal illness that could only be cured by a painful and costly medical procedure. You would willingly submit your loved one to that procedure to save his or her life, would you not?

Addiction, when unchecked, can be just as deadly. Accept that you and your loved one will have to experience discomfort in order to heal. Stop shielding your addict from the consequences of his or her choices. Refuse to clean up after your loved one, both literally and emotionally. Accept the reality that sooner or later, the addict will have to come face-to-face with the results of his or her addiction in order to have the insight to seek treatment in a drug/alcohol rehabilitation center.

The Huffington article plainly states: “In reality, addicts need their loved ones to make it as uncomfortable as possible for them to remain in their active addiction. If you have an addict in your life, this is actually the most loving thing you can do for them, because it holds them to a higher standard and encourages them to take responsibility for themselves.”

Help your addict by encouraging him or her to enter a drug rehab program and stick with the treatment plan. Provide support in the form of honesty about the ways that his or her behaviors impact your life together. Make it plain that you can no longer allow his or her abusive behaviors to continue in your own life, both for the addict’s benefit and for your own self-respect. That is love.

We’re Here to Help

To discover more ways to help an addict without crossing the boundary into enabling him or her, please contact Harris House. As specialists in the field of addiction recovery, we stand ready to provide you with the tools you need to successfully help your loved one battle addiction.&cid=44526″ alt=”” />

STASH ALL 5 IDEAS

Different forms of enabling behavior

Enabling may accidentally happen when you are trying to help, but after an extended period, you realise that you are really helping.

  • Cleaning up after someone is one form of enabling behavior and includes any way of protecting the person from the negative consequences of their own behavior.
  • A partner lies to his in-laws about his wife’s drug problem to protect her from embarrassment.
  • A sibling pays his brother’s rent because he regularly loses his money to gambling.

It might be okay if it happened once, but if these “rescues” happen repeatedly, they don’t get to learn from the cause-and-effect pattern of their behaviors.

Giving someone non-specific help

  • Our loved ones often come to us in a moment of crisis. They’re losing their job or need to pay someone back. We sometimes feel we have to give money or bail them out in some form. But after a time or two, you become the consistent rescuer while they continue in their unaccountable ways.
  • Boundaries can be used to stop the cycle, but not letting those boundaries slip is hard. If you put your foot down on not loaning money, don’t give in. The person you’re trying to help will ultimately feel more secure if they know you keep your word. You’re also a good role model for consistent behavior.

Shaming someone and making excuses

It’s easy to get frustrated when a loved one keeps damaging themselves. This frustration can make us guilt-tripping them. But shaming someone seldom works.

When it doesn’t work, we may start to make excuses for them to explain their problem away. This won’t help either.

How to productively help someone

We cannot control another person’s behavior nor change it.

  • Once you understand that, let go of judgments and accept the person. Give them space to share their thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t mean you condone their behavior, but you can respect their feelings.
  • Hold them accountable without shaming or guilt-tripping. Encourage them to set goals and ask what they need from you to hold them responsible.
  • Celebrate successes with them. It will strengthen trust between you and give them permission to feel good about themselves.
  • Provide reasonable logistical support and assist in a plan to help them climb out of their circumstances.

How to recognize enabling behaviors

If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol or who suffers from an eating disorder, it is easy to engage in enabling behavior without even realizing you are doing it. This happens more often, especially with drugs and alcohol, than people realize. Many people are often horrified to hear that they are actually helping their loved one’s problem be worse. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it is simply important to have awareness and to know what enabling means and how to put an end to it.

Signs of Enabling Behavior

First and foremost, don’t ever allow anyone to blame their addiction on you. While sure, certain situations and relationships can contribute to an addiction, at the end of the day the addict is responsible for ingesting their substance of choice. Therefore, even if you are inadvertently enabling them, their addiction is NOT your fault.

Here are some common ways that you might find you are inadvertently enabling your loved one:

The biggest enabling behavior is drinking, using drugs or participating in disordered eating with the person who needs help. If you are constantly bringing the substance around, you can never expect them to actually get away from it and get the help they need. Addicts need complete abstinence from their substance of choice so that it isn’t right in front of them, tempting them every step of the way.

Giving your loved one money. It is an unfortunate fact that addicts lie and steal from their loved ones. So, if your son – for example – is constantly asking for gas money, barely uses the car, and keeps coming home high, you are enabling him by giving him money to go get more drugs. The same goes for a spouse who can never pay their portion of the bills, or a sister who can’t make rent. If you pay for them, they will continue to have a means to get more drugs or alcohol.

Making excuses for and covering up for your loved one’s behavior. You may find that you are embarrassed or don’t know how to explain many of their behaviors, like if they leave a party early, or forget things easily, or refuse to eat certain meals. Making excuses for them means that you act as a buffer so that they don’t have to own up to their behavior. In the end, it doesn’t help anyone.

Placing blame on others. As we said in the beginning of this post, the addiction is the fault of the person who is addicted, no one else. If you are blaming their friends, or circumstances, you are avoiding looking at the real truth which is that the addict is to blame.

Taking on their responsibility. Enabling behavior includes things like picking up the addict’s kids at school when they forgot to do so themselves, or doing their work for them, or paying bills for them. Each time this happen the addict gets further validation that they are doing fine and can get away with their actions. The more they think that, the more they will try to get away with.

Once you have recognized that you are in fact enabling a loved one, it is time to make some changes. You can’t worry about the past, because there is nothing you can do to fix it. It is essential to look at the future and make sure that your enabling behaviors don’t happen again. Make sure that you are living your own, independent life that is not always focused around their addiction. Practice tough love, so that you aren’t constantly cleaning up their messes and making excuses for them. When they have to face up to their own actions, they will be a lot more quick to realize they need help.

Request a Call Back

If you or someone you love is battling a severe chemical dependency, mental health, or eating disorders, please feel free to contact one of our trained cognitive behavioral therapy admissions specialist today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance dependency can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of recovery.

How to recognize enabling behaviors

courtneyk / E+ / Getty Images

Many times when family and friends try to “help” people with alcohol use disorders, they are actually making it easier for them to continue in the progression of the disease. This baffling phenomenon is called enabling, which takes many forms, all of which have the same effect—allowing the individual to avoid the consequences of their actions.

Enabling allows someone with an alcohol problem to continue their destructive behavior, secure in the knowledge that no matter how many mistakes they make, somebody will always be there to rescue them.

What Is Enabling?

What is the difference between helping and enabling? Helping is doing something for someone that they are not capable of doing themselves.

Enabling is doing things for someone that they could and should be doing themselves.

Put simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which the individual can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior. Learning how to recognize the signs of enabling can help loved ones curb this tendency and encourages them to deal with the problem rather than avoiding it.

Enabling is often used in the context of alcohol or drug use. However, it can apply to any type of behavior within a relationship that supports and maintains a harmful behavior pattern. While the term is often used in a negative or even judgmental way, people who engage in enabling are not always aware of the effect that their actions have.

Signs of Enabling

In order to overcome enabling, the first step is to learn how to recognize it. Some signs that you might be engaging in enabling include:

  • Avoiding the problem: Avoidance is a common way to cope with a problem. For example, instead of confronting the person about their behavior, you might simply look for ways to avoid dealing with it. The problem is that while avoidance might be a short-term, temporary solution, it can make the problem worse in the long run.
  • Denying that there is a problem: It can be difficult to admit that your loved one has a problem. This can be especially true if the other person denies that they have an addiction. While you might know that there is an issue, it is sometimes easier to let yourself believe their denials or convince yourself that the problem really isn’t that bad.
  • Feeling resentful: Even though you keep finding ways to protect your loved one from the consequences of their alcohol or substance use, your resentment for having to do things may continue to build.
  • Ignoring or tolerating the individual’s problematic behavior: You might try to ignore the signs of your loved one’s behaviors. For example, you might find evidence that they have been drinking or using drugs in your home but ignore it and avoid confronting them about it.
  • Making excuses or covering for them so that they don’t have to face the consequences: For example, you might call their employer and say that they are sick when they are really too hungover to go to work.
  • Providing financial assistance that maintains the problematic behavior: You might pay their bills that they forgot to pay or even give them cash that they then use to buy alcohol or drugs.
  • Sacrificing or neglecting your own needs to care for the other person: This might involve experiencing financial hardships in order to keep providing for the other person financially or neglecting your own health in order to care for the other person physically.
  • Taking over responsibilities for the other person: When the other person can’t fulfill their daily duties, you might take over in order to cover for them. This might involve doing household tasks such as cleaning, laundry, or child care.

While enabling can sometimes be apparent, it can also take more subtle forms. Giving a person gifts that help them maintain their problem behaviors, for example, can also be a form of enabling.

How to Stop Enabling

If you recognize some of the signs of enabling in your relationship, there are steps that you can take to address the issue. Finding ways to empower your loved one instead of enabling them can help them work toward recovering from their addiction. And confronting your own enabling behaviors can improve your own mental and emotional well-being.

Explain the Problem

If you’ve been avoiding or denying the person’s problem behavior, the first step is to make it clear that you know about it. Be compassionate and make it clear that while you don’t support the behavior, you are willing to support and help them in getting help and making a change.

Create Boundaries

Establishing and then maintaining clear boundaries is essential. Let them know what those boundaries are and then follow through when those limits are violated. For example, tell them that they cannot come to your home or be around you when they are drinking.

Don’t Provide Financial Assistance

Giving the other person money allows them to continue engaging in destructive behavior. By not financially supporting the addiction, the other person will have to find ways to become more self-reliant.

Let Them Face the Consequences

As long as someone with an alcohol use disorder or other issue has their enabling devices in place, it is easy for them to continue to deny the problem.

Only when they are forced to face the consequences of their own actions will it finally begin to sink in how serious the problem has become.

For the loved ones of people with an alcohol or substance use disorder, sometimes this isn’t easy. The consequences of the individual’s behavior can affect the entire family, so it is important to find a way to balance these hard choices with the reality of what is safe and acceptable for the rest of the family.

Make Tough Choices

Confronting the behavior sometimes means making tough choices. For families, this might mean taking children to a friend’s or relative’s house, or even a shelter, and letting the individual come home alone to an empty house.

This is an option that protects the family and leaves the individual to deal with their problem. Those kinds of choices are difficult. They require “detachment with love.”

Making hard choices involves avoiding enabling while still being supportive of your loved one. Research suggests that people who have substance use disorders often have fewer social supports, which can undermine their recovery.

Having supportive relationships with caring family members, partners, and friends has been shown to help people maintain their sobriety, so it is important to show that you care and support your loved one.

Getting Help

In addition to ending enabling behaviors, it is also important to encourage your loved one to get treatment. Rather than enabling their addiction, look for ways that you can offer assistance, support, and empowerment. For example, you might help them access treatment and recovery resources by offering to take them to the doctor or drive them to appointments.

You might also consider going to therapy yourself. Even if your loved one won’t accept help, talking to a therapist yourself can help you develop new coping skills and protect your own mental health and well-being.

You may also find that some problems can linger even after treatment. For families dealing with the process of alcohol recovery, there are many resources available to offer help and support through the difficulties. Many family members have found that joining Al-Anon Family Groups can be very beneficial.

Table of Contents

What is Considered Enabling Behavior in Relationships

Are you guilty of enabling behavior in relationships that is unhealthy in relationship to a loved one’s addiction? You may feel your actions are supportive, but there is a fine line between being helpful and enabling. It’s important to know the difference to avoid aiding the addict in behavior that is destroying his or her life.

10 Examples Of Enabling Behavior In Relationships

There are numerous actions that indicate you are developing an enabling relationship. It’s normal to want to help someone you love that is in trouble. When the trouble is an addiction, assistance may cause more harm than good. You may find yourself participating in some of these examples of enabling behavior in relationships.

  1. You are afraid you will hurt your addicted loved one’s feelings if you deny their request for money or other things that will support their substance abuse.
  2. You fear your loved one will become angry and spiteful towards you.
  3. You have paid overdue power bills, bought groceries, and fill the gas tank of your loved one’s car because he or she has spent the paycheck on alcohol or drugs.
  4. You are concerned other family members might feel you are cold or indifferent to the one with the addiction problem.
  5. You fear your loved one will become angry and aggressive toward you if you deny his or her demands.
  6. You repeatedly lie and make excuses to employers, friends and other family members in the hope they will not recognize the addiction of your loved one.
  7. You clean up messes the behavior of your addicted loved one has caused, such as paying a gambling debt, replacing damaged property, fulfilling his or her commitments, or paying bail money to get out of jail.
  8. You clean up the physical messes left behind after a night or weekend of substance abuse. These messes can include a bed that is soiled with vomit, feces, and other unpleasant items.
  9. You are afraid he or she won’t love you if you don’t give in to all requests and demands.
  10. You screen phone calls for your loved one to shelter him or her from conflicts resulting from addiction behavior.

How To Stop Enabling Someone

When you discover someone you love has a substance abuse problem, you react emotionally before you think the problem out rationally. Sometimes it’s hard to abandon the emotional reaction and take positive steps to deal with the addiction your loved one is dealing with. Turning off your emotions is critical to actually doing things that help the addicted person. Tough love is what is needed to know how to stop enabling someone.

  • You need to ignore harsh words that accuse you of not caring about the addicted loved one.
  • Don’t be intimidated by threats of your loved one withdrawing affection from you.
  • Remember, all of your loved one’s actions are due to substance abuse. His or her demands are made under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Make decisions that you know are right even though they upset your loved one.
  • Never give him or her money, pay their bills, make “excuse” phone calls, or lie to cover up addiction behavior.
  • Join a support group for family member of addicts to learn “tough love” techniques that actually can help your loved one.

How To Stop Being An Enabler In A Relationship

If you are unsure of how to stop being an enabler in a relationship, a statement in the Al-Anon recovery program tells family members, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, and you can’t control it.” This is an important statement that applies to the family members of all substance abusers. Focusing on this statement will help you in making wise decisions when it comes to your loved one.

Don’t fall into the trap of becoming addicted to enabling. Be strong, and follow the tips in this article. For help in dealing with a loved one’s addiction, a phone call will put you in touch compassionate and professional help.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and/or maintaining sobriety, contact Better Addiction Care today. We’ll help you find the right treatment program for your needs. Call us at 1.800.429.7690.