What is Enabling?
Enabling is used to describe dysfunctional behavior that is intended to help resolve a specific problem but in fact may prolong the problem or make it worse. Being an enabler means taking responsibility, blame, or making accommodations for someone else’s problematic behavior. This results in the person being shielded from awareness of the harm they are doing and therefore the need or pressure to change. Enabling in this sense is a major cause of denial and perpetuation of the addiction.
Enabling and Addiction
Enabling is a term often used in the context of a relationship with an addict. It might be a drug addict or alcoholic, a gambler, or a compulsive overeater. Enablers, rather than addicts, suffer the effects of the addict’s behavior.
Enabling is “removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior.” Professionals warn against enabling the alcoholic or addict because evidence has shown that the addict who experiences the damaging consequences of their addiction has the most powerful incentive to change. Often this is when the addict “hits rock bottom” – a term commonly referred to in Alcoholics Anonymous.
People who are in relationship with one another where enabling is present are referred to as codependents. Codependents often feel compelled to solve other people’s problems. If they’re involved with addicts, particularly drug addicts, they usually end up taking on the irresponsible addict’s responsibilities.
Am I an Enabler?
Take this quiz to see if you have acted as an enabler to your loved one.
Do you often make excuses for your loved one when they miss school, work, or social obligations due to their addiction?
Have you ever given your loved one money for food/rent/phone bill when they have spent all of their money on alcohol/drugs?
Have you ever lied to friends or family to cover up for a loved one’s behavior?
Have you looked for a job or applied for a job on behalf of your loved one?
Have you ever ‘called in sick’ for your alcoholic or addicted loved one because they were too hung-over or sick to go to work or school?
Have you bailed your loved one out of jail or paid his or her legal fees?
Have you accepted part of the blame for your loved one’s drinking or using behavior?
Do you avoid talking about their drinking or drug use out of fear of their response?
Have you ‘loaned’ money to your alcoholic or addicted loved one?
Have you tried drinking with the alcoholic in hopes of strengthening the relationship?
Have you given the alcoholic ‘one more chance’ over and over again?
Have you threatened to leave/kick out your loved one if they didn’t stop drinking and then did not leave?
Results: Are You an Enabler?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any one of these, you have behaved as an enabler on at least one occasion. If it’s a pattern, this is an indication that you are an enabler. It is not healthy for you or your loved one to continue enabling them. And when it comes to substance abuse, being an enabler is directly contributing to your loved one’s addiction. Look at it this way: by helping them with their responsibilities or simply turning a blind eye to their drug use and behaviors, it’s like you are helping them kill themselves.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, addiction, or enabling please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135