Enabling Explained: Part 2


We talked about how family and friends can enable an addict to keep using and gave examples of enabling behaviors in Part One of our two-part series about explaining enabling. Now, we’re talking about how you can stop enabling behavior, establish boundaries for yourself, and provide healthy support for a loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.

How to Stop Enabling an Addicted Loved One

When you engage in enabling behavior, you’re sacrificing your loved one’s long-term health and the happiness of your whole family for a few moments of peace. Although saying no and ceasing to make excuses for a loved one’s behavior while they’re drinking or using drugs can be difficult at first, the more you find healthy boundaries and stick to them, the easier it will be to enforce them.

Here are a few tips to help you learn how to stop enabling an addict:

  • Find support for yourself. AA offers separate support groups for families of addicts, called Al-Anon, which can help you learn more about how to stop being an enabler
  • Consider an intervention with your family member. Interventions may be a wake-up call for your loved one to get help and are a neutral place to state what boundaries you will have
  • Cut off financial support, such as giving out money when asked or offering a car to use to go anywhere besides work or school. If you are married to an addict, this may be more difficult, so you may wish to speak with a professional addiction counselor
  • Do not tolerate abuse. When an addict no longer has a ready stream of support from an enabler, they may become emotionally, verbally, and sometimes physically abusive. Walk away, and remove yourself from the situation
  • Learn to be comfortable with the word No. You don’t have to make excuses or justify why you don’t want to do a particular thing – no is a complete sentence

Helping Versus Enabling

The difference between supportive help and enabling often lies in how the assistance is given. Enabling behavior removes the agency from the addict, including allowing them to reap the logical consequences of their behavior. Losing their job because they missed too many shifts due to being high or hungover, or going to jail for a DUI are harsh consequences – but, if you shield an addict from the consequences of their behavior, they won’t learn how to take responsibility for themselves or be accountable.

If you are taking care of things that your loved one should or would be able to if they weren’t in active addiction, then you may be enabling. Taking over their responsibilities is enabling. This also carries over into sober assistance. Giving someone a ride to therapy or an AA meeting if they lost their license due to a DUI is helping. Looking up meetings in the area for them or scheduling therapy appointments is enabling.

If you aren’t sure whether you’re enabling or helping, ask yourself this: is this something that my loved one can do for themselves? Remember, too, that you do not have to tolerate toxic behavior, including emotional manipulation. Many addicts will try to play on your love for them in order to get what they want. Stand firm, and know that enabling them isn’t truly showing love.

Are You Worried About a Loved one’s Drug or Alcohol Use?

Hickory Treatment Centers offers comprehensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, including inpatient treatment and family therapy, to help rebuild broken relationships. Contact us today to learn more about your treatment options.

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If you have tried to stop using alcohol or drugs on your own, you may feel that sobriety and clean living seem far away. However, with the help of caring staff members and a safe, structured environment, you can receive the guidance you need to fight cravings and regain control of your life.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our admission staff or learn more about our healing programs.