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Helping Hand

Family /
Are You Enabling Chemical Dependency?

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 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 them 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 behaviour

·       Ignores the addict’s negative or potentially dangerous behaviour 

·       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 behaviour

·       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.

If you are close to someone suffering from addiction, you will be suffering too.  It’s normal for parents, partners, siblings and friends to feel confused, angry and lost due to the effects of addiction. If this is you, there is help available.  The more support and understanding family and friends receive around addiction, the better chance of recovery for everyone.

It’s important to acknowledge these 3 basic truths about addiction in others:

You didn’t cause it.

You can’t control it.

You can’t cure it.


You can learn to take care of yourself 

You can learn to communicate your feelings

You can learn to make healthy choices for yourself

Where addiction is the problem, by becoming more aware of the beliefs and experiences that influence your own behaviour, you can begin to find new, healthier ways of managing, approaching and relating with yourself, your loved one, and other family members and friends. 

Our dedicated Family Programme helps addiction to be understood as an illness and enables living in the solution rather than existing with the problem.      We run a 9-week course and other workshops at our Family office as well as a weekly support group.

To find out more:  Call: +44 (0) 1534 769837 | Email: