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Are you Unknowingly Enabling Addiction?


It can be difficult for people to recognize or admit when they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. They tend to be in denial or downplay the issue so that it doesn’t seem as bad as it really is. Getting the help they need can be made even more challenging when the people around them are engaging in enabling behaviors. This supports the person in continuing their use, even if that is not the intention.

Enablers may not realize the effect they are having. Often their intentions are good. They don’t want to see a friend or loved one struggling or hurting. They think that they are protecting and helping them. In reality, sometimes it is better to let the person feel the consequences of their actions and not try to save them. It can be a wake-up call that their addiction is taking a toll on their life and they need to make a change.

There are many ways in which a person could be an enabler and may not even realize it. This generally involves doing things for them that they are capable of – and should be – doing for themselves.

  • Giving the person money. Those battling addiction often face financial difficulties. Their money is used to feed their substance use instead of paying bills or buying groceries. They may ask to borrow money and claim that they will put it toward debt or something logical, but really they turn around and use it for drugs or alcohol.
  • Lying on their behalf. In order to save face, you may be tempted to lie or make excuses for their behavior. It is not your responsibility to cover for them. Let them confront these issues on their own and deal with the consequences. Knowing that you will lie for them allows them to continue on with their behavior without having to face reality.
  • Coming to their rescue. Cleaning up their messes, giving them a ride when intoxicated, and generally saving them from themselves does not help. They can pay for a cab, walk home, or stay where they’re at. Their apartment can stay a mess until they sober up.
  • Ignoring the problem. Pretending that everything is fine and there is no problem is another way of enabling. It lets the person go on believing that their substance misuse is not a big deal. The longer you ignore it, the longer they can ignore it.

It can be difficult to see someone you care about hurting. But stopping enabling behavior is a necessary part of getting them the help they need and promoting recovery. You don’t have to feel guilty or blame yourself for their situation, but know that just as they will have to implement changes, you will too.

Orange County alcohol and drug rehab center Chapters Capistrano equips clients with the resources and strategies they need to overcome addiction and embrace a substance-free lifestyle. They learn to identify those relationships which are helpful and harmful, and through family therapy their loved ones can too. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact Chapters Capistrano today at 949-371-4198.