Enabling: What Is It and Why Fix It?

Do You Know An Enabler?

The term “enabler” is often used to describe a person who is involved with someone addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behavior. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to enable someone is to “provide with the means or opportunity” to achieve something. With this definition in mind, it’s easy to see how enabling can be both positive and negative. Parents who pay for a child’s college tuition enable the child to earn a college degree which is a positive thing. In contrast, a wife that takes over all household responsibilities because her husband drinks too much enables her husband to keep drinking by removing the consequences of his inaction. The second example demonstrates the type of enabling which is often present within relationships affected by addiction.

Enabling Vs. Helping

While it is noble to try and help a person you care about, there is a line between helping and enabling which gets blurred in relationships impacted by addiction. A behavior which is done to “help” the addicted individual often has the unintended consequence of enabling the bad behavior. The result of this dysfunctional pattern is the enabler feeling burned out and overwhelmed, and the addict continuing down a path of destruction. Not sure if you are an enabler? Here’s a list of common “symptoms” of enablers:
  • Feeling like you are “doing it all” in the relationship
  • Making excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family
  • Performing “disaster control” such as cleaning up vomit, broken items, or throwing away evidence of the substance use
  • Helping move your partner into bed after passing out elsewhere
  • Always putting your needs aside in order to help someone else
  • Lying to cover up the mistakes of your partner
  • Worrying that if you do not take care of something that your partner will be angry, threaten you, or even leave you
Do you suffer from any of the symptoms above? If so, you can find relief and a sense of empowerment by changing your current patterns and addressing your enabling tendencies head on!

A Better Tomorrow Begins Today

Many enablers see their actions as necessary for the good of the relationship, their family, and even their financial stability. They feel that if they stop taking control of situations, their world will unravel. They could face divorce, unemployment, death of the addicted loved one, financial ruin, loss of friends, and many other terrible consequences. The problem with this line of thinking is that the enabling actually prolongs the addiction by removing the natural consequences of the addict’s behavior. In fact, these natural consequences are often the motivators for individuals to take charge of their addiction(s). Although everyone may agree that it’s important for the addicted person to seek help, it’s equally important for enablers to get help. This can be done whether or not the addicted partner is in treatment, so consider reaching out for help today. By taking control of your enabling behaviors, you can begin taking back control of your life! Contact NewPoint of View Counseling today to get started on the path of hope and healing! As a professional therapist, I look forward to helping you to live your most authentic life, filled with love, trust, and relationship satisfaction.