Enabling an Addiction


Enabling behaviors are common in families with drug addiction or alcoholism because most people don’t know how to handle these problems. Parents, siblings, children, friends, co-workers, and sometimes even therapists are guilty of enabling. They simply don’t have the knowledge or skills to deal with the situation in the best way. They usually start out by doing all the wrong things, which is not beneficial to the addict or themselves.

Enabling is when someone makes it easier for the addict to continue his or her drug abuse and alcoholism. They protect the addict from the negative consequences of their behavior, which only ends up making it worse. This is not done intentionally, but rather out of misguided love. It can’t be fixed until family members learn the skills they need to handle someone with an addiction effectively.

Some common examples of enabling someone with alcoholism or a drug addiction include giving money to the addict, bailing them out of jail, ignoring or defending their behavior, lying for them, doing things that they should be doing for themselves, and making excuses for them, such as calling them off sick from work when they’re actually hung over. They may resist trying to get the addict into a treatment program or rehab facility. They’re reluctant to admit that their loved one has a real addiction and the social stigma that could result.

There are two stages of enabling. When the drug and alcohol abuse begins, family members typically show innocent enabling. They are in denial of the addiction and believe they’re doing the right thing. After a while, this changes to desperate enabling. People realize how bad the drug and alcohol addiction has become, yet they are afraid to face it. Rather than helping the individual by getting them into an addiction treatment program, the family and friends show even more enabling behavior. Of course, this only allows the person to spiral deeper into addiction.