Author: James Anderson

Are You an Enabler? Learn About Enabling Behaviors

what is enabling behavior

But you also work full time and need the evenings to care for yourself. Whether your loved one continues to drink to the point of blacking out or regularly takes money out of your wallet, your first instinct might be to confront them. They say they haven’t been drinking, but you find a receipt in the bathroom trash for a liquor store one night.

Their choices, their consequences, and what they do or don’t learn from them are all on their side of the boundary. Understood this way, detachment with love plants the seeds of recovery. When we refuse to take responsibility for other people’s alcohol or drug use, we allow them to face the natural consequences of their behavior. Al-Anon, a mutual-help group for people with alcoholic friends or family members, pioneered the idea of detachment with love—and recovery for the loved ones of alcoholics. The topic of addiction will understandably create some conflict. Your loved one may show signs of denial, where they refuse they have a problem with alcohol or other drugs.

What is enabling behavior?

Healthy help involves providing information, encouragement, and coaching to your loved one. You may give your loved one contact information for doctors, counselors, lawyers, or rehabilitation programs, without feeling the need to force him or her to accept this help. You may discuss with your loved one what the possible consequences of actions might be, without feeling as if you must make sure they make the choice you want them to make. Healthy help puts your loved one in control and allows you to take a secondary role. On your side of the boundary, this means that you must learn to cope with, and internally manage, the anxiety of not being in control of your loved one.

  1. This allows him/her to under-function or be irresponsible because youre picking up the slack.
  2. By not financially supporting the addiction, the other person will have to find ways to become more self-reliant.
  3. Its scary because your loved one is out of your control and probably making some pretty bad and risky choices.
  4. This can be especially true if the other person denies that they have an addiction.

Jade Wu, Ph.D., is a clinical health psychologist and host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast. She specializes in helping those with sleep problems and anxiety disorders. Asking these questions and encouraging thoughtfulness around them is not being stingy with your support.

Giving Them Financial Support

Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website. Only when they are forced to face the consequences of their own actions will it finally begin to sink in how serious the problem has become. When the other person can’t fulfill their daily duties, you might take over to cover for them. This might involve doing household tasks such as cleaning, laundry, or child care. The problem is that while avoidance might be a short-term, temporary solution, it can make the problem worse in the long run. Helping is doing something for someone that they are not capable of doing themselves.

This may also encompass poor choices around so-called “soft addictions” such as gambling, pornography, or excessive video gaming. He or she may refuse, or appear unable, to fulfill normative roles of adulthood. If a parent, he or she may underperform or disregard the responsibilities of parenthood. The enabled person often displays poor money management, as well as disorganized academic and/or career-planning choices. He or she may quit or be fired from a series of promising jobs and educational or training programs.

Covering for someone at work, taking care of their kids or other obligations, and making excuses for their behavior are natural reactions to seeing someone you love struggle and in need of help. It might actually be allowing them to continue their addiction. Once you get a handle on your own anxiety and worry, you will be better able to reduce your enabling behaviors. When you set boundaries, you release your need to control the outcomes that your loved one experiences. You allow your loved one the chance to connect his or her own choices to the positive and negative experiences that naturally follow.

what is enabling behavior

Instead, it will only encourage the habit as the person becomes accustomed to getting away with drug use consequences. There are strategies that friends and family may wish to pursue.4 For starters, individual counseling and family counseling can be beneficial. Maybe you no longer confide in your best friend about paying your adult sons phone bill because you know that shell shake her head in judgment. The enabler is desperate to prevent one enormous crisis, but winds up experiencing a constant state of stress as he or she attempts to manage each smaller daily crisis. Enablers generally are aware that they are being taken advantage of in some way; they often report feeling frustrated, unappreciated, and resentful.

Not following through on consequences

Addiction Resource is not a healthcare provider, nor does it claim to offer sound medical advice to anyone. Addiction Resource does not favor or support any specific recovery center, nor do we claim to ensure the quality, validity, or effectiveness of any particular treatment center. No one should assume the information provided on Addiction Resource as authoritative and should always defer to the advice and care provided by a medical doctor. The key to breaking the pattern of enabling is to return responsibility to the person it belongs to. This involves setting boundaries between yourself and your loved one. You can no longer attempt to take on responsibility for anyone else’s actions but your own.

But you don’t follow through, so your loved one continues doing what they’re doing and learns these are empty threats. Your partner has slowly started drinking more and more as stresses and responsibilities at their job have increased. You remember when they drank very little, so you tell yourself they don’t have a problem. You may choose to believe them or agree without really believing them. You might even insist to other family or friends that everything’s fine while struggling to accept this version of truth for yourself.

They may work with you in exploring why you’ve engaged in enabling behaviors and what coping skills you can develop to stop those. They can also help you learn ways to empower, rather than enable, your loved one. In this case, an enabler is a person who often takes responsibility for their loved one’s actions and emotions. They may focus their time and energy on covering those areas where their loved one may be underperforming. In certain circumstances, some of these behaviors could be helping rather than enabling.

Enable Addiction: Identifying Addiction-Enabling Behavior

A 2021 study found the risk of becoming codependent is 14.3 times more likely if the family or loved one lacks coping resources. Enabling may be part of a larger codependency issue taking place in the relationship. This may look like a loved one over-functioning to compensate.

It also means being responsible for our own recovery and making decisions without ulterior motives or the desire to control others. This is an obvious red flag that their alcohol or drug use is affecting you enough to cause pain, and they are unwilling to change their substance use. Talk to family members or loved ones about your concerns, and consider attending Al-Anon or another support group where everyone shares similar experiences and everything is kept confidential. This can take many forms, including paying a person’s rent or debt, lying to people about a loved one’s substance use, fixing their tickets or bailing them out of jail. Talking to a therapist yourself can help you develop new coping skills and protect your own mental health and well-being. As long as someone with an alcohol use disorder or other issue has their enabling devices in place, it is easy for them to continue to deny the problem.

If you’ve been avoiding or denying the person’s problem behavior, the first step is to make it clear that you know about it. Be compassionate and make it clear that while you don’t support the behavior, you are willing to support and help them in getting help and making a change. Enabling also involves sacrificing or neglecting your own needs to care for the other person. This might involve experiencing financial hardships in order to keep providing for the other person financially or neglecting your own health in order to care for the other person physically. If you help a loved one set realistic, incremental milestones right from the start, there will hopefully be many opportunities to celebrate. It’s your job to remind them how hard change is, and how proud they should be of every win.