Am I Enabling an Addict?

No one wants to think of themselves as an enabler, but you may be contributing to actions or thought patterns that are enabling the addict in your life. Let’s learn ten signs you’re enabling an addict, so you know which specific behaviors to look out for or correct.

1. Chronic Relapse

Chronic relapse is the addict’s problem to solve, but enabling behaviors go hand-in-hand with chronic relapse. Enabling behaviors do nothing to keep an addict in a sober mindset and as the term implies, enables them to continue with negative and destructive behaviors that lead back to addiction. It’s up to an addict to get clean for good but enabling behaviors will feed into chronic relapse.  

2. Do You Put Their Needs Before Yours?

You should always come first in your life. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you be expected to take care of others? Enablers always put the needs of the addict before their own which creates a toxic relationship for both. To the enabler, the addict is number one, and always comes first in actions, plans, and emotions – even at the expense of their own feelings.  Enablers need to work with family therapists to put their emotions first.

3. Do You Ditch Expert Advice?

If the addict has been through clinical treatment, chances are good that at least some family therapy was involved. Family therapy involves the addict and their family discussing addiction, what the addict needs to do get better, and what the family needs to do to help the addict. Family counseling discusses enabling, codependency, and other negative behaviors.

Leaving this advice in the door or thinking you’re better than addiction experts is enabling at its worst. Always follow the advice of experts in family counseling even if it will cause emotional strain. The guidance of the family counselor can lead everyone to sobriety.

4. Do You Provide Financial Assistance to an Addict?

An addict will never get better if you’re constantly feeding their addiction with cash or other assistance. Enablers feel like the addict will starve or wind up in a gutter without financial assistance, but an adult must learn to earn their own keep, make their own money, and learn to make personal steps in recovery. An addict with money is not a good thing. If you provide cash or other financial assistance for an addict you are enabling them to feed their addiction. Enablers must learn to cut the addict off.

family members

5. Having a Hard Time with No

Try saying no to the addict in your life. Can you do it? Can you say no if the addict asks you for money? Can you say no if the addict asks you to drive him to his ‘buddy’s’ house? Do you always let the addict borrow the car, even when you know they’ve been using? Enablers have a difficult time saying no, even when they know it can lead to destructive behavior. Learning to say no is a big step in leaving enabling behavior behind.

6. Apologizing or Making Excuses for the Addict

An enabler does much more to allow the addict to continue destructive behavior than just giving them cash or a place to say. Enablers will often act as an intermediary for the addict and will apologize, minimize, or make excuses for the addict’s behavior. Even when the enabler knows the behavior is uncalled for or wrong. An enabler might say an addict’s lack of action is “trying to figure things out” or minimize behavior with phrases like, “His outburst last night wasn’t that bad.” Minimization and making excuses are enabling behavior at their core.  

7. Do Things They Should be Doing

Babysitting an addict won’t do anything to help them grow as a person or stem problems. Enablers might be an addict’s cook, maid, laundry service, chauffeur, and more. The enabler thinks doing these things will help the addict focus on recovery but they’re only giving addicts a quicker path to their destructive behavior.

8. Do You Cover Up the Addict’s Behavior and Actions?

An enabler might slip ten dollars into someone’s wallet after witnessing the addict steal it or clean up a room after the addict had an ‘episode’ and threw the furniture everywhere. Covering up an addict’s behavior or actions enables them to keep repeating the same behaviors without worrying about the consequences. You aren’t protecting the addict or doing damage control – you’re enabling.

9. Feeling Like You’re at Fault for Everything

Let’s imagine the addict gets up in the middle of the night, steals your keys, and crashes the car into a neighbor’s mailbox. Do you blame the addict or do you blame yourself for not hiding your keys better? An enabler will blame themselves for the addict’s actions even when the addict is clearly at fault. An enabler must learn the importance of responsibility in both themselves and the addict. The addict is at fault for their own actions.

10. Are You Codependent?

Codependency is an unhealthy psychological reliance on a spouse, partner, or loved one that requires support – like an addict going through recovery. It’s helpful to be there for the addict but relying on them for emotional well-being is a prime sign of codependency. Codependency and enabling always go together.

How to Help Solve Enabling

Family therapy is one of the best options to help leave enabling and other negative behaviors behind. Family therapy involves addiction and family counseling expert sitting down with the family and the addict to review negative behaviors and actions, learn about relapse prevention, learn about negative actions like enabling or codependency, teach the family how to heal, and much more. During family therapy spouses can discover that were accidentally enforcing negative behaviors, addicts can learn how to show their love and support for their family, and both parties can learn how to move forward with the most positive results.

If you worried that you’re enabling an addict, have a codependent relationship, or are having a difficult time living with an addict you need to contact a family addiction therapist. Enabling behaviors are just one part of addiction that needs to be treated for lifelong sobriety.