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Addiction Treatment and Enabling


On the surface, enabling looks like good, loving intentions. It is the action a friend or family member does or does not take in order to allow someone they love to continue abusing drugs or alcohol. It could be as simple as making a sick call to school or a place of employment for a loved one or running to the grocery store for an “eye-opener” because they are too hung-over to get out of bed. It could include more extensive measures, such as hiding the car keys or taking on a second job to help pay for financial wreckage such as loss of job or bail from a drug bust or DUI. Loaning a loved one money, letting him or her move back in “temporarily” or driving someone around because they lost their license because of drugs or alcohol are examples of enabling behavior.

Over time, enabling becomes an emotionally exhausting activity of continually monitoring, supporting or covering up for the alcoholic or drug addict in an effort to help. As their disease progresses, enabling behavior tends to progress along with it until eventually the enabler is tolerating more and more destructive behaviors they never would have before. Compromises continue to be made by friends and family members until the addict or alcoholic becomes the sole focus. This results in co-dependency, where the alcoholic or addicts' behaviors influence the whole family's routine, whether it's tip-toeing around when “Mom has a headache” or moving little Joey out of his room so the addict can move back in. Emotional and physical stress can so wear on the enabler that he or she becomes ill or even turns to alcohol or drugs for relief. Without professional help, the result of continuing to enable an alcoholic or drug addict who refuses to get help is a downward spiral of helplessness and hopelessness.

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