Are You an Enabler? How Can You Tell?

When you love somebody who is suffering from an addiction disorder, it’s often hard to know how to help. You may worry that if you’re too harsh with your loved one, he or she might push you away. You want your loved one to get better, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t set boundaries. These types of circumstances an slowly cause a person to play the role of enabler in an addicted person’s life.

If you have trouble setting boundaries, you’re probably going to do things that help your loved one keep using their drug of choice. Many of these actions are enabling behaviors, which can be hazardous to your mental health as well as the outcomes for your loved one.

Everyone wants to help the people that they love and care about, but sometimes good intentions can go awry. Addiction is called a family disease, and a lot of this has to do with not only the addicted person’s actions but the way their close friends and family adapt. Sometimes people who show how they care in an extreme way actually make it easier for addiction to take hold of their loved one.

What is Enabling and How Does it Affect Addicted Persons?

When you enable your loved one and make it easier to use, you also help them remove all accountability for his or her actions. Enablers can “helping” to a whole new level – you’re supporting them in many ways. For example, your loved one is stealing from you, and you don’t say anything when things go missing. Or, you give your loved one money regularly after they lose their job and don’t ask where they’re going when they leave the house. When addicts have a relationship like this, it helps them continue to use and often worsens their behavior, because they know there are few limits or consequences to their actions.

If you’re an enabler, you probably do a lot of your actions out of love, but it can backfire in many ways. While it may sound like a bad thing to be diagnosed as an enabler, it’s not because you’re a bad person. You may think it’s your responsibility to watch after your loved one and clean up after their messes. (After all, they’re in a dangerous place right now, but things might get better, right?) Addiction is a downward spiral, and when you’re in a co-dependent relationship like this, you’re also on a sinking ship. More and more of your life will become dedicated to helping the addicted person’s most fundamental responsibilities. They’ll probably take advantage of this. If you live together, you might find yourself paying their bills or packing food or even doing their laundry for them. Resentments can build up, and your relationship will be damaged. It will also take a toll on your mental health.

Does your loved one mistreat you? Are they abusive to you? Do you have trouble saying “no” when they ask you for a favor? Do you obsess over their addiction, or find yourself preoccupied with worry? Are you having trouble getting other things done in your own life? If you answer yes to a few of these questions, then you’re likely in a codependent or enabler relationship.

Addiction can cause people to become codependent. It creates pain and suffering when a loved one’s behavior is worrying you sick.

Getting Help for Enabling

The best way to learn how to react to your loved one, without enabling, usually involves learning to take care of yourself through therapy or support groups. When you’re trying to take care of somebody else full-time, you’re not taking care of yourself.

Being an enabler is painful and unproductive, and you shouldn’t have to suffer. While you experience pain and depression over your worsening state of affairs, your loved one will still be addicted, and life will be incredibly stressful. Find out about local support meetings through Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous, and take some time to look for a therapist that understands the issue your family is facing.

If your loved one is looking for help or you think they’re ready for recovery, please us a call at (877) 228-2401 to learn more about your options. All calls are 100% confidential.


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