Monday, May 23, 2011

Enabling, When Helping is Actually Hurting

Hello Everyone, I hope your doing well. This is a very important issue that needs to be addressed if you are living with someone who is in the depths of an addiction. Letting go is the hardest thing to do, but it is also the best thing you can do for the addict.
Thanks for visiting my blog,
Janet :)


Enabling – When Helping is Actually Hurting

It is difficult to be in a relationship with an addict and not get sucked into enabling behavior. When somebody you love is suffering with an illness or a disease you naturally want to help. As a result, loved ones often step in to save the addict from the devastating consequences of their actions.

Family members believe that they are doing the right things when they help to save the addict’s job, help him or her to stay out of jail, help to pay their overdue bills, or save them from whatever horrific thing is getting ready to happen. Unfortunately, this is not helping. Instead, it is making it easier for the addict to continue drinking or using drugs, because the consequences aren’t bad enough to convince him or her to stop.

So how do you make a change if you’ve been in the habit of enabling your loved one? It is difficult to make a complete turn around overnight. Change takes time. The first step is understanding which behaviors are actually enabling, and then work on turning those behaviors around.

Following are some examples of actions that fall under the category of enabling:

You take on the addict’s responsibilities because they can’t seem to do them on their own. For example; you pay their overdue bills, clean their house, fill their car with gas, or buy them groceries.
You tell lies for the addict, such as ‘calling in sick’ for them, when they are actually too hung over to work.
You make excuses for the addict’s behavior. Perhaps they act out in public, and you make the excuse that the addict has been working a lot of hours, so their behavior is due to stress.
You bail the addict out of jail.
You finish a project that the addict failed to complete.
You clean up after the addict. Perhaps they throw a tantrum, throwing things around and breaking them, and you clean it up.
You threaten to leave the addict, or kick the addict out if he or she uses again, but fail to follow through on your threats.

Are any of these behaviors familiar to you? Enabling behavior comes from the desire to help your loved one. Nobody wants to watch a person they love fall apart. When it comes to addiction, however, the more you protect the addict from the consequences of his or her actions, the stronger the addiction will become.

It is a difficult thing to let go and allow your loved one to face the consequences of their actions, especially since it can affect your well-being as much as theirs. You don’t want your life to become more stressful. You don’t want your spouse to lose his or her job. You don’t want to admit to family and friends how bad things have gotten. So you do everything in your power to keep the outside world from finding out.

Here is the tough reality: things need to start crumbling around your loved one in order for him or her to realize their need for help. As long as they are not forced to face the consequences or their actions, they will never see the need for help.

Stopping enabling behavior does not mean you stop caring. You can show compassion for the addict without their problems becoming yours. You can listen with a loving ear without taking on their responsibilities. You can offer guidance without belittling.

It is important to have a strong support system as you make these changes. One of the best forms of support available, for those involved with an addict, is Al-Anon. Through family support groups such as Al-Anon, you will find the guidance needed to make healthy changes in your family dynamic.

While common themes play out in most addictive households, every situation is unique. It is important to consult a qualified health-care professional for evaluation and advice. Addiction is a complicated disease, but when family members learn to take on new healthy behaviors, they really can make a difference in the recovery of their loved ones.

by Lisa Espich


  1. Years ago my parents and relatives decided to stop enabling me and it was the best thing that could have ever happened. It still took years after to sober up but it is a blessing in disguise.

  2. Co-addiction is a massive problem and makes addiction to a much wider social illness - the elephant in the parlour syndrome.

  3. Thank you Pink for sharing this comment with all of us, it must of been hard for you, but like you said in the long run it made you a better person. I'm so happy for you that you had loved ones that cared enough for you to let go and let God, it's not easy!
    Thanks again,
    Janet :)

  4. Your so right Francis, I have been looking around for some good information to share on co addiction while I do this series. I look forward to more of your input,
    Thanks for the comment,
    Janet :)

  5. My husband didn't stop drinking even after getting arrested and being charged with breaking into someone's house and beating the hell out of them. He didn't remember any of it, and he wouldn't do anything like that if he were sober. He said he would quit drinking, but then he started talking about going out again and just drinking in moderation. It wasn't until I told him to quit drinking and go to meetings or I'm leaving with the kids that he finally stopped. I had the car packed up and ready to go...I was leaving for good...and he woke up. He hasn't had a drink in 2 years.

    I was an enabler before, and I let him make me believe that I was the one with the problem - I was paranoid, according to him. "Why are you trying to make me an alcoholic?" He'd say that all the time, and talk about how the other wives don't treat their husbands like fact, they went out and got plastered every weekend too. Made me think I was the one with the problem, but he was just trying to defend his addiction...they all do it. He tried quitting before and then convinced himself that he didn't really have a problem. I finally had enough when it looked like he might go to prison and he still thought he could drink. My sister gave me a lot of empowerment - long talks with her about the situation helped me overcome the BS he was feeding me in an attempt to protect his addiction. Now our marriage is a happy honest one...a sober one. It doesn't always happen that way...sometimes the ultimatum comes back with a negative response where the addict chooses addiction over family, and I'm thankful my husband chose us and his health over alcohol.

  6. Hi Jennifer, thank you for sharing your story! I hope it helps others out there going through what you did. I also went through the same as you. I am happy things have worked out for you and your husband, things have worked out the same for my husband and I. Life is good sober, it is sad to see some people never get that!
    Thanks again,
    Janet :)

  7. Is this thread still active??

    1. this is just a blog post, not a live thread if that is what your asking.

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