When your loved one is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, it can be incredibly painful to watch and experience; so painful, in fact, that it becomes much easier to do everything within your power to keep your loved one from suffering the ultimate consequence of death. Unfortunately, these enabling behaviors make you and your loved one suffer more.

When a member of the family has an addiction, everyone else in the family can become unwell, too. While they are probably not addicted to substances, they can begin behaving in ways they normally wouldn’t in response to what their loved one is experiencing. As a result, members of the family become “sick”, meaning that they are replacing healthy behaviors such as boundary setting and self-care with unhealthy behaviors such as constantly worrying about the addict or alcoholic or putting their needs ahead of their own.

7 Signs Of Enabling

No one ever wants to think that they are the “enabler”. You might not even realize that your behaviors are enabling behaviors, because your intention is to do as much good for your loved one as possible. Often described as “loving someone to death”, enabling can be very dangerous even if your intentions are pure. The most common signs that you are enabling a loved one in his or her addiction are as follows.

1. Covering up for them

When someone has an addiction, he or she is bound to get into some kind of trouble and/or find him or herself in a sticky situation. When you see this occur, your instinct may be to help him or her in any way possible. However, constantly “covering” for them only aligns you with the disease of addiction. You are in no way helping your loved one, rather showing him or her that you accept the consequences of his or her behaviors.

2. Rationalizing behavior

Denial is a very strong emotion. Strong enough, in fact, that it can cause you to rationalize why your loved one is using, how he or she behaves, or what decisions he or she makes. The more you rationalize your loved one’s addiction, the longer you stay in denial, and the longer he or she gets to use.

3. Providing basic needs

As a result of his or her addiction, your loved one might struggle to obtain the most common of human needs. This can include having a place to sleep, food to eat, and access to cash to live. If you provide these things for your loved one, you are enabling him or her. Continually providing these basic needs to your loved one prevents him or her from hitting “rock bottom”, which is what the majority of people need to do in order to finally get treatment.


4. Not sticking to ultimatums

Anyone who has any experience with an addict or alcoholic knows that ultimatums can just easily roll right off the tongue. When you put forth an ultimatum, it is imperative that you stick to that in order to maintain boundaries. However, if you mention ultimatums but never follow through with them, your loved one will never really be concerned that you will take away your support.

5. Keeping your emotions to yourself

Someone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol might have you feeling like you are walking on eggshells because you can never be sure how he or she might react at any given moment. You might have tried to share your own emotions in the past and were instead met with negativity and backlash. However, should you decide that you are no longer going to express your emotions or opinions in front of your loved one in fear of how they might act, you are enabling him or her. This is because you (and likely those around you) are changing the environment to adapt to the addict or alcoholic and his or her needs.

6. Ignoring behaviors

As mentioned before, it is very challenging to watch a loved one go through addiction. One of the ways that you might cope with that is by ignoring the behaviors he or she has developed as a result of his or her addiction. Ignoring the problem is never the answer, and doing so only gives your loved one permission to keep going down the road of addiction.

7. Lying to others

Your friends and other family members might ask you about your loved one and his or her behaviors and addiction. It can be difficult to share your real experiences with others, so it can seem easier to lie. However, as you lie about what your loved one is doing or going through, you are enabling him in the eyes of others. For example, telling a mutual friend that your loved one is “doing well” can make him or her think that nothing of real concern is occurring when it really is.

Ending Your Enabling

For many people, it can be shocking to realize that they have been enabling their loved one through their addiction. For others, it is more obvious. Either way, finding ways to stop enabling your loved one can be critical for everyone’s wellbeing.

To put it simply, learn what your enabling behaviors are and put a stop to them. It sounds much easier than it is, however consistently reminding yourself that you are enabling and not helping can allow you to better curb these behaviors.

It can also be beneficial to connect with others who can relate. Going to support groups like Al-Anon can help you address the ins and outs as to why you have participated in enabling for so long. It can also help you learn from others how to show your loved one love without enabling.

Most importantly, it is critical to allow your loved one to fail. This is so incredibly hard and painful to do because you want to help if you can. But, you cannot constantly bail him or her out of jail. You cannot cover for him or her if he or she is not where he or she is supposed to be. And you cannot continue to provide resources to him or her that allow the addiction to continue.

Get Help

Chances are that both you and your loved one require some form of treatment. For your loved one, he or she can consider several different addiction treatment programs. You, on the other hand, can utilize support groups and therapy to determine how to behave around your loved one.

No matter if it is you who needs help, your loved one who needs help, or other members of your family in need of help, reach out to us right now. We can help you.