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What Is an Enabler?

According to the dictionary, an enabler makes something easy, creating the conditions for it to happen. While this definition is valid in all aspects of enabling, it’s especially true regarding addiction treatment and continued addictive behavior allowance, without consequences.

Codependency can throw a wrench in treating addiction, so it’s crucial to address it accordingly in the recovery process. While it’s an incredibly difficult route to navigate, it’s necessary to end the destructive path forged by addiction.

There is a fine line between becoming an enabler and showing love, compassion, and care. Enabling can destroy relationships, and denial is a powerful thing, but thankfully, you can curb enabler behavior once you’ve recognized its presence. So, how do you know if you’re in a relationship that involves enabling behavior?

An Enabler Will Avoid the Topic of Addiction

A reliable way to recognize an enabler is to notice that they avoid all discussions about the apparent addiction, including the problems that it causes in the lives of all those involved. Instead of talking openly about the situation, you may refer to it jokingly or frequently, but in passing. Typically, this behavior is to get a feel for what the reaction to the topic might be.

Suppose you’re always worried about losing a friendship or damaging a relationship you have with someone that struggles with addiction, causing you to feed into their behaviors instead of taking a stand against them. In that case, you may be enabling.

Enablers Take on Responsibilities That Aren’t Theirs

So often, an enabler will take on responsibilities that don’t belong to them because they’re worried about the adverse effects or consequences that may befall the struggling loved one they’re trying to protect. While this instinct may come naturally, it doesn’t do much in the way of recovery, and instead, may fuel the substance abuse problem it’s trying to disguise.

The intense need to help is a common characteristic of an enabler. It’s difficult to watch someone you love flounder, but in the long run, it will be better if you let them face the consequences of ignoring the things for which they are responsible. If you’re experiencing codependency with someone who is addicted, you might:

  • Call in sick to their job for them if they are high, hungover, or crashing
  • Respond to emotional pressure in the way that they want, even though you know it’s encouraging them to keep using
  • Give them money
  • Agree to pay their bills even after you’ve lent them money
  • Feed their denial by expressing yours, such as suggesting stress is causing their significant weight loss when you both know it’s addiction related

Inadvertently Expressing Refusal to Stick to Boundaries

As the addiction of the person you love progresses, you’ll likely reach a point of exhaustion, fueled by anger, frustration, and sadness. At this point, you’ll look to put consequences into place, such as cutting them off financially or not allowing them at your home.

However, it’s vital to stick to these boundaries, no matter how challenging it might be. The inevitable tantrums, pleading, and threats that come along with limitations must not sway you in your decision.

You might be terrified regarding what might happen to them when you’re not around to pick them up, and that is a challenging emotion to control. Breathe, talk to a counselor, and remember that your boundaries are genuinely in their best interest, and yours as well, and will hopefully end in drug or alcohol addiction treatment.

Find Relief from Enabling Behaviors at Atlantic Recovery Center

If someone you love is battling addiction, and you’ve unintentionally grown accustomed to the role of their enabler, know that you’re not alone. There is help available right now for you and the person you love. Call Atlantic Recovery Center at 1-866-824-5193 for more information.