The term “enabling” is often linked to substance use disorders because of addiction’s tendency to be a family disease. Enabling refers to thoughts, feelings, attitudes, or behaviors that can unintentionally help someone’s addiction continue or get worse. The key word of this definition is “unintentionally”. Most often, family members who enable do not realize how their actions are negatively impacting their loved one. Their intention is to help their loved one, not to make them worse.
Are You an Enabler?
So how do you know if you are helping or enabling your loved one? Below are some common examples of enabling you may not know you are engaging in.
- Not confronting a loved one when you have evidence they have been using substances in order to avoid conflict.
- Hiding evidence or agreeing to keep secrets from other family members about your loved one’s addiction for fear of how they might react.
- Making excuses or covering up for your loved one to family, friends, employers, probation officers, or schools so that they do not get in trouble.
- Giving money to your loved one without knowing where it is being spent.
- Bailing your loved one out of jail or paying their legal fees.
- Paying rent or utilities for your loved one when you know they are not taking steps towards recovery.
- Not following through with consequences you have previously set when your loved one breaks his or her recovery contract.
Breaking the Cycle of Enablement
If you are struggling with enabling your loved one, it is important to take steps towards changing this behavior. Seeking out both individual and family therapy can be a great way to facilitate this change. Here at Rehab After Work we offer these therapy sessions in the local eastern Pennsylvania area. Support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings can also be helpful.
Article Written by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC