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Enabling An Addict - How Do You Know If You Are?

Updated on September 13, 2019
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Through her passion for writing and coaching, Rachael shares her experience and support in the journey of loving an addict.

What is enablement?Is it right, or wrong to enable?Are you enabling?

It can be really hard to know if you should enable, if you are enabling and what constitutes enablement. But it’s a really important thing to be aware of, and to try and avoid doing when loving an addict.

So what is enablement?

Enablement is providing the means or opportunity for a person to do something. In this case, for a person to engage in their addiction.

By enabling, we make it possible for our loved ones addiction to continue operating. It’s almost like providing it nourishment, to allow it to keep on living and growing. So it’s never a good thing to keep doing. It prolongs the path to recovery, it delays the ‘rock bottom’ that so many addicts need to experience before they look towards recovery.

How do you know if you are enabling?

If you are doing any of the following, you are probably enabling:

  • Giving your addict money
  • Making excuses for your addict
  • Paying their bills
  • Paying for activities, nights out etc
  • Buying them food
  • Lying for them
  • Allowing them to live rent free
  • Accepting poor behaviour
  • Brushing off the impact of their problem on your life

An addict needs enablement. It allows them to remain within the shadow of their addiction. In fact, without knowing an addiction has taken hold of the person you love, you will likely have unwittingly been enabling simply by loving them, being kind, being yourself, looking away and ignoring those hunches that something was wrong.

Even once you know you have your loved one has or has developed an addict, at times you may find yourself enabling to try and placate a situation, to do anything to make them happy. Don’t do this, please. It might give you some peace at the time, but I promise that the backlash that follows as the addiction continues is not worth it. And it won’t be the last time that you are looked upon for enablement. An addict will always come back for another serve.

I often get asked “How do I support without enabling?”. The answer is, as long as your loved one is still actively engaging in their addiction, you can’t fully support them. You can love them, and be ready to support their recovery, but you cannot support them while addicted.

It can be extremely difficult and distressing to stop enabling, even once you are aware of doing it. You will probably feel guilty, disloyal, unkind and hypocritical if you have done any of the above in the past. In being refused enablement your loved one will likely become angry, frustrated or even more manipulative to try and reinstate the enablement but by holding your ground, you are gaining strength. You are telling the addiction “NO! No I will not continue to feed you and let you live on. I will not be an accomplice to your destruction”. You are making a choice to live with integrity in a situation where it can feel like there is none. It will be hard at first but in time it will become easier, and you will feel more resiliant to the addictions pleas. You will have control of YOUR role in the addicts life.

Although it might seem the opposite for your addict, and for you, ceasing all enablement is the right way to love your addict during their battle with this disease. It is the most genuine love you can show them because you are fighting for them, fighting the demon that has hold of them, starving it of it’s opportunity to keep on growing. And you are protecting yourself from the guilt that always comes to us when we think about how we might have contributed to the downfall of our loved one. By not giving them anything, you are not giving their addiction any extra ground. You can hold your head high in the knowledge that you did not ENABLE the continuation of their addiction.

Your loved one will understand this expression of love in their recovery. I promise.


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