Addiction Treatment

What Are the Signs of an Enabler?

Written By:

Becky Babb

What Are the Signs of an Enabler?

What Are the Signs of an Enabler?

The term enabling is often used when speaking about relationships with people who have addiction. People who enable are often the ones who suffer the impact of a person with addiction behavior. Enabling is the removing of natural consequences for a person with addiction. The damaging consequences are not seen as being so devastating and, thus, lowers the incentive to change. When a person ‘hits bottom,’ this might change, but otherwise, it can often lead to a very long road for both the person enabling and the loved one with addiction.


People with codependent tendencies often feel compelled to solve other people’s problems. If they are involved with a person with addiction, they may end up taking on the person’s responsibilities as well. The challenging part is that it may start as a well-intentioned desire to help the person but later as the stages of addiction progress, desperation sets in. The person with addiction expects certain things will stay the same and the partner or loved ones will right everything even when the person with addiction doesn’t meet their responsibilities. This cycle of codependency can be really challenging to deal with.

How to Stop Enabling

Quite often, people with addiction are not aware of their own actions when they drink or use drugs. They may have memory lapses or loss of awareness of how their behavior impacts others. People who enable try to clean up the messes they leave behind, both physically and emotionally. Stopping behavior that is enabling is hard, because fear can set in for the enabler. On the one hand, a loved one does not want to see the person suffer or even risk death but on the other hand they don’t want to continue allow behavior that harms themselves and others to continue. It often helps to try the following:

  • Weigh the consequences of experiencing short-term pain vs. long-term pain
  • Recognize the powerlessness that is felt over addiction as a loved one but that the ability and desire for sober living can only come from that person themselves
  • Reclaim a sense of autonomy and take steps to stop allowing their behavior to put everyone else in jeopardy
  • Have a Plan B to cope with unreliability, including going to 12-step meeting or staying home rather than being out with that person
  • Follow through with plans and engagements with or without the person with addiction so they don’t feel they have power to manipulate others

Enabling has consequences for everyone involved. Learning to be assertive and setting boundaries can help stop enabling. The only way to truly stop it is to help the person understand the need for rehab and treatment, then step back and let them make the final decision. From there, it is important to stay engaged in the recovery process with them but recognize they themselves have to do the real work of recovery.

The Last Resort provides a safe, supportive environment for men in a retreat-like setting. Nature is an important component of recovery and healing. We strive to provide a place of enrichment that cultivates the inner as well as the outer journey of recovery. However you find your way to the Last Resort, we endeavor to provide a haven where you can journey through recovery feeling like your life and story have meaning and a purpose. Call us to find out more: 512-750-6750.

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