Loving vs. Enabling

Whether you have experience with it or not, dealing with people who suffer from addiction can be a very tricky situation. No matter if those addicted are your family or friends, addicts make a lot of excuses and make a lot of decisions based on their drug fixes. They might manipulate you into thinking you’re helping when you’re really just enabling the behavior. To recognize the difference between support and enabling is extremely important, and not enough people are able to. In this paper, I’m going to discuss the difference between enabling and helping, how to spot signs of an enabler, and how enablement is particularly destructive in families with addicts. If you are looking for advice or information on situations like these, please continue reading.

Are You Helping or Enabling?

The difference between enabling and helping an addict is sometimes hard to define. What you should look for, though, are the consequences of the actions. For example, helping an addict pay bill or lending an addict your money is an example of enabling. You may think you’re just trying to be there for them and support them, but by paying their bills or lending them money you’re allowing bad behavior to continue. The consequence of this action is that their bills get paid so the next time they get ahold of some money, instead of using it to pay their (late) bills, they will use it on drugs.

Helping an addict may entail a number of things. Instead of giving an addict your money, maybe help him/her find a job. Recommend places that are hiring, send links to jobs, maybe even get an application for them. Remember, when you are just being supportive you are doing things for someone that they can’t do by themselves but when you’re enabling, you are doing things for people that they could and should do for themselves.

Spotting The Signs

From the outside, spotting signs of enabling is pretty easy to do. A lot of the times, based on the situation, it should be fairly obvious to the outside perspective. However, it’s not always the easiest when you’re wrapped up in it. A few signs you are enabling include putting your own needs aside to continually take care of the addict, feeling resentful for taking on unnecessary responsibilities, lying to yourself about the addict’s behavior, and spending lots of time and energy focusing on fixing the addict. If you receive comments from those on the outside of the situation, please don’t write them off. So many times parents think they are helping their children when they’re really just prolonging the situation and prolonging a solution.

How Enabling Affects a Family 

When a partner, child, or parent enables a family member, they shield the addict from the consequences of their actions. Most times, parents don’t really see this. They don’t understand the difference between loving vs. enabling. They don’t want to see their child spiral out of control or end up on the streets or in bad situations where they get kicked out of a home, and this is the main reason parents enable their children. Unfortunately, in lots of cases, these sorts of wake up calls are needed in order for the addict to take steps towards rectifying the situation. If not, things can really affect all of the family members. Finances can become tight if the enabler continues to fund the addict. Siblings get irritated or resentful, partners get mad, there’s a whole litany of struggles between everybody in the circle, and most of it is caused by the addict.

 We’ve only really touched and brushed the surface of what enabling is and what it includes. I touched on the basics of enabling and the most popular situations where enablement arises, but it’s everywhere. It can be between anybody, it can affect so many people, and it can destroy lives and even families. That’s why it’s very important to be able to spot the signs of enabling and to speak up in situations like this. I hope that you found this article insightful and gave you some ideas if you know anyone who is enabling an addict. Watch the signs and be alert! It could save a life.