How to Stop Being an Enabler

people holding hands in therapy session

Watching a loved one struggling with an addiction is not easy. The road to addiction recovery is fraught with physical, emotional, and mental challenges.

That’s why you must offer your loved one as much support as possible. However, sometimes, in our quest to be supportive, we may end up being enablers. An enabler is someone who helps a person who could have handled the situation on their own. It also means someone who allows a loved one to continue with their self-destructive behavior.

You must learn how to stop being an enabler if you’re to help your loved one succeed in beating their addiction.

Am I An Enabler?

Sometimes, there’s a very thin line between helping someone and enabling them. In most cases, enablers don’t do it intentionally. They do it out of love, thinking they’re protecting their loved one. Others are in denial of the facts surrounding their loved one’s addiction.

Are you an enabler? Here are a few signs that will help you know whether you’re helping or enabling:

Ignoring Problematic Behavior

One of the most common signs that you’re an enabler is ignoring your loved one’s problematic behavior. Whether you’re doing it to preserve your relationship or because you’re afraid of the problem, ignoring what’s happening only makes matters worse.

In the same vein, tolerating problematic behavior is also a sign that you’re an enabler. Instead of tolerating problematic behavior, you must address it.

Making Excuses for Your Loved One’s Behavior

Enablers usually don’t want their loved ones to face the consequences of their actions. Because of this, they make excuses for them. Don’t. Making excuses for your loved one or blaming other people or external situations only makes matters worse for your loved one. Helping them face the consequences of their behavior is the best way to empower them to overcome addiction.

Providing Financial Support

Sustaining an addiction requires money. Your loved one may come to you to ask for money—using any plausible excuse. If you want your loved one to recover from addiction, don’t bend to their requests. Doing so makes you an enabler.

Breaking Set Boundaries or Standards

Part of helping a loved one overcome an addiction is to set boundaries. Allowing your loved one to cross a boundary without any consequences constitutes enabling. Empower them by helping them face the consequences of their actions.

Sacrificing Your Needs

Do you find yourself sacrificing your own physical, emotional, or financial needs just to make your loved one more comfortable? That’s a sign of being an enabler. As much as you love them, don’t sacrifice your needs just so life becomes easier for your loved one.

Evaluate yourself and consider your actions and emotions. Do they empower or enable your loved one?

How Enabling Impacts Addiction Recovery

You’re not really doing anything bad, right? After all, you just want your loved one to be more comfortable. Wrong! Enabling your loved one, even in a slight way, has dire consequences. It’s detrimental to their recovery. Here are a few ways in which enabling addiction impacts addiction recovery:

Trivializes the Problem

One of the biggest ramifications of being an enabler is that it trivializes the problem. Your loved one won’t view their behavior as being problematic.

Invalidates the Addiction Recovery Process

Another impact of enabling your loved one is that it invalidates the addiction recovery process. As a result, your loved one won’t take the process seriously. They’ll just follow through with the parts they feel are not too demanding and ignore parts of the process that will require effort on their part.

Puts a Strain on Relationships

Being an enabler will put a strain on your relationship with your friends and family who are concerned about your loved one. Because they, too, want the best for him/her, they will follow through with the tough love expected from everyone. When they find out that you are enabling instead of empowering, your relationship will become strained.

Enabling your loved one will also cause them to resent other friends and family who take a strict stance. As a result, there will be a breakdown in relationships from that angle as well.

The Difference Between Enabling and Empowering

As said, there’s a thin line between helping and enabling, which is further complicated by the fact that both are done out of love. So, how do you tell the difference between enabling and empowering?

Three women friends standing arm in arm laughing and smiling

Enabling focuses on not making waves and keeping the situation from blowing up while empowering focuses on making the person better through accountability for their actions. If you find that the reason behind your actions is to make life easier for your loved one and you, that’s enabling. On the other hand, if the reason for your actions is to help your loved one take responsibility for their behavior, that’s empowering.

How to Stop Being an Enabler

Once you’ve evaluated yourself and discovered that you enable more than empower, you must learn how to stop being an enabler. Here are a few steps you can take:

Address the Situation

Sit down with your loved one and acknowledge that you have not been doing well by them. Let them know that you’ve been enabling and not empowering them and that you plan on changing that. By explaining the situation, you help your loved one understand why you’ll be changing the way you respond to their behavior.

Set Boundaries and Uphold Them

By being an enabler, you’ve crossed many boundaries you shouldn’t have. Establish new boundaries and let your loved one know that you won’t be crossing them. Make sure you really stand by your word and uphold those boundaries. In the same vein, you must learn how to say no. Sure, it may be hard at first, but, remember, saying no could be the best thing you say to your loved one in some situations.

Cut the Financial Support

To help your loved one overcome their addiction, you must cut any financial support you give them. Instead of giving them money, offer them material support by providing what they need—not cash.

Get Support

If the burden of helping your loved one recover is too much for you, consider getting professional help. Join support groups that are dedicated to helping friends and families of recovering addicts.

Effective Ways to Help Loved Ones Without Enabling

There are many ways of helping your loved one without enabling them. A few examples include:

  • Addiction therapy
  • Staging an intervention
  • In-patient and outpatient treatment programs
  • Participating in family therapy
  • Avoiding using substances around them
  • Setting healthy boundaries

To stop enabling your loved one, always consider your actions in relation to whether they’ll help your loved one recover from addiction or not. If your actions don’t help with recovery, they’re likely to have a long-term negative impact.

If you need help dealing with a loved one’s addiction without enabling them, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 626-921-0113. We’re dedicated to helping you, and your loved one, get holistic addiction treatment.