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What is an Enabler? Signs and Support Options

what is an enabler

Enablers are individuals who may, knowingly or unknowingly, help a person continue their substance abuse behaviors. While an enabler may think that they are acting in the best interest of their loved one, this can often create a mutually destructive relationship dynamic that furthers the cycle of addiction. 

Today, we are going to cover what exactly is an enabler, signs of enabling, and how you can find support to break the cycle and establish a healthier relationship with someone in your life who is struggling with addiction.

What Exactly is an Enabler?

An enabler is someone who helps a person suffering from substance abuse issues continue to use drugs and alcohol. They may provide the person with money, housing, or transportation, and make it possible for them to keep using.

Sometimes, enablers can have their own history of addiction and may feel guilty or helpless about the situation. They may feel it is unfair to address their loved one’s substance abuse when they have had their own similar struggles in the past. 

However, enabling is not healthy for either party involved. The person with the addiction will not get the help they need, and the enabler may end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

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Enablers May Not Always Know they Are Enabling

People who could be considered enablers to another’s substance abuse may not be knowingly enabling their loved ones. In many cases, a person living with an addiction may attempt to conceal it from their friends and family. For example, they may ask to borrow money and lie about what they intend to use it for.

Conversely, other enablers may play a more active role in enabling a person’s addiction. Friends of a person living with alcoholism may invite them out for a night of drinking without realizing that the person is struggling with addictive behaviors surrounding alcohol.

Signs of Enabling

If you know or suspect that a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, you might be wondering, “Am I an enabler?”. Here are some common signs of addiction enabling:

Making Excuses for the Person’s Addictive Behaviors

If you find yourself constantly making excuses for your loved one’s substance abuse, this is one of the most common signs of enabling. This could include explaining away missed work or failed responsibilities due to drug and alcohol use, or covering up for them when they’ve gotten into trouble as a result of their addiction.

Helping Them Avoid Consequences of Their Behaviors

Enablers often try to protect their loved ones from the consequences of their addiction. This might look like bailing them out of jail or paying for damages they’ve caused while under the influence. In some cases, an enabler might even take on the person’s responsibilities in order to keep things running smoothly in their life.

Continuing to Provide Money, Shelter, and Other Resources

One of the most common ways that people enable addiction is by continuing to provide resources like money, food, and housing – even when they know it will be used to support the person’s addiction. This can be a difficult situation to break free from, as many enablers feel guilty about cutting off support.

Not Acknowledging Their Addiction Verbally

Many enablers will not verbally acknowledge that their loved one has a substance abuse problem. This can be done out of denial or a desire to protect the person.

Not Setting Personal Boundaries 

Enablers often have a hard time setting personal boundaries with the person they are enabling. This can lead to situations where the enabler feels like they are being taken advantage of or used. This could also create a scenario where the person experiencing addiction is able to continue to freely engage in substance abuse in their presence.

Getting Help for Yourself and Your Loved One

It is important for enablers to seek their own professional help alongside their loved one who is struggling with substance abuse. This can help break the cycle, establish healthy boundaries and coping skills, as well as create a healthier relationship between the two individuals. As the other person completes their treatment program, the enabler can also learn to prepare for the new life in recovery. 

Get Professional Substance Abuse Treatment Today 

At Compassion Behavioral Health, we provide a broad variety of substance abuse treatment solutions from our facility in beautiful South Florida. To learn more about how we can help you or your loved one struggling with addiction, call us at (844) 999-0874 or reach out online today.