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What is Enabling?

Enabling behaviors are actions we perform in attempt to help someone suffering from addiction, but ultimately make their addiction worse. We may think that we are shielding them from the consequences of addiction, but facing those consequences are necessary for one to come to the realization that they are causing harm to themselves and others and need to seek help.

Dr. Darlene Lancers, in a PsychCentral article entitled Are You an Enabler?, explains, “Enabling is ‘removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior.’ Professionals warn against enabling because evidence has shown that an addict experiencing the damaging consequences of his addiction on his life has the most powerful incentive to change. Often this is when the addict ‘hits bottom’ – a term commonly referred to in Alcoholics Anonymous.” For example, we may provide financial support to keep a loved one with addiction from facing homelessness or major financial difficulty, but those consequences are necessary for them to recognize the weight of the problems that their addiction is causing.

Consequences are necessary for a person with addiction to realize that they are powerless over drugs and alcohol and that their life has become unmanageable. Gaining insight into the nature of their affliction requires that they see the consequences and are aware of the harms that they are causing to others. According to Laura Landler in a 2013 Social Work and Public Health article entitled The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice, “Enabling is a form of accommodation that protects the individual with the SUD from fully experiencing the consequences of his or her substance use. An example of enabling is when the parents of a 25-year-old man repeatedly bail him out of jail and pay for lawyer and court fees generated as a result of drug-related arrests. The parents are attempting to help their son and maintain homeostasis in the system by preventing him from going to jail, however the secondary effect is that the son experiences no consequence to his use. As a result, his SUD is more likely to continue.”

Oftentimes, these kinds of behaviors come from a place of guilt. Parents and loved ones may feel that they are to blame for the individual’s addiction. The fact is, however, that no family member or loved one has caused their loved one’s addiction, and enabling them out of guilt only exacerbates their addiction. Instead, loved ones should be supportive of the individual receiving care, but be careful not to shield them from the consequences of their addiction.

Recovery is possible for anyone. You can begin building a life of happiness, joyousness, and freedom in sobriety by making the decision to seek help now. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, offers a Residential Treatment Program that includes medically-supported detoxification, maintenance care, individual therapies, counseling (including family therapy), and plans to help clients build life skills that will help them after discharge. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or alcoholism, please call today: (833) 242-6431