3 Unexpected Ways You May Be Enabling an Addict

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on October 6, 2020.

If a loved one struggles with addiction, you must be supportive without enabling their actions. Sometimes the line between enabling and helping is thin, making the distinction difficult to see. When you're close to someone with an addiction, it can be hard to see how your behaviors may hurt them.

What Does Enabling Someone Mean?

When you enable someone, you become responsible for them and their actions, effectively reducing the consequences of unhealthy behavior. If you're enabling an addict in your life, you're likely putting their needs and safety ahead of your own. In contrast, helping an addict involves letting them face consequences so they can see the harm in their behavior.

People are more likely to understand the need for recovery once they know their actions have consequences. Enabling comes from a place of love and a desire to protect, yet it can be damaging to both you and your loved one. Long-term enabling can even lead to co-dependency because the addict eventually loses self-sufficiency with constant protection.

How Do I Know if I Am an Enabler?

If you are an enabler, your behavior probably has certain patterns. Examine your responses to the addict in your life to see if you're working hard to protect them from the consequences of their actions. Below are three signs that you are an enabler.

1. Ignoring or Minimizing Behavior

When your loved one continually makes dangerous choices, such as drinking and driving or taking too much of a substance, it's common for family and friends to be in denial. If you find yourself thinking, "They have it under control," or "It's not that bad," you may feel safe from the problem, but you're also actively avoiding it.

2. Putting the Addict's Needs Before Your Own

When you see negative, addictive behavior in your loved ones, you may feel driven to do everything you can to keep them safe. If you work hard to protect an addict and fix their problems — so much so that you neglect your self-care — you're likely enabling addictive behavior. It's common for enablers to experience burnout because they're putting so much effort into protecting someone else.

3. Having Problems Expressing Emotion

When you put a great deal of effort into someone else, you might find that you don't know how to express your feelings. You might feel that the need to keep the addict safe takes priority over your concerns. You may also be unsure how the addict will respond if you try to confront them about your feelings. Ultimately, keeping an addict in the dark about your emotional experiences enables them to continue their behavior.

Find Help With Diamond House Detox

If you've been enabling your loved one's addiction, you deserve a break and peace of mind. At Diamond House Detox, our private facilities and medical model of treatment contribute to a thorough recovery plan.

If you're interested in learning more about our program, contact us today.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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