5 Unexpected Ways You May Be Enabling an Addict

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on November 17, 2020.

Addiction can turn someone you care about into a stranger you hardly recognize. You may be desperate to help, but unsure how to move forward. The first thing you can do is to examine your relationship and make sure you haven’t been enabling your loved one’s addiction.

What does enabling someone mean? To put it simply, enabling is any misconception or behavior that supports, empowers or encourages your loved one’s substance addiction. By recognizing your enabling patterns, you can break this cycle and help your loved one find freedom from addiction.

5 Ways You Might Be Enabling Your Loved One’s Addiction

How do I know if I am an enabler? To answer this question, we’ve come up with a list of five surprising ways you may be enabling your addicted loved one.

1. Prioritizing Your Loved One’s Needs

When someone you care for is struggling with addiction, it’s natural to want to help. However, when you put their needs ahead of your own, you show them that neglecting your wants and desires is acceptable.

2. Blaming Other People or Situations for Their Actions

Enablers tend to blame anyone or anything else other than their loved ones for their addiction. You might accuse other people of causing their drug misuse. Or, you may justify your loved one’s addiction — saying things like it’s their stressful job or past trauma that forces them to turn to drugs or alcohol.

3. Acting Out of Fear

Fear can make you act in uncharacteristic ways. Addiction creates many frightening situations, and sometimes, enablers will do whatever it takes to avoid fearful encounters. Maybe you’re afraid to express your concerns about how much your loved one is drinking. Or perhaps you’re scared to confront them, so you let them use drugs at home.

4. Ignoring Troubling Signs

If your loved one is battling a severe addiction, the signs are bound to be there. Yet, denial is one of the most common enabling behaviors. You may refuse to accept the reality of your loved one’s addiction and overlook the many problems and red flags that are appearing.

5. Attempting to Control

Trying to exert control over your addicted loved one can be just as harmful as pretending the problem doesn’t exist. When a person feels trapped or talked down to, they may distance themselves from your influence and get closer to their substance-using friends. Placing restrictions on your loved one could actually worsen their condition.

Breaking the Cycle of Enabling 

Enabling an addict is a serious problem, but you can help break this cycle. Finding meaningful ways to encourage your loved one toward healing is the best thing you can do. Here are a few actions you can take:

  • Leave your loved one to clean up the messes caused by their addiction.
  • Take care of yourself, and don’t allow your loved one’s needs to eclipse your own.
  • Create healthy boundaries as well as consequences when your loved one crosses these restrictions.
  • Encourage your loved one to get help and realize that you cannot force them.

Worried About a Loved One’s Substance Use? Contact Diamond House Detox Today

If you think someone you know is suffering from addiction, treatment is the best way they can reclaim their life. At Diamond House Detox, we offer medically monitored detox and personalized treatment programs designed to help individuals battling substance use disorder. Explore our programs or contact us to learn more.

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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