There are a few issues that sometimes accompany addiction for certain people, and one of the most well-known examples here is an enabler in your life, also called an enabling relationship. This refers to someone else whose behavior allows an addict to continue self-destructive patterns, such as substance abuse and others, and it’s a common issue for some people who manage addiction.

At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we’re proud to offer caring alcohol recovery, drug recovery and other addiction recovery programs, both inpatient and outpatient. Why is enabling behavior in an addiction situation so problematic, what are some signs that you or someone close to you is exhibiting this behavior in such a setting, and how can enabling behaviors be addressed and limited for the benefit of everyone involved? Let’s have a look.

Why Enabling Behavior is Problematic in Addiction Settings

There are a few key reasons why enabling behavior is so problematic in an addiction setting. The most obvious of these have to do with the fact that it can create an environment where substance abuse or other addictive behaviors are sustained, and this can lead to physical, mental and emotional health issues, as well as further destructive patterns that can be difficult to break out of. Many enablers either look the other way or simply refuse to recognize their role in the situation, and this can be an impediment to getting help for the addict.

In addition, enabling behavior often leads to normalization of the destructive behavior, and this can create a situation where the addict is far less likely to take meaningful action in terms of recovering from their addiction. If they believe that the enabling person or people accept their behavior, they may be less willing to take steps towards recovery.

Signs and Examples of Enabling Behavior

When looking out for signs of enabling behavior in the people who are closest to someone who is managing addiction, there are several notable examples to consider:

  • Turning a blind eye: This occurs when someone refuses to recognize the reality of the situation, or simply decides not to pay attention to it. This can lead to a denial of what’s really happening and also mean that the addict does not get help for their addiction issues in a timely manner.
  • Covering up: This is when someone actively works with an addicted person to hide their behavior or their addiction from other people. This can include making excuses for the addict’s behavior, lying to potential sources of assistance, covering up drug or alcohol related incidents and more.
  • Making threats: In some cases, an enabler may make threats against the addict in order to limit criticism. This is generally a misguided action which can lead to further enabling behavior and also a lack of willingness to get help.
  • Taking on their basic responsibilities: In other cases, enablers will actively take on the basic responsibilities for an addict, such as paying bills, providing financial assistance and more. This can create a situation where the addiction is sustained, rather than addressed.
  • Using substances with the addict: In some of the worst cases, enablers may choose to use substances with the addict. This can create a situation where the addiction is further enabled and sustained, rather than addressed in a meaningful way.
  • Blaming others: In some cases, enablers may be quick to blame others for the addict’s behavior. This is a common deflecting tactic which can further enable the addiction and prevent meaningful action from being taken.

How Enabling Behaviors Can Be Addressed

The first step in addressing enabling behaviors is to recognize that they are occurring, whether within yourself or someone else who is close to the addict. Once these behaviors are recognized, there are several steps which can be taken to limit their impact and help the addicted person get on the path to recovery:

  • Open communication: One of the most effective ways to address enabling behavior is for everyone involved to participate in honest and open communication about what’s really happening and what needs to change. Talk about the reality of the situation and make sure that everyone can be heard in a safe environment.
  • Identify solutions: Once communication is open, it’s beneficial to start exploring potential solutions. This could include getting professional help for the addict, finding ways to limit enabling behaviors and more.
  • Create boundaries: It’s also important to create clear boundaries with regards to the enabling behavior, and the addict’s continued substance abuse. This may include setting rules around behavior and consequences for breaking them, as well as providing support but not sacrificing other aspects of your life to do so.
  • Seek help: Finally, it’s often helpful to seek out assistance from a professional in order to manage the situation better. This could be a therapist or counselor, support group or another professional who can provide valuable insight.

Enabling behavior is a common issue for people managing addiction, and it’s important to recognize when it’s happening so that meaningful action can be taken to address the problem. With honest communication and clear boundaries, a path towards recovery can start to open up.

For more here, or to learn about any of our caring addiction recovery programs, speak to our team at Moonlight Mountain Recovery today.