For those of us who are dealing with someone in our lives who has an addiction, we may have asked ourselves, “What would actually happen if I no longer help him?” We tend to think the worst—that the person we love will end up homeless, overdosing, or perhaps even dying. We’ll explore what enabling behaviors are and ways to help stop practicing them ahead.

The main concept of enabling is to understand that there is a fine line between helping someone and enabling someone.


Examples of enabling behaviors can include the following:


  • Taking on an addict’s responsibilities, including buying groceries, paying bills, cleaning their home, or giving them money for gas.
  • Bailing the addict out of jail or helping them when they are in financial difficulty
  • Making excuses for the addict’s behavior
  • Telling lies for the addict, for example helping them call in “sick” for work when they really are too hungover or sick from their addiction to work
  • Giving the addict ultimatums but never following through on them. For example, threatening to kick them out of your home or discontinue paying their bills, but not actually doing either.
  • Drinking alcohol or using drugs with the addict in order to try and strengthen the relationship


Any action anyone does that could make it easier for an addict to use alcohol or drugs. The simple answer to combating enabling behavior is to just stop doing it. Of course, it can be easier said than done, especially if the addict is a spouse or close loved one. By nature, we try to take care of the person in order to help them, but with addiction all that does is enable the disease to thrive.

When the addict struggles, the best thing for a loved one to do is take away the safety net they provide. Once the patient realizes that he or she cannot go on living the way they are without help from others, they may decide to seek help.

The addict will truly need help once they acknowledge the severity of their addiction. When they reach out for help to get sober right away, it’s fine to step in and help. This could be in the form of helping them attend a rehab program, or even just emotional support. Be sure to set boundaries, however. Make sure you explain you will only help them if they continue to seek recovery.


For more assistance with addiction, contact Treatment Now.

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