Are You Enabling an Alcoholic in Your Life?
Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited :December 12,
2020 | 4 Sources
Enabling behavior is not unusual when living with an alcoholic
Are you enabling an alcoholic without realizing it? Substance use disorders or SUD affect not only the user but their significant others and their families as well.
Some studies suggest that a user’s partner’s responses to drinking or substance abuse might either hinder or facilitate treatment acceptance as well as recovery efforts. Female partners of male alcoholics have been usually labeled as enablers or codependents.
Most people who enable an alcohol dependent don't even realize they are doing it. They might even have an enabling addiction.
Enabling behaviors are those that support our addicted partner’s chemical abuse. By not letting the addicted person accept the consequences for his actions…by offering them a pillow every time they fall back to their bad habits…we are actually enabling their substance use.
Enabling addiction suggests that you make it possible for an alcoholic to drink. You do this unwittingly; you truly believe that you are trying to help.
However, all you are doing is making the problem a whole lot worse.
Enabling an alcoholic doesn't necessarily mean that you buy someone lots of drinks so that he or she can feed their addiction. It can be much more subtle than that.
Enabling behaviors are, in short, those that allow, help or even encourage the alcoholism of an individual to continue.
Enabling, however misguided, is born of love not hate.
Above all, it is important to be aware of our behavior so that we can stop enabling. Not enabling an addict is the best thing we can do for him or her.
Enabling only reinforces alcoholism denial and prevents an alcoholic from seeking treatment.
Examples of Enabling an Alcoholic
Here are some examples of enabling behaviors:
- Giving money to someone to spend on drink.
- Engaging in arguments with an alcoholic knowing that they will use it as an excuse to drink.
- Doing the alcoholic's dirty work for them e.g. calling their boss to say they are sick and can't come to work.
- Making excuses for their drinking e.g. he's under a lot of stress.
- Accepting their excuses e.g. I'm under a lot of stress.
- Drinking with them.
- Always having drink in the house.
- Giving them drink because it puts them in a good mood.
- Always trying 'to fix' them.
- Always giving them 'one more chance'........and then another...oh, yes and another...and so it goes on.
- Pretending they haven't got a problem at all. That their behavior is 'normal' and acceptable.
- Taking on jobs/chores that the alcoholic should be doing.
You might ask yourself why people behave like this, why they subconsciously want to encourage the alcohol dependent to continue to drink.
There could be many reasons but usually it comes down to just three:
Why People Engage in Enabling Behavior
- We like to be in control, being out of control is seen as 'bad'. This need to control extends to those around us.
- We need to take care of other people so we feel better about ourselves.
- We need other people to think we are nice, so that we can build our self-esteem.
How to Stop Enabling an Alcoholic
If you want to stop enabling an alcoholic
then it is important to establish boundaries
- Boundaries are behaviors you are willing to accept from the alcoholic in your life.
- Boundaries are also behaviors that you engage in that are not acceptable (enabling behaviors) and you must attempt to stop these.
- Your boundaries will not last if you do not try and recognize that you are a good and worthy person because of who you are and not because of what you do.
- Stick to these boundaries at all times. Otherwise you will return to 'enabling mode'.
Do you want to stop enabling someone you care about? Then look no further than C.P.Lehman's e-book, Help Me! I'm In Love With An Addict. This fantastic resource gives you the strategies to find happiness and get your life back on track...without enabling the alcohol dependent in your life.
Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl
Licensed Medical Health Professional
I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More
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