Whether you are someone who has a substance use disorder or you are a significant other/close friend or family member of that person, enabling behavior is something that both parties must watch out for. At Southeast Addiction, when we treat our patients one of the first things we ask is what the person’s home life or social life is like. The reason for this is simple, if you have people in your life that enable poor behaviors, it makes it much more difficult to achieve and stay in recovery.

What is Enabling Behavior Anyways?

Enabling is fairly straightforward, a family member or friend assists the addict with tasks that he or she should be able to manage on their own. Enabling as a concept is not exclusive to addiction treatment, it can be used with any undesirable trait that is being reinforced by someone else.

The main point about enabling is that it often occurs unintentionally. However, with behavior like enabling, intentional or not, it can still have devastating consequences in the long term.

Let’s look at a few enabling behaviors that are common in the lives of those who suffer from substance use disorders.

1 – A Person Shields The Addict From Consequences

This is the most common one seen from family members. Well-meaning family members who understand that their loved one is experiencing issues will attempt to give them “support” by essentially covering their tracks. This could be as simple as loaning money to an addict because they spent all of their money on substances or bailing them out of legal or financial trouble of any kind.

The problem in this scenario is that the family member either knows their loved one has a problem and has a faulty concept of what support is, or they may have their suspicions but are choosing not to come to terms with the possibility. This brings us to the next point.

2 – They Attribute Their Loved One’s Addiction To Something Else

This kind of displacement is common. They see excessive alcohol or drug use in a family member or friend and assume that it is either temporary or something that can be changed at the drop of a hat. Many of us have seen friends or family go through an event such as a romantic breakup or something dire such as a death in the family. Their response to the event may be to use—which is interesting because when we say “use” in this context, we always refer to addiction, yet is someone who is not labeled an addict that uses alcohol as a crutch not in that moment an alcoholic?

The difference is the time frame and length of use. Simply put, enabling behavior could be seen as making excuses for someone else’s excessive substance use by attributing it to some circumstance or other cause. This is faulty reasoning for the simple fact that you could say all addictions are at their root some maladaptive coping mechanism to a stressor.

So if you see a family member or friend who is drinking too much too often, or using illegal substances as a crutch, it is your duty to confront them or have a professional consult them for you.

3 – Manage Their Duties For Them

Many compassionate people end up enabling the addict by managing the duties of the addict for them. An extension of the first point, this can be as simple as cleaning up after them or handling the very simple daily necessities that are required to upkeep a household or bedroom.

Remember, it will be difficult for the person in question to acknowledge they have a drinking problem if the people around them continually assist them in denying the problem exists. This is why interventions are so successful, they force the addict to accept that they may have a problem with substance use.

Georgia Addiction Treatment Center

Southeast Addiction was founded on the idea that we can help individuals who are suffering from substance use disorders and the comorbid mental health conditions that often accompany those addictions. Before all of the habits, the treatment protocols and techniques, it is our firm belief that compassion and understanding are prerequisites for a successful treatment regimen.

Contact us today to get started with the application process so that you or a loved one can be on their way to establishing sustained recovery.