An enabler is someone whose behaviors inadvertently facilitate or encourage the behaviors of an addict. Typically, an enabler does these things out of feelings of love and support for the addict. The actions of the enabler often help to keep the addict from suffering the full consequences of his or her behavior. The addict can then continue to function in his or her addiction and avoid or delay the consequences that often lead to the addict seeking or being forced into help for the addiction. Often an enabler does not realize that his or her behaviors are contributing to the ongoing problem. Some of the common characteristics of enablers are discussed below.
1. Denial One of the most common characteristics of an enabler is denial. He or she will often refuse to admit that the addict has a problem at all. Another type of denial is minimizing behavior. One may concede that the addict does exhibit some addictive behaviors, but stop short of admitting that there is a problem that needs intervention.
2. Making Excuses Enablers often find themselves making excuses for the actions of an addict. An enabler might call work for the addict to say he or she is ill. He or she might provide an alibi for the addict when they are unable to fulfill daily responsibilities.
3. Funding Addictions can be very expensive and enablers often give money to addicts out of genuine concern for their welfare. Many enablers will admit in retrospect that they are fully aware of how the addict is using the money. Enablers will often tell themselves that they are helping and whatever the addict does with the money after it is given is not their fault.
4. Assuming Responsibilities Often an enabler will start doing things for an addict that he or she should be doing for themselves. This might include housekeeping, paying bills, caring for dependents or anything else that is ultimately the responsibility of the addict.
5. Protecting Enablers generally act out of genuine concern for the addict. This concern often leads the enabler to protect the addict from feeling bad or experiencing the hardships that he or she might otherwise have to endure.
Conclusion The behaviors discussed above ultimately cause harm because they do not allow the addict to experience the hardship that is often needed for the addict to seek the help that he or she desperately needs. Enablers often feel that they are helping their loved one when they are in fact harming him or her by contributing to the problem in the long run. It is important to remember that it is okay to help but not to enable. Truly helping an addict involves being honest and letting him or her know that you see a problem, being careful not to criticize. An addict did not get to this point overnight, and likewise, will not recover immediately. Emotional support, without enabling behavior, is extremely valuable to an addict as they travel the road to recovery.
(Picture Credit - The Canyon- Renowned Integrated Co-Occurring Treatment Center)