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The Signs of a Substance Abuse Enabler and How to Avoid Enabling

Drug abuse and alcoholism have some severe effects on families, including divorce, broken relationships with children, and domestic violence. However, family members, too, can have some impact on the addiction and recovery process. Besides addicts in The Process Recovery Center and other rehab facilities, the family’s influence can be damaging. Enabling substance abuse has been a significant barrier to successful recovery for many addicts. This piece will explain the signs of an enabler and how you can avoid becoming one.

Who is an Enabler?

If you are an enabler, you do not prevent an addict from continuing with the destructive behavior of substance abuse. Nonetheless, most of these characters do not enable intentionally. Most of the time, they do not realize they enable their loved ones to proceed with chemical use. According to the American Psychology Association, enabling means patterns within close relationships that encourage and support harmful behavior. Enabling is dangerous because your loved ones will not see the consequences of their action, making it hard for them to get the necessary help.

Identifying an Enabler

There are many signs you should watch out for to identify whether you or a different family member is an enabler. Such characteristics include;

Offering Financial Assistance

Substance abuse can be an expensive affair, especially at the addiction level. Your loved one will need money to purchase the substance that gives them the high they want. If your budget allows it, there is nothing wrong with offering financial assistance to a loved one. But, it can be wrong if they use the money on things that can harm them.

Taking on more Responsibilities

Supporting and enabling are different things. When you offer help to a depressed relative, you are supporting them because depression is not a behavior. However, you become an enabler if the help you offer your loved one gives them an easier time to continue with substance abuse. This could include taking care of their children, household chores, and daily activities.

Brushing Off

Sometimes, a loved one addicted to substance use can do or say things that harm you. They may insult you, steal from you, or belittle you. However, you may dismiss such things by telling yourself that they would not have happened if it were not for the addiction. Through such dismissal, you assure them they are not doing anything wrong, hence enabling the problematic behavior.

Making Excuses

This arises when you defend, cover up, or make excuses for your loved one’s behaviors because you are afraid other people will judge them negatively.


The first step to helping your loved ones is by accepting that they need help. When you deny that your relative has a problem, you will not be helping them in any way. You may find yourself even defending them in front of friends and other family members and assuring them that everything is okay.

Avoiding being an Enabler

If any of the above patterns are evident in your relationship with a loved one, here are some tips to help you support instead of enabling them:

  • Insist on Getting Help – It can be tough to get your loved one to start substance addiction treatment, but it can gradually happen if you keep mentioning its importance.
  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol in the presence of a loved one struggling with addiction.
  • Consider working with a therapist who will help you address the patterns and offer appropriate support.
  • Have sturdy boundaries in your relationship with a loved one and stick to them.

Having a loved one struggling with substance addiction can be tormenting for you. However, you must remain careful not to enable problematic behaviors by watching out for the above-discussed signs. If you notice any of the patterns, it is time to take on some strict measures.

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About the author

Jimmy Rustling

Born at an early age, Jimmy Rustling has found solace and comfort knowing that his humble actions have made this multiverse a better place for every man, woman and child ever known to exist. Dr. Jimmy Rustling has won many awards for excellence in writing including fourteen Peabody awards and a handful of Pulitzer Prizes. When Jimmies are not being Rustled the kind Dr. enjoys being an amazing husband to his beautiful, soulmate; Anastasia, a Russian mail order bride of almost 2 months. Dr. Rustling also spends 12-15 hours each day teaching their adopted 8-year-old Syrian refugee daughter how to read and write.