Author: Alex Thompson

Helping vs Enabling: Whats the Difference?

what is enabling behavior

To stop codependency and enabling, you have to allow them to confront and manage the consequences of their addiction, even though it may feel unnatural, unloving or mean. Rather than allowing a person to face the natural consequences of addiction, a person in a codependent relationship will try to shield their loved one from consequences—and enable them in the process. You’re also being a good role model for consistent behavior. You can enable someone’s bad behavior in many ways, but it all boils down to the things you do to keep them in the status quo. Your resentment may be directed more toward your loved one, toward the situation, both, or even yourself. You might feel hurt and angry about spending so much time trying to help someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate you.

We realistically cannot stop people from drinking alcohol or using drugs. You can’t help someone if they’re afraid or ashamed to be honest with you. That doesn’t mean you condone their unhealthy behaviors; it simply means you acknowledge their intrinsic validity as a person. In these moments, it can be hard not to feel compelled to do something. We sometimes reflexively feel like we have to give money or some other non-specific form of “bail.” But after a time or two, you simply become the ATM (or the dog house, or life raft). The root of their problem doesn’t change; they simply gain a false sense of security that there’s always more bail if they screw up again.

  1. It’s difficult to work through addiction or alcohol misuse alone.
  2. We may be paid a fee for marketing or advertising by organizations that can assist with treating people with substance use disorders.
  3. Enabling addiction is not only harmful to the person dealing with the problem.
  4. You might feel torn seeing your loved one face a difficult moment.

Just imagine that someone has a huge amount of credit card debt due to poor decisions made years ago. They work minimum wage to pay the interest, but can’t get a better job without further training, and they get further in debt without better job prospects. A loan to pay off a portion of this debt could free them up to take supervisor training, so they can get a raise, and eventually climb out of their financial hole. If you put your foot down on not loaning money to your brother until three agreed upon monthly payments on previous loans, don’t waffle after two months.

Our addiction treatment specialists are here to assist you in verifying your insurance coverage. Asking these questions and encouraging thoughtfulness around them is not being stingy with your support. Your compassion plus your boundaries will make the perfect balance for delivering your help, and you just might be planting that first seed towards their recovery.

In other words, enablers detest the behaviors of the enabled, but they fear the consequences of those behaviors even more. Setting boundaries feels like a punishment, a rejection, or an abandonment of the person they love. Enablers may struggle with the guilt they would feel if the person they’re enabling were “left alone” to be hurt and damaged by the real consequences of their actions. In some instances, enablers are also protecting themselves and/or children from those consequences. More than a role, enabling is a dynamic that often arises in specific scenarios. People who engage in enabling behaviors aren’t the “bad guy,” but their actions have the potential to promote and support unhealthy behaviors and patterns in others.

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For the loved ones of people with an alcohol or substance use disorder, sometimes this isn’t easy. In one sense, “enabling” has the same meaning as “empowering.” It means lending a hand to help people accomplish things they could not do by themselves. More recently, however, it has developed the specialized meaning of offering help that perpetuates rather than solves a problem.

At the same time, it may be difficult for you to stop enabling them, which in turn might increase your irritation. Taking on someone else’s responsibilities is another form of enabling behavior. When someone you care about engages in unhealthy behavior, it can be natural to make excuses for them or cover up their actions as a way to protect them.

what is enabling behavior

This notoriously allows the addicted person to avoid facing the full consequences of his or her addiction, and the addiction is able to continue. They may work with you in exploring why you’ve engaged in enabling behaviors and what coping skills you can develop to stop those. They can also help you learn ways to empower, rather than enable, your loved one. When you engage in enabling behaviors, you may find that the bulk of your time and energy is focused on the other person.

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If you help a loved one set realistic, incremental milestones right from the start, there will hopefully be many opportunities to celebrate. It’s your job to remind them how hard change is, and how proud they should be of every win. Give them ample space to talk through their thoughts and feelings. Before you start to help someone, it’s important to acknowledge that you can’t control another person’s behavior, and it’s not your job to do so.

The enabled person lives in the same world, with the same rules, as everybody else. Managing their world for them means that they don’t learn to manage themselves within the world. He or she is very likely to have untapped internal and external resources which have not been utilized because the enabling pattern has short-circuited their growth. He or she may gradually accept a self-concept that includes these negative traits, destroying self-esteem. In a codependent relationship, you can enable a loved one by explaining away all of their choices and behaviors. Not only does this positively reinforce good behaviors but also strengthens the trust between you.

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This help is ultimately not helpful, as it usually doesn’t make a problem entirely go away. It often makes it worse since an enabled person has less motivation to make changes if they keep getting help that reduces their need to make change. Enabling often describes situations involving addiction or substance misuse. Enabling can describe any situation where you “help” by attempting to hide problems or make them go away.

You might decide it’s better just to ignore the behavior or hide your money. If you believe your loved one is looking for attention, you might hope ignoring the behavior will remove their incentive to continue. It’s not always easy to distinguish between empowering someone and enabling them. Talking to a therapist yourself can help you develop new coping skills and protect your own mental health and well-being. Enabling can also involve excusing or covering up their behavior so that they don’t have to face the consequences. For example, you might call their employer and say that they are sick when they are really too hung over to go to work.

Enabling behaviors ultimately perpetuate the problem by protecting or safeguarding a person against experiencing the full consequences of their actions. Supporting someone empowers the person to take active steps in their recovery. Boundaries begin by recognizing the difference between enabling and supporting someone. Maintaining boundaries between enabling and supporting may be key to helping friends, family members, and loved ones.

An enabler is never the addict themselves, but typically someone very close to them – either a loved one or a friend. These people may find it difficult to make tough decisions for the good of the addict and can end up enabling them, leading them further away from recovery. As a loved one of a person struggling with addiction, it is important to identify enabling behavior you might be showing.