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Enabling behavior examples: Top 10

Enabling does not help addicts

Dealing with an addict is never easy.  But take a close look at the life of any person struggling with addiction, and you will likely find at least one family member or friend “helping” that person. Somebody making it easier for the addict to continue in the progression of their disease. This behavior is called enabling. The problem is that this form of helping is actually hurting.  And instead of support drug addict, family members end up making the problem worse.

Enabling vs. helping

So how do you know the difference between helping and enabling? Helping is doing something for another person when they are not capable of doing it for themselves. Enabling, on the other hand, is doing things that the person could and should be doing for him or herself. Enabling behavior makes it easier for an addict to continue drinking or using drugs because the consequences aren’t bad enough to convince him or her to stop.  As a result, the addict is neither ready or willing to apply self help for drug addiction.

Top 10 enabling behaviors

Following are the top ten actions that fall under the category of enabling.

1. Taking on the addict’s responsibilities for them. For example, paying their overdue bills, cleaning their house, filling their car with gas, or buying them groceries.

2. Telling lies for the addict, such as ‘calling in sick’ for them when they are actually too hung over to work.

3. Making excuses for the addict’s behavior. Perhaps they act out in public, and you make the excuse that the addict has been working a lot of hours, so their behavior is due to stress.

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4. Bailing the addict out of jail or financial difficulty.

5. Finishing a project that the addict failed to complete on his or her own.

6. Cleaning up after the addict. Perhaps they throw a tantrum, throwing things around and breaking them, and you clean it up.

7. Threatening to leave or kick the addict out of your home if he or she uses again, but failing to follow through on your threats.

8. Accepting part of the blame for an addict’s bad behavior.

9. Drinking or using drugs with an addict in an attempt to strengthen the relationship.

10. Avoiding issues that need to be addressed out of fear that the addict will become angry.

What can enablers do to help?

If you see yourself in any of the above examples, you may be enabling an alcoholic or addict. Knowledge is the first step toward positive change. Now that you are aware of these behaviors, you can start to steer yourself away from them, and avoid enabling a loved one’s addiction.

Enabling behavior questions

Do you still have questions about enabling behaviors?  Maybe you’d like to open up and share about your own enabling, or a family member’s addiction.  Please leave your comments and questions here.  We try our best to answer all legitimate queries with a personal and prompt reply.  And if we don’t know the answer, we will refer you to someone who does.

Photo credit: gsz

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23 Responses to “Enabling behavior examples: Top 10
Tired John
7:13 pm February 4th, 2013

I am an enabler. Not by choice but am my mentally ill sons payee for SSD. I willl not take him in. As of today he is on the stret again. As required I will pay his rent for him.Will give him cash and take him to grocery. But I know he’s a tweeker and pot smoker. The most I give him is 40$ to last him for a week or 2. He’s been arrested several times and I am relieved when he is. Cuz then I know he is eating and not using. His mother refuses to have anything to do with him but I need a break. Any sugestions?

Naomi
7:34 am February 6th, 2013

I’ve enabled a lot throughout my life. Boyfriends, children, etc. No more. When I bailed my son out of jail and he didn’t even call to thank me, I knew I was being played. When you work hard to enable (and trust me, enabling will suck the life out of you)…one day you will hopefully see the light and stop. Get out of God’s way. Why should I enable anyone when they are fully capable of helping themselves? They work hard to get high…they can work even harder to get it right. God gives us all a job to do…so therefore I can’t do someone else’s job. If someone is walking the straight and narrow and needs some help, that’s one thing. But I can’t help someone who is turning their back on God cause I’m trying to live right.

Naomi
7:42 am February 6th, 2013

Pray for discernment.

diana kraft
6:54 pm August 19th, 2013

I am trying to understand what people are telling me to do with my son when they tell me i need to walk away with love.

5:08 am August 20th, 2013

Hi Diane. Thanks for your message. Here are some suggestions:

1. Don’t give your son money.
2. Don’t allow your son to stay with you (it’s like giving him extra money to spend on drugs or alcohol).
3. Offer him help with finding addiction treatment, but keep communication short and infrequent.

While these steps may seem unloving, you can channel your love into finding him help when he’s ready. Otherwise, your message is not received anyways.

sad sister
2:27 am September 8th, 2013

My parents enable my sister’s alcoholism, my mom knows this but my dad thinks she isn’t an alcoholic. I know she is because she has classic symptoms (like having 12 drinks each night, ordering doubles, etc). My dad gives her a wake-up call everyday for work because she cannot wake up on her own. They pay her bills, and my dad even sends her work resume around in hopes of finding her a more stable full-time job! Everytime I bring these things up, he has excuses for her, and even told me that he does not believe she has a problem. I know she will not seek help until she reaches her bottom, but she can’t get there with my dad in the way. How do I help him see what he is doing is an issue, if he gets so defensive when we talk about it?

11:26 am September 13th, 2013

Hello sad. I’d suggest that you seek the help of a family counselor (a licensed clinical psychologist) with experience in addiction. Family dysfunction can be addressed in family therapy, but you’ll need an ally in the form of a therapist to guide you and your family through the process. I wish you the best of luck. Many blessings.

artist.88
3:10 am October 4th, 2014

Please help me pray for me married for 38 years my husband has abused drugs and alcohol for our entire life together. I have lost the ability to care about anything. His habits are very expensive the financial strain it puts on us is very stressful if I say anything about trying to cut back I can see and feel his anger towards me. I have done everything I can for him I have become nothing all I have to look forward to for years to come is him working all week I am home alone all day he doesn’t talk much during the week he comes in eats dinner and he is in bed by 8:00 he doesn’t drink at all during the week but on Fridays he comes home his beer was iced down on Thursday evening and now the weekend drinking begins he will drink on Friday until his speach is slurred and he is off balance. Gets up Saturday on the golf course by 12:00 drinking begins he comes back at 5:30 happily drunk wewe can’t eat together because he has to reach his quota. Her finally eats something around midnight and passes out. Sunday he lays around feeling bad goes to bed early and it starts over. I never have any serious conversation or any adult conversations with him I stay stressed ooover trying to pay for everything he wasn’t to do by that I mean beer cigarettes golf club dues and the fees to play golf because if I don’t have the money he sulks and acts like life is over. I can’t take it anymore I became disabled in 2007 and I had a great career made great income I’ve had 12 operations in the last 10 years I am reduced to nothing I have no friends I am so lonely I don’t know what to do. I can’t even think anymore I have no joy nothing to look forward to I feel so lost we had an incidence this week and I want to leave feel like I just want to run away. I’m so tired

Nicole
8:18 pm November 4th, 2014

My husband has been battling all his life w being an addict. He has a history but when we first got into a relationship he was sober and was attending meetings and working and times may have been difficult financially but we were and are fine. Recently he has relapsed and using again. We are in the process of help which we are going to follow through on. I’ve been out of work for about 4 months and just recently I was awarded money from the state we reside in for short term disability. Since my husband has come forward we have been working towards maintaining a roof over our heads. He is still working very hard, he isn’t missing or anything, but his struggles are bc he feels he doesn’t provide for our family when he most certainly does. I’ve closed our bank accounts and I give him money for gas and tolls to and from work and for cigerettes. I’ve been making his lunch, so there isn’t additional money leaving in the morning when he goes to work. We have 4 children who have no clue what’s happening just that their super hero daddy hasn’t been feeling well. I need help. I need help helping my everything get past all of this. As I know this is a forever disease we are taking things day by day. I just want to know how I can help keep him sober, how can I help take his pain away? Thank you I’m grateful for your time.

4:10 pm November 6th, 2014

Hello Nicole. You can never take another person’s pain away. However, you can enter into therapy with him; have you ever heard of the CRAFT model? Look into psychological treatment for yourself and him, as a couple and as individuals…and your care and concern can go into self-development and taking care of what YOU are responsible for. Also, check with your state’s social services departments for referrals to social workers or psychologists who work on a sliding scale basis.

Teresa
1:55 am November 30th, 2014

Hi, I’m married 11 years to an alcoholic. He is highly functioning, 15 years older than me…I’m 50. On the outside everything looks perfect, however, I have no friends over to the house and neither does he. I have drank with him on and off in the past, but have realized I better completely quit because I was getting addicted to alcohol myself. I am so lonely. I feel as if the only time we get along is if I’m drinking with him, otherwise he goes out to his man-cottage and drinks by himself every night. We live separate lives.*,8, 9 and 10 relate most to me–he has anger problems!

4:14 pm December 3rd, 2014

Hello Teresa. I understand your pain and suffering, even though I’ve never been in a similar situation. I’d recommend a book from author Fran Simone “Dark Wine Waters: My Husband of Thousand Joys and Sorrows”. And, have you tried going to counseling meetings like AA?

Karen
4:57 pm January 1st, 2015

my husband is getting out of an intense rehab center and then going to a sober house on Monday. the only sober house is 50 miles from where his probation is. I can’t take off work to keep taking him to his probation and I just have a whole lot of questions as to how I stop enabling him while he is in the Sober HouseI have been told I have to pay his first months rent there and then that is the end of that I am in counseling to learn how I need to be healthy first and this is his addiction not mine and he can handle thatwhat are the major things I need to not do while he is in the sober house for 3 months

3:53 pm January 14th, 2015

Hello Karen. In the short term, you may want to set up a schedule with him: if he continues to improve in his recovery, you can support him. If not, set up consequences. And keep seeing a counselor! And look into Al-Anon/Narc-Anon or the CRAFT program. If you commit to the process, you’ll find your way through. You’re doing a great job, Karen! Change is not easy.

Julie
5:36 am February 9th, 2015

I’m confused about my present situation. I have been dating my boyfriend for 4 1/2 years. After 6 months of dating I found out he was an alcoholic. Next month he will be sober for four years. Which is fantastic. However, for the last year and a half he goes back and forth smoking pot. We have different views on smoking marijuana. I try to be mature about this. Because I know he will never quit until he is ready.

We both have been married before and have children. I am working on setting boundaries and enforcing them. I would like to remarry in the near future. But I know unless we are both stable things will never work out. What advice would you give? Thank you.

Lea
9:47 pm March 13th, 2015

I am an enabler, Almost 2 yrs ago I was contacted from a guy I went out with in high school. From the first time we caught up, it did feel like we had remained friends for the past 20 + years. At that moment in my life I was lost and struggling with grief. I knew he had had a stint in jail drug related 20 or more years ago, and again told me about it. Along with others but he did play a huge role in helping me pick up the pieces and continue on. I was and still comfortable with him and have talked and told him things I couldn’t talk to others about. He too was wanting to get his life back on track and from things he talked to me about I really don’t think be telling others. I knew he has still involved with drugs, and not a world I knew, nor wanting to know. I knew he had a smoke and yes a few times we caught up I had it with him. He had told me he wanted out of the drug scene especially since I had been around, he didn’t associate with anyone else outside of drugs. He had said that I made him realise many things and began plans to get out. I do know enough that it was a process and did take some time. For the most of it I didn’t want to know about any of it just glad he was getting out and it was big business. He did finally get out and the relief was evident and real, definitely a whole lot happier and had so much time to himself which he enjoyed. We do live a few hours apart and have kids and work, he is divorced. We had formed a great friendship and still confiding in each other. After about 5 months of out of his thing a few times when we caught up again I did have a smoke with him, some times even picked it up. It was after thes months when I realised something was not right. Unlike before he obviously never had to pay, sometimes I had asked if he could lend me some money, my priorities were real and paid bills, and him back. I had returned favour and leant him money and know now it was not for what I was told and was a reasonable amount. it was after nth is and not seeing him for A few months the next time we caught up I knew by looking at him what was going on.. I chose to play it down still lending money and the occasional smoke, Everytime I. Came home I was an emotional wreck, and knew was being used more & more, but let it happen. Being with him I still felt a connection and knew my feelings were getting stronger, and thought his were. Our friendship had gone up a notch and then found myself wanting what I was never going to get. I told him I had feelings or thought I did but I would never be as important to him as drugs were, I did back off but very hard , he had changed although I pretended and played it all down I couldn’t stand to watch it. He disappeared to 6 weeks not long after this. Worry about him consumed me until he turned up, standing taller, put weight on, he had put himself into rehab.It tdidnt take long to relapse biut I was still there. I hated to see him like this , I have never thought I can fix him, or ever told him what to do. I still knew he was lieing to me, and told him he had no reason to lie to me I’m not his wife or mother and just tell the truth. I am straight down the line and say how I feel, my emotions everywhere and he slipping further. I told him I knew was enabling him nd no longer would I lend money and would not do that to his kids and even his ex-wife. The last 3 months he again wanted change but 4 times he had appointments booked and never went. I don’t know but after his 4 missed appointment I sent a email and I didn’t hold back, told he was in denial, and his problems are all because he was addict, not be so selfish and make excuses. It was from the heart and probably very confronting, 2 days later he went to appointment and has had Neltrexzone Implant. It has been just over a month since he has had it done, I haven’t spoken to to him as he said he needed to be alone for a while. I know he has big changes and has changed jobs, moved to another house , new email and phone numbers. I have ru g tHe local drug centre and enquired about implant and recovery etc, I have made an appointment so I can told to someone . I know that big changes and he has to cut people from his life. I’m very happy and excited but worried for him. As I did use some with him drank and hungout with him. I would be known as an associate and I know how I feel. I don’t want to but would if it helped hi,, I don’t want to trigger or reminder, if he in counselling. Etc would be be encourage or will he have to cut ties with metoo.. I don’t have anything with him in over 2 moths since the first time he was going to implant.mmi don’t want to walk away is that what I should do..?
.

Trudy
2:21 am April 19th, 2015

I was an enabler for years but didn’t know it until I read this page of the 10 enabling signs. Wow. I can’t believe all the things I’ve done to enable his behavior. I’ve bailed him out of jail a couple times. I’ve paid his fines for him with my own money. I most recently went to NA meetings with him. I didn’t realize I was exhibiting the behavior of an enabler. All this time wasted. I’ve known him 25 years. We have 4 children together. We were married and then divorced. We got back together 4 years ago because he completed his first intensive 6 month rehab program. He was clean for 2 years after that and then everything went down hill these last couple years. I asked him to leave the house 2 days ago. He’s at his mother’s house and she’s taking him to an inpatient rehab on Monday. I wish him luck. I don’t want to be an enabler anymore. All I ever wanted was a husband who was there for me. I figured if I let him go now, God will send to me someone who is good for me. I’m a work in progress.

Sarah
12:33 am June 15th, 2015

My husband wants to help his son get help for his drug addiction. He blames himself for not being there when his son was young. I am worried about him (my husband) as he has become depressed and anxious. He is defensive and I can’t seem to say or do anything right. His son lives 2 and 1/2 hours away. My husband says they should go to counselling together. He hasn’t been coping well at work and has taken time off to relieve some of the pressure. I am not sure that it is helping. What can I do?

Jo
1:34 am August 11th, 2015

Thank you for this blog. So helpful. I have recently found out that my husband of 10 months has been using drugs throughout our marriage and engagement. I knew he had addiction issues in the past but thought he was in a healthy recovery. He is reluctant for me to talk this through with family as he does not think they have understood in the past. I am feel very frightened and alone and we have had some financial issues. I have read about nar anon and will be attending meetings to try and find some empathy. I feel completely out of control and betrayed. Can anyone give me any advice? I am also not living in my home country.

Anne
9:41 pm August 21st, 2015

I think I am en a long my husband. He is addicted to gambling, he denies the addictions. But he has emptied medical savings accounts to gamble, he emptied our daughters savings account meant for college. He has emptied our bank accounts more times than I can even remember. He has wrapped his entire existence up in gambling, his vacations, his friends, his hobbies all are intertwined with gambling. Most of his family memes 3rd have a gambling issue to some extent, his is by far the worst though.
I have lied for him, mostly out of embarrassment that he would be at a casino again. I never saw the signs of addiction until the damage was done. I am very sad that this is where we have come. I actually know I could take the step to make him leave, except I am not working, and so there is no way to support myself or daughter right now. I still care about him on some level, but I can’t look passed what the gambling has turned him into anymore. I feel the worst for not leaving the first time I realized it was a problem. I allowed my child to continue to be in a dysfunctional home, not violent, or neglectful mind you, but still not properly functioning. All because I thought he could actually take control himself. Well I hope I can find the financial ability to take the steps I need for my daughter and myself to be happy, I know he’ll do what he wants to do, regardless of what I do, I just wish I could turn back time and have known this years ago, wasted time.

Christy
2:18 pm February 14th, 2016

My brother 46yrs old, using drugs and alcohol most of his life, recently was arrested for destruction of property. What the police don’t know because his girlfriend didn’t report it, is that he also had a loaded gun and threatened to kill himself and her. He had no recollection of this and this happend after his girlfriend took a bottle of oxycodone away from him(he had took half the bottle at once) and he was crazed wanting it back. My mom whos enabled him her whole life has gotten him out of jail and is supplying all his needs. This is as serious as it gets. S she’s aware of all the facts and I’ve supplied her with info on what she should do/ stop doing to help him. I’m scared and at a loss. Please give me some advice. Thank you, Christy

Jessie
6:42 am March 20th, 2016

My husband has court on monday for a dui from a year ago.It’s the last meeting he has to go to turn in his community service hours and show his alcohol courses completion. He has been on a week long binge. I have stopped trying to control him I don’t take alcohol away or tell him what to do. I just let him do his thing. But I am wondering if for his own good I should take away his liquor tonight so he can be sober for court on monday. Then go back to just letting him run his addiction life. What do I do?

Debbie
2:03 am May 1st, 2016

I have a son who has been clean and in rehab for 9 mo. His children have been in foster care now for a year his plan is to finish the program he is in and move in with me so he can get the children back, I feel like it would be enabling him to do this. I have helped him more times than I can count. The social worker nor the program he is in is offering any resources to help him get housing. Is there any program near Baltimore Md that helps to reunite the family and help with housing?

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About Lisa Espich

Lisa Espich is the author of the multi award-winning book, Soaring Above Co-Addiction: Helping your loved one get clean, while creating the life of your dreams. For additional articles, resources, and a free preview chapter of Soaring Above Co-Addiction visit her website. Her book is available at bookstores everywhere and at Twin Feather Publishing.

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