When Enabling is Actually Disabling


In the 12 Step Recovery Program, enabling is a word used to describe the behavior of the family members or loved ones, who rescue an alcoholic or drug addict from the consequences of their own self destructive behavior.  In the true sense of the word, enabling behavior means something positive, and it is only natural to want to enable out of our instinct for love.  But enabling is destructive love and actually results in “disabling”.  Love that does not include boundaries is not healthy, and is not truly love.  When we enable a drug addict or alcoholic, we are sending a message that their behavior is acceptable, even when it is not.  Simply put, enabling creates an atmosphere in which the addict can comfortably continue his/her unacceptable behavior.


Tips To Stop Enabling:

  • Do not lie for them or make excuses for their behavior.
  • Do not give them money or pay their bills.  If you do, in essence you are buying the drugs and/or alcohol for them.
  • They need to see what they have done, so do not clean up after them (this includes bailing them out of jail and paying for attorneys).
  • Do not say anything you do not mean or will not carry out.  If you tell them “you cannot live here and do drugs/drink”, mean it or don’t say it!
  • Do not rescue them; allow them to suffer the consequences of their behavior.
  • Don’t try to “fix” them or the situation.
  • Set boundaries and stick to them.  Remember, if “no” becomes “yes”, then you are giving in to the pressure.  No must mean No!


This holiday season, give the gift of “Recovery” to yourself or your loved one.