Drug Rehabilitation Blog

Enabling a Loved One's Addiction

11 Misguided Ways You Could Be Enabling A Loved One’s Addiction

Posted by Myra Davis to Addiction

In an effort to survive your loved one’s addiction, you help, worry about and support them. I understand. You’re trying to preserve your family, protect your addicted loved one, and navigate the difficult world of addiction. So often, though, I’ve seen well-meaning family members and friends enabling a loved one’s addiction. I’ve created a list of 11 enabling behaviors: If you identify with even one of them, I encourage you to seek help in addressing your unhealthy behavior, finding emotional wholeness and taking the first step toward helping your addicted loved one get clean and sober.

Cross Walk Sign
Photo by Doug Belshaw (Flickr)

1. Covering for Them at Work

Calling in sick for your hungover or strung-out loved one might protect their job for another day, but you also prolong the addict’s day of reckoning and recovery.

2. Giving Them Money

Give an addict rent, grocery, or even bail money and you’re enabling them to continue using. In essence, you become their drug dealer.

3. Cleaning Up Their Messes

Empty beer bottles, vomit on the sofa, or broken relationships are not your problems to fix. Clean up messes for the addict you love and you prevent them from facing the consequences of addiction.

4. Pretending There’s No Problem

To your family members, kids, friends, and co-workers, you put on a smile and pretend that everything is okay. While your act preserves your family and your sanity, the deceit ultimately allows the addict to continue down a destructive path.

5. Letting Them Skip Family Functions

Dance recitals, parent-teacher meetings, and birthday parties are all important family functions. Allow your addicted loved one to skip these events and you encourage them to continue using.

6. Getting Angry at Drinking and Drugging Buddies

When your addicted loved one stays out all night with friends or spends their entire paycheck buying drinks for everyone at the bar, you might be tempted to feel angry at the addict’s buddies. Your misdirected anger takes the focus off of the addict and their destructive behavior.

7. Believing the Addict’s Lies

You’ve heard the same lies over and over, but you still hold out hope that maybe this time, the addict will quit drinking, stop partying, or pay bills before hitting the bar. While I admire your hope, I also encourage you to see the truth.

8. Neglecting Your Own Needs

If you’re an enabler, you focus so much on the addict that you sacrifice your physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual needs. Neglect yourself long enough and you could experience a nervous breakdown.

9. Avoiding Discussions About the Addiction

Like the elephant in the room that everyone pretends isn’t there, addiction may be a topic you refuse to discuss. I wish I could say that this strategy works, but even if you think the addict will blow up in anger, blame you, or leave the home, looking away doesn’t make reality disappear.

10. Calling an Addiction a Phase

Your addicted teenager is not going through a phase. They have a serious problem that must be addressed before the addiction kills them.

11. Allowing Yourself to Be Abused by the Addict

Hitting, name-calling, and blaming are all forms of physical or mental abuse. Allow an addict to treat you this way and you tell the addict that you’re okay with their behavior.

Do you see yourself doing any of these 11 enabling behaviors? If so, I encourage you to seek professional help. Talk to an addiction therapist, attend AA or Al-Anon meetings, and begin to understand your behaviors as you take steps toward healing for your entire family.


  • Anil

    Thank you for sharing this recuorse for mothers of addicted children with your readers. With addiction being a huge health issue in The United States it is always good to find those who are helping those affected by addiction.

  • Diane C

    Well, I guess most of us have done at least one of these things in the past and probably regret it now. I can see how doing these things do enable the addict to continue with their addiction and bad behavior. I know it must be very hard not to want to help them but can see how these things would not be helpful in the long run. Thanks for this information.

  • Amanda

    This is a great article. I loved how you simply put it the way that it is and said the real things that people do that enable an addicted loved one. Doing any of these steps above does not help the person, but only prolongs the situation and makes it harder to get a person some help. When you have a person who is on drugs or abusing alcohol they are really unable to look at what they are doing to themselves and the people around them. It takes a family member or friend stepping up and saying that they need to get help. This helps the person at least stop and look at what they are doing. But I really love the article and how all the information was laid out!

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