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Enabling vs. Empowering: How to Know the Difference in Addiction Recovery

Addiction has been one of the largest problems within our nation for many years. This is easily understood when viewing the millions of people currently struggling with addiction, as well as the fact that more people are developing addictions every day. While addiction is obviously horrible for the individual struggling, it is also quite hellacious for loved ones witnessing their struggle. One of the most important things that loved ones of addicts need to understand about this situation is that their actions can either be helpful or harmful. A loved one’s actions or behavior toward an addict could be said to fall under one of two categories, with one of these being enabling and the other empowering.

What is an Enabler?

So, what is an enabler and what does this kind of behavior include? Well, enabling essentially involves actions that contribute to the addiction or allow it to continue. Many different types of behavior and actions can fall under this category and they can be knowingly or unknowingly done. It could be something as obvious as giving the addict money to buy drugs or something as subtle as calling into work for the addict or babying them when they feel horrible after a binge. The longer that a loved one continues to enable the struggling addict, the more severe the behavior can become. Many addicts even learn how to manipulate their loved ones into sympathy or enabling behaviors. The addict could complain to their loved ones about horrible withdrawal symptoms, which then makes the loved one feel sympathy, and the addict may then use this as a way to convince them to buy them drugs. Unfortunately, many loved ones do these actions on the basis of believing they are helping, which is where the knowing or unknowing factor comes into play. The loved one could think that they are helping the person to feel better or preventing them from doing worse things, but this is often not the case. Many times, addicts simply use this as a way to continue their various behaviors and use without suffering any consequences.

Other types of enabling behaviors could include:


  • Explaining away or making excuses for the addicts behavior or absence.
  • Lying to cover up the individual’s addiction.
  • Providing incorrect financial support (bailing them out of jail, paying for drugs, paying for legal costs, etc.)
  • Threatening consequences if things do not change but not following through with the consequences.
  • Not confronting the addict about their addiction because of fearing their retaliation.


Like mentioned above, the loved one may think they are assisting the individual, but they are often causing more harm than good. Realistically, the damage caused by enabling can become worse over time for both the addict and the loved one. Enabling loved ones are often wanting to help the struggling individual so much that they end up taking on many of the addict’s responsibilities, which results in the addict having less responsibility and the loved one neglecting many of their own responsibilities. This desire to “help” can become desperate as the loved one continues to take on more responsibilities and the addict starts expecting them to handle everything. This circumstance can also come under the heading of co-dependency, which is where the loved one begins to place the addict’s needs higher than their own and this relationship becomes destructive and unilateral.

Empowerment in Addiction Recovery

Empowerment is basically the converse of enabling, as the first part of it is not doing what the addict is able to do themselves. Empowerment can be great for both sides, as loved ones and the addict can benefit from it. In the course of enabling, a loved one can lose themselves in a way and this is not good for anyone. The person that is caring for the addict needs to take care of themselves or they are not going to be able to properly take care of anyone else. A large benefit of empowering yourself is that it allows you to be able to see past attempted manipulation and correctly assess actions as far as whether they will be beneficial or not. You can truly help the addict by not covering or cleaning up for them and getting them to actually begin taking responsibility for their own condition, allowing them to move forward. By empowering yourself, you can in turn empower the addict, which gives them the ability to make better judgements and decisions. Instead of allowing the condition to continue like enabling does, empowering helps to break the cycle of addiction and codependency.

Empowering actions can include:


  • Supporting and requiring independence and responsibility.
  • Turning down the addict’s negative requests.
  • Taking care of yourself.
  • Encouraging and participating in open communication.
  • Practicing and recognizing improvement in yourself and the addict.
  • Talking to the struggling individual about their addiction and seeking treatment.


For those having trouble with enabling or knowing how to properly handle their loved one’s addiction, there are support groups that can be beneficial. Two of the most prominent of these are Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, which consist of the loved ones of addicts. These kinds of groups allow loved ones to express their feelings and experiences, as well as discover new ways to properly take care of the struggling addict. Addiction can impact loved ones very heavily and they often need support as well to get through the situation.

When Seeking Treatment for an Addiction

Addiction can be a hellacious burden to struggle with, but proper treatment can help people to break free of it. Best Drug Rehabilitation provides a comprehensive treatment program that helps thousands to break free of addiction each year and it can do the same for you or your loved one. Each addiction is unique in many ways and we create a custom program for each person admitted into our facility. Give us a call today and one of our advisors can answer any questions that you might have about our programs.

The Stages of Alcoholism: How Someone Becomes an Alcoholic

There are many different hellacious substances that continue to affect our population when it comes to addiction. Many of these substances are illicit, but there are also numerous legal substances that are problematic in this avenue. One of the most highly abused substances within our nation is legal and socially accepted, which would be alcohol. In fact, the legality and social acceptance of alcohol is part of what contributes to the high rates of abuse. This is not to say that alcohol should be outlawed, but only that the social acceptance sort of allows many cases of abuse to be overseen. For instance, college students often participate in heavy binge drinking, but this is just considered “part of the college life.” As a person continues to heavily consume alcohol unchecked, it can easily lead to that individual potentially becoming an alcoholic. When it comes to developing alcoholism, there are actually a few different stages that an individual typically goes through.

Alcohol Use Disorder

The title of “alcoholism” may be one of the most commonly used terms for this condition, but it is actually not the correct clinical descriptor. The more formal term used for this condition is Alcohol Use Disorder. This clinically employed term is more detailed than the blanket title of alcoholism. When it comes to professionals diagnosing or labeling, they must have a series of recognizable and identifiable traits or symptoms before they can really call something a certain condition. This is where the term and details of alcohol use disorder come into play, as it includes an isolated 11 factors that allow for proper diagnosing and determination of severity. The factors of alcohol use and severity break down something like this:

  • Displaying at Least Two of the Eleven Factors in the Past Year – The individual is considered to have an alcohol use disorder.
  • Two or Three Factors – This is considered to be a mild alcohol use disorder.
  • Four or Five Factors – Considered to be a moderate alcohol use disorder.
  • Six or More Factors – At this point, the alcohol use disorder is considered to be a severe case.

We will not go into the entire list of factors that are part of alcohol use disorder, but some of the recognizable ones are:

  • Requiring more alcohol to achieve the desired effects.
  • The individual continues to drink despite the adverse consequences it is having on their relationships.
  • Participating in some risky type of behavior as a result of drinking alcohol, such as swimming, driving, unprotected sex, operating machinery, or fighting.
  • Alcohol consumption interfering with one’s responsibilities, such as family, school, or work.

Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal

The factors of an alcohol use disorder encompass both the psychological and physical aspects. There is an important distinction to be made between these two, being that physical dependence and addiction are not the same thing. Physical dependence is often a large part of addiction, but it is not identical to it. An individual could be physically dependent upon a drug or alcohol without necessarily being psychologically dependent on it as well. Of course, those struggling with alcohol use disorder often have a physical dependence, but they will also likely have psychological effects. Physical dependence typically begins with the development of a tolerance, meaning that the person will have to consume larger amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effects. As the individual continues to consume alcohol and build a larger tolerance, they may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to cease drinking or if they drink much less than usual. The person may then drink to stop these withdrawal symptoms from occurring, which perpetuates the behavior.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol include:

  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

If one has reached the point of physical dependence, they should be admitted into a detox center. Some may think they can go cold turkey and detox at home, but this is never a good idea. Realistically, alcohol detox can potentially be very dangerous and it could actually result in death when done incorrectly. With an inpatient detox center, an individual can receive a properly formatted detox and they will also be constantly monitored through the whole process. This way, if any complications were to arise, there will be professional staff that can rapidly react. The staff can also help to make the person as comfortable as possible during the difficult withdrawal period.

Negative Impacts of Alcohol Use Disorder

A large part of alcohol use disorder is when the person loses control of their drinking and it begins to interfere with their normal living or responsibilities. This is where the individual will begin to display 3-5 of the above factors and they do not necessarily have to be physically dependent at this point. They could be too drunk or hungover to go to work several times, not take care of familial needs, or their school performance may begin to suffer. If this continues to be regular behavior, the individual should be gotten into proper addiction treatment, as it can help them to break the alcohol use disorder that is taking over their life. While some are able to achieve this on their own, others often require treatment to help them escape the destructive cycle.

A person’s intent behind drinking can also potentially play a role in the development of an alcohol use disorder. If they have the idea that they “need” alcohol to have a good time, be social, numb emotional pain, or ease life difficulties, this may be more likely to lead down the road of dependence and alcohol use disorder. The person could reach for alcohol for one of the above reasons, and if this behavior continues, it may become their standard operating procedure to seek alcohol for any difficulty or social situation.

New Drinkers and Stages of Alcohol Intoxication

The development of an alcohol use disorder is a somewhat unpredictable situation, as some people that display more factors at a certain time might not maintain that level. For instance, a new alcohol user could display around 2 of the 11 factors, but they may also simply not know their limits yet and their behavior could easily level out. Realistically, it can never be concretely known whether occasional or social alcohol consumption could lead to an alcohol use disorder down the road. Those new to it may just be experimenting or trying it out and then greatly decrease their intake after the novelty wears off. This could be applied to the college student example mentioned above, as those who party for a bit in college may not continue that behavior afterward. Although, drinking heavily like these college students and others can bring about stages of alcohol poisoning, which can have hellacious health impacts. It is not uncommon for people to be admitted into emergency care for various stages of alcohol poisoning.

Addiction can be an incredibly hellacious condition to struggle with, but it is never impossible to overcome. Through treatment, an individual can come to understand their addiction and break free of its hold on them. This is exactly what Best Drug Rehabilitation is here to help with. We offer multiple modalities, and we create a custom program for each person admitted into our facility. Every single addiction is unique in various ways and it should be treated as such. We help thousands to overcome addiction every year and would like to do the same for you or your loved one. Call us today and one of our staff members can answer any questions that you may have regarding our program.

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