An enabler is someone who helps negate the consequences brought on by someone else’s behaviour. Enablers are people who are in a relationship with someone suffering from an addiction; however, instead of helping the addicted person, they allow them to continue their behaviour. They usually end up taking the responsibilities of the addict who is unable to be responsible. This is often intended as a well-meaning gesture. However as the addiction deepens, the enabler consistently over-functions to compensate for the under-functioning addict. This creates an unfair level of expectation that the enabler will continue to perform.

Here are some characteristics of enablers:

  1. Enablers avoid conflict to keep the peace.
  2. Enablers are in denial about the seriousness of their loved one’s addiction.
  3. Enablers bottle their emotions.
  4. Enablers think the problem will improve, given time.
  5. Enablers lecture, blame and criticize their addicted loved one.
  6. Enablers take on the responsibilities of the addicted.
  7. Enablers repeatedly come to the rescue of the addicted one.
  8. Enablers do whatever it takes to protect their loved one from pain.
  9. Enablers treat the addicted person like a child.
  10. Enablers financially support their loved one, even if that person is a grown adult.
  11. Enablers try to control the dependent person.
  12. Enablers endure. They think this is just a season.
  13. Enablers are always willing to give “just one more chance”, and then another, and another, and so on.
  14. Enablers can join in on the problem activity, even though they know it is harmful to the dependent person.

If any of these situations sound like you, you could have enabling tendencies. Doing these things only contributes to a sick person’s sickness. Stopping enabling is incredibly difficult, especially if your behaviour is born from a genuine desire to love and help the person. However, it is imperative that you weigh the short-term pain of cutting that person off, versus the long-term consequences of allowing them to continue on in this manner.

You might be afraid of what the dependent person will do if you stop enabling their behaviour – but consider what will become of them if you continue to enable them. Find other ways to show them that you love them, without letting them abuse your kindness. The first step in ending an enabling relationship is to be assertive and set boundaries that protect you.

Reclaim your autonomy, and take precautions that will put you out of harms way if your loved one continues to behave poorly.