The Enabling Behaviors You Need to Stop Now

The Enabling Behaviors You Need to Stop Now

Are you trying your very best to keep your family together despite this disease? Are you feeling lonely and like no one understands what it’s like to love someone suffering from addiction? But what if the things you’re doing to help are actually enabling?

Are you worried that you can’t stay but you’re afraid to leave?

Or maybe you’re scared they’re going to die from addiction?

Are you secretly worried they’re having an affair? Or that they love booze, drugs or pornography more than you?

Here’s what I know about you – you’re trying to do all the right things.

You’re not lazy. You are not in denial. You’re willing to take this disease head-on. You want to learn what to do that will help and you want nothing more than for your loved one to get sober and turn into the wonderful human being you know they can be. You’re not trying to enable them. You just want to help.

So let’s take a moment and recognize the work you’ve done. Let’s give you the credit you deserve. You’re trying. You’ve been trying. For a very long time.

But let me ask you a question. And it might sting a little. But I am your friend. And we don’t do judgment. You’re safe here. You have found your people.

So here’s my question: All the exhausting effort you’ve made to save the one you love… is it working?

Have they stopped drinking or using drugs long-term because of something you said or did?

Probably not.

The only way someone gets sober is because they want to get sober. It’s just that simple. And that frustrating.

So let’s redirect your efforts.  

All the energy and time you’ve put towards their recovery? You’re going to stop that. Those behaviors are enabling.

So all the googling you’ve done late at night on ways to get them sober.

Or labels you’ve applied to “help” diagnose them.  

The dozens of conversations you’ve had with someone else (or in your head) condemning them or painfully going over every detail of all the ways they’ve hurt you.

All the liquor bottles you’ve thrown out.

Or the times you’ve gotten in your car and went searching for them or tracked them on your cell phone when they went missing or were late coming home.

All the desperate phone calls you’ve made from the kitchen to guilt them or yell at them.

Or the threatening text messages you’ve sent in hopes of getting them to do what you want.

All the times you’ve felt so out of control you thought you were going to explode.

All the junk you’ve put into your body to stuff down your feelings of broken-heartedness.

And the ways you’ve covered up for them by lying or bending the truth in order to “protect” them from the consequences of their bad choices.

These are all behaviors you’re going to stop. These behaviors are enabling, and they need to stop. Starting today. No more will you let addiction drain you. You will not let this disease suck all the energy and joy from your soul any longer.

Today, you are retiring from playing caretaker to the addicted and are promoting yourself to self-care provider.

Lay the caretaker role down. Remove the thousand-pound weight off your shoulders by committing to stopping these enabling behaviors. And instead, put all that energy into YOU.

Because the truth is, addiction has done painful damage to YOU. And caring for yourself, being kind and gentle with yourself, giving yourself grace at every moment, being tender and thoughtful with yourself is the only way back to the path you were created to walk down.

Questions from women in our community:

What does it mean to enable someone?

Enabling means playing the role of fixer, care-taker, and solver. It’s saving them from natural consequences that should occur because of their drinking or drug use. Enabling is doing all the hard, embarrassing, and uncomfortable work for them.

What’s the difference between enabling and helping?

Enabling is taking care of their normal responsibilities that every adult needs to take care of themselves. Enabling is making it easier for them to stay addicted, because you take care of things when they fall apart. Helping is letting them experience natural consequences for their own decisions, just as every other adult does.

Is codependency and enabling the same thing?

Codependency and enabling are different, although they have a lot of overlapping characteristics. For example, you may be more prone to enable if you have codependent tendencies because you care so deeply about what other people may think of you.

What is an example of enabling?

Examples of enabling include:
>>lending them money
>>calling into work for them
>>waking them up if they’re oversleeping
>>cleaning up their messes
>>covering up for them when they act embarrassingly
>>lying for them
>>making excuses for their behavior
>>buying them alcohol or drugs
>>drinking or using with them
>>hiding their addiction from others

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.

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