Enabling Addiction

Put an End to These Enabling Behaviors

Nearly one in four adults struggle with addiction which impacts the people around the individual with addiction as much as anyone else. Addictions are called a ‘family disease’ for this very reason which goes hand-in-hand oftentimes with enabling behaviors. Learn more about codependence in addictions, how it impacts families and ways to nip it in the bud.

Enabling Behaviors

Relationships with people who have addiction are challenging because enabling behaviors can kick in quite easily. Loved ones often step in to save the person with addiction from the consequences of negative behavior without realizing it is best to let the person learn from mistakes. Paying overdue bills, getting the person out of jail or saving the individual from bad choices are all ways of enabling a person with addiction. Enabling behaviors typically start with a desire to help but do more harm than good in the long run. Everyone’s physical and emotional health suffer in the end.

Signs of Enabling Behavior

The following are some signs of a person with enabling behavior. The individual will typically:

  • Avoids doing things away from home to keep an eye on the person with addiction
  • Falls for lies over and over
  • Fantasizes about something bad happening to the person then feels guilty
  • Feels as though the weight of the world rests on the person’s shoulders
  • Has difficulty sleeping due to worries about loved one’s behavior
  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Suffers financially due to addiction
  • Takes on person with addiction’s responsibilities

Avoid Enabling Behavior

Learning to love a person with addiction without stepping in to enable behavior can feel challenging but it requires treating the loved one with dignity and respect. Learning more about addiction and offering words of encouragement is a good first step. Some other ideas to get started include:

  • Allow person with addiction to take responsibility for choices. A person can care for family members or loved ones without letting the person get away with everything. Poor choices have consequences and the sooner this is learned the quicker the person may seek help.
  • Communicate clearly with kindness. Yelling and blaming are not helpful ways to engage a loved one with addiction. Family members may need to remind the person with addiction how hurtful behavior is over and over before reality sets in.
  • Practice good self care. Each family member must place a focus on physical and emotional health. This sets a positive example for all involved parties. Attend meetings, seek out other families for support and don’t give up.

The key is to stay persistent with using principles which support positive interaction and engagement with others. It is helpful to realize addiction has a hold on the person’s heart and mind at the moment and to keep seeking ways to offer help without enabling while encouraging the loved one to seek treatment.


The Villa provides information and resources to individuals with addiction. If you are struggling with enabling behavior or your loved one is refusing treatment, call us. We can help support you in the challenges and struggles of having a loved one battling addiction.