Top 10 Enabling Behaviors

Enabling behavior can take many shapes and forms. The biggest challenge is that enabling does not help an individual with addiction to face the real problems addiction brings. Learn why enabling is not helping and how to notice the signs.


Dealing with a person with addiction is not easy. If a person struggles with addiction, it is likely the individual will find one family member or friend helping that person. Making it easier for the person with addiction to continue progressing with the disease is called enabling. The problem is that it helps more than hurts. Rather than support the loved one, family members end up making the problem worse.

Enabling Vs. Helping

The difference between enabling and helping can feel indistinguishable unless the differences are laid out. Helping is actually doing something for someone else when that individual is not capable of it. Enabling is doing things the person can and should do for him or herself. Enabling makes it easier for that person, a loved one with addiction, for instance, to continue drinking or using drugs because consequences are not bad enough to convince him or her to stop. The person with addiction thus never really gets ready to apply for help when it is already given at every turn.

Top 10 Behaviors

The following are some examples of enabling behavior that can show up in a family coping with addiction.

Taking on responsibilities of person with addiction including payment of overdue bills, cleaning house, filling car with gas or buying groceries

Telling lies for individual with addiction or calling the person in sick to work

Making excuses for behavior

Bailing the person out of difficult circumstances

Finishing projects the person with addiction fails to do

Cleaning up after person with addiction

Threatening to leave or kick person out of home but failing to follow through

Drinking or using drugs in attempt to strengthen relationship

Accepting part of blame for bad behavior

Avoiding issues which need to be addressed

What Can Be Done

If a person sees enabling behavior has started or continued for a period of time, it is never too late to take the first step toward positive change. Now that the person is aware of the behaviors, it is easier to start moving away from enabling to actually helping the person seek support in an environment that will provide resources for recovery.

The Villa supports individuals and families who struggle with addiction. If you are seeking help for addiction, call us to find out how we can help you.