Sometimes helping hurts, as it is in the case of enabling a loved one to continue with addiction that is bringing harm to that individual and others. The consequences seem obvious but life is not always black and white when dealing with addiction and relationships. Enablement can keep the cycle of addiction going without realizing until some steps are taken to help the loved one break the cycle and quit enabling negative, harmful behavior.

Enabling Defined

People who enable are facilitating a person’s addictions by removing natural consequences to the behavior. Enablers are not direct supporters of addiction but sustain a person’s addiction by eliminating incentives for change. It is often an attempt to help when actually it is causing more harm. While a loved one may quit paying bills, taking care of children or dealing with real life, others may step in to help cover to make sure the person is safe and does not suffer consequences of the behavior. Until this is stopped, the behavior will continue to the detriment of the individual and everyone around the person.

Signs of Enabling Behavior

Some of the following are signs of enabling behavior that may or may not be immediately recognizable:

  • Covering up addiction or keeping it hidden
  • Making excuses for addiction or behavior
  • Avoiding confrontation to avoid conflict
  • Believing loved one is going through a phase
  • Taking over responsibilities for the person
  • Paying bills or giving income to help person with addiction
  • Adopting a parent-child relationship with the loved one even though he or she is a spouse
  • Feelings of guilt for giving more chances
  • Participating in risky behaviors alongside loved one

How to Stop Enabling

Enabling behavior can be detrimental to many people, not just the loved one who is struggling with addiction.  It is a sure thing push-back will occur once boundaries are set but it is important not to fear this natural response since people get used to one way of things happening and are afraid of change. Some ways to stop enabling behavior include:

  • Letting go of the outcome, even if it may cause negative consequences
  • Setting boundaries and being assertive as well as committed to the process
  • Refuse to give any more money regardless of circumstances
  • Do not bail out of jail or predicaments
  • Let go of handling person’s personal affairs and responsibilities
  • Plan for unreliability once boundaries are set


Seeking help for enabling behavior may require some time in therapeutic or support group settings to find like-minded families and individuals to provide support. The desire to change must come from the loved one and with some encouragement towards positive steps it is possible to make changes. The road to recovery is not easy but is a family process which starts with letting go of enabling behaviors to find ways of moving forward in a positive, healthy way.


Cypress Lakes provides space to recover from addiction and heal the wounds it causes. You are able to come and gain new perspective on life. Addiction affects not only you but your loved ones as well. Healing begins when you let go of addiction to seek help. We are here to support your decision to get well. Call us to find out how to get started: 866-217-2636