What is Enabling Addiction ? And Who Are The Enablers?

No one wants to help their loved one drink themselves to destruction, so why enable alcoholics to drink? Read more about it on We Do Recover. Our counsellors are here to help you today.



    The word “enabling” means “any action by another person or an institution that intentionally or unintentionally has the effect of facilitating the continuation of an individual’s addictive process.

    In other words to enable a drug addict means to help that addict use drugs or drink alcohol. Many addicts arrive in drug rehabilitation centres in South Africa and tell stories of how they manipulated people into allowing their addiction to continue.

    Nobody wants to help their loved one drink themselves to destruction, so why do family members and friends enable alcoholics to drink? There are three factors involved:

    • Denial
    • Enabling
    • Codependence

    One way in which family members enable substance abuse is to help the alcoholic or drug addict to avoid the negative consequences that would naturally follow their behaviour.

    An example of this could be to make an excuse to the alcoholics’ employer explaining his/her absence from work.

    Although this excuse may be made with the intention of protecting the alcoholic from the consequence of disciplinary action at work it has the effect of perpetuating the pattern of alcoholic drinking.

    Some people say that in order for an alcoholic to become willing to stop drinking and enter an alcohol rehab center he/she must reach a “rock bottom”.

    This is a point where the difficulty of dealing with the consequences of drinking outweigh the difficulty of getting sober.

    One might say that enabling people prevents them from reaching this rock bottom and becoming willing to get treatment in an alcohol rehab centre.

    Other ways in which enabling behaviour is manifested is by doing something for the alcoholic that he/she should be doing for them-self. This makes it easier for the alcoholic to avoid taking responsibility.

    Helping a child escape the legal consequences of possession or use of drugs can enable addiction. The child may believe that he/she is invulnerable and that the parents condone drug use. It might be wiser to work with social workers and discuss the option of admission to a drug rehab centre in South Africa as part of a court-mandated sentence.

    Enablers may make excuses for alcoholics in social circumstances. This might happen where a wife is embarrassed by her husband’s excessive drinking but tells friends who see him drunk that he is “under a lot of stress”. In fact, any case where somebody covers up the substance abuse of another could be seen as enabling.

    Denial is a powerful mechanism which can prevent family and friends from confronting the substance abuser. Nobody wants to think that there is a problem or accept how severe it is.

    Denial is a defence mechanism that helps people to avoid the awkward truth. The family might overlook problems in work, school, relationships or financial troubles.

    This will allow the alcoholic to continue drinking until the problem becomes unsustainable. Where an early intervention may have helped avoid tragedy the alcoholic will be placed in a very risky situation that may need specialist care in an alcohol rehab centre in South Africa.

    People who enable addicts are left feeling that nothing is wrong and that they don’t need to worry. This is a happier state of affairs in the short-term but will eventually lead to misery. The alcoholic or addict is able to continue using substances and do whatever he/she wants. Thus for a while enabling behaviour seems to suit everybody involved.

    Co-dependency is an unhealthy relationship pattern characterised by being overly involved in another person’s life. Codependents are preoccupied with pleasing the other person and feel guilty when the other person is feeling sad.

    The codependent person may have very low self-esteem and require affirmation in order to feel okay.

    They will do anything to obtain this affirmation. Some of the feelings that codependents may experience are:

    • My feelings do not matter
    • I am not worthwhile and am unlovable
    • I need to be strong
    • I cannot have fun
    • I am responsible for other people’s behaviour
    • Co-dependency becomes a vicious circle that gets worse and worse until either the enabler has a breakdown or the alcoholic’s drinking becomes unsustainable. It is fundamental for co-dependents to remember that they are not responsible for drinking and they cannot control it.

    They need to learn how to offer support without trying to fix. The alcoholic is ultimately the only person who can make the decision to be helped in alcohol rehab in South Africa and recover.

    In truth though both people in a codependent relationship should seek help to break the dynamic that dominates their interactions. The alcoholics need to be treated in alcohol rehab in South Africa and the co-dependent needs to attend family counselling sessions to be educated and receive support.

    Alcohol rehab centres in South Africa offer this as part of their comprehensive addictions treatment program.

    Codependency can be overcome and people freed from the destructive cycle. This is ultimately the best outcome for everybody involved. If you would like help in finding alcohol recovery or assistance with codependency then please contact us today.

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