Addiction and the Enabler

Many people who are drug abusers and addicts recognize that they can’t stop using on their own. Likewise, a large number of these same people literally wouldn’t be able to continue to use on their own if they weren’t being helped by an enabler. From covering up lies and criminal activity to making excuses to other family members, enablers often make a person’s substance abuse and addiction possible. However, the reality of the matter is that enablers are doing the addict great harm and in some ways are just as responsible for their behavior as the addict themselves. Understanding the enabler’s role and how it can be reversed is critical for anyone who wants to permanently break the cycle of drug abuse, alcoholism and addiction.

An enabler is someone who – usually unintentionally – helps to make a person’s drug use problems and addictions possible by engaging in behaviors they mistakenly think will help the person. In reality, the enabler only hurts the user. When defining family roles in addiction, the Colorado State University describes the enabler: “The enabler is the person who allows substance abuse to continue by “saving” the abuser from the consequences of his or her actions. For example, if an alcohol-dependent teen doesn’t come home on time, an enabler would likely make excuses to other family members for that absence.” (1) While this description is accurate, the example is somewhat benign. Enablers have been known to directly procure drugs for the user because they assume they’ll simply acquire them elsewhere if they don’t. They’ll lie about the user’s criminal activity because they fear losing them to incarceration. And perhaps worst of all, some enablers simply pretend like there isn’t a problem at all and allow chronic addiction to continue unabated for years or even decades. Drug Addiction Treatment.COM makes some other important observations about damaging enabler behavior:

  • Enablers aren’t always family members. They can be neighbors, friends, co-workers, or even teachers.
  • Believe that they are actually helping those they care about by preventing ‘worse case scenarios.
  • Enablers may also fear rejection from their loved ones if they do not yield support.
  • It could be something as simple as providing the addict with housing or transportation because he is spending all his money on drugs. (2)

Despite these problems, many addiction treatment programs begin with and place an emphasis on reversing the role of the enabler. The enabler is an especially useful resource considering the immense influence they have on the addicted individual. A recent article published by the Narconon Drug Rehab Blog News Center states: “Family drug abuse can be dramatically curbed by enablers who realize their power. Those who enable the abuse can band together in an effort to stop family drug abuse.” “This new power realized by the enablers puts a screeching halt to the habitual thinking of the drug abusers. They find it more difficult to live the life of an addict when those who used to ignore the problem are now confronting it. When this happens, changes occur.” (3)

Because of the relationship between the user and the enabler, it’s not surprising that the enabler will play a crucial part in the long term addiction recovery of the user. Residential inpatient treatment centers and outpatient treatment facilities both make family and group therapy a major part of treatment, and this includes anyone who might have once been an enabler.

If this sounds like you and someone in your family, the time for change has come. Pick up the phone now for a free, confidential consultation to help guide the both of you in the right direction. We offer one of America’s leading drug and alcohol addiction recovery centers, and we’re here for you 24 hours per day to answer your questions and provide you with immediate help. Don’t wait another day – call us now.

(1) P.A. Langfield, M. MacIntyre and J.G. Turner Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Abuse Colorado State University
(2) Drug Addiction Treatment Enablers Delay Recovery of Drug Addicts 01/27/2011
(3) Narconon Drug Rehab Blog News Center Resolving Family Drug Abuse – Narconon Can Help 12/14/2010

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