Last Updated on October 12, 2021
When we try to help friends or family members struggling with alcohol addiction, we may unintentionally make it easier for them to continue the disease’s progression. Enabling can take many forms, all of which may help the alcoholic avoid the consequences of their actions.
How can you tell if what you are doing is helping or enabling? And if you realize that you have been an enabler, how can you stop?
You may be desperate to help your loved one, but unsure how to move forward. The first thing you can do is examine your relationship and make sure you haven’t been enabling addictive behavior1. If you think your behavior has allowed a loved one to continue their destructive alcohol use patterns, know there are practical steps you can take to stop and get them the help they need.
What Is the Difference Between Helping and Enabling an Alcoholic?
Enabling allows an alcoholic to continue their drinking habits. They feel secure in the knowledge that somebody will always be there to rescue them, no matter how many times they make a mistake.
Simply put, enabling an addict means creating an atmosphere in which they can continue their unacceptable behavior. It refers to doing things for someone that they could and should be doing for themselves.
On the other hand, helping refers to doing something for someone they cannot do themselves. Helping an alcoholic in a productive way might include creating a supportive environment, or helping them find the right approach to change their drinking habits.
Read More: How To Help an Alcoholic
Download Our Free Guide
Download our guide on How to Help Someone Quit Drinking. Learn more about alcohol use disorder, communicating with a loved one, and the resources available to help.
7 Signs That You’re Enabling an Addict
Seven clear signs you may be enabling an alcoholic include:
- Acting out of fear
- Experiencing difficulty expressing emotions
- Resenting the addict
- Lying to cover up their behavior
- Blaming situations on people other than the addict
- Prioritizing their needs before your own
- Ignoring their potentially dangerous behavior
How to Stop Enabling
While enabling an alcoholic can negatively impact everyone involved, it is entirely possible to break the enabling cycle so your loved one can heal in meaningful, productive ways.
Here are a few powerful ways to stop enabling an alcoholic:
- Do not allow your loved one to put you in situations that may cause harm.
- Do not clean up messes your loved one makes while intoxicated.
- Follow through with plans you’ve made with them—even if they refuse to participate.
- Create healthy boundaries and clear consequences for unacceptable behavior.
- Practice self-care2, and don’t allow your loved one’s needs to eclipse your own.
- Encourage your loved one to get help while realizing you cannot force him or her to change.
Learn How to Break the Cycle of Enabling With Ria Health
If you believe someone you know is suffering from alcohol addiction, online treatment is one convenient way to help them reclaim their life. At Ria Health, our team of coaches, doctors, and nurses will work with your loved one to combat setbacks and keep track of progress. We’ll also work with them to develop achievable drinking goals—whether that means stopping entirely or cutting back to a moderate amount. We offer anti-craving medications, weekly coaching meetings, professional medical support, and more—all from an app on their smartphone.