One of the most important parts to recovery is learning about the ways in which an addiction began in the first place. Often, a relationship pattern that shows up among those who are prone to addiction is the pattern of enabling. Enabling is a pattern that can go both ways in a relationship, meaning that others might enable us in our addiction, and we might be also enablers for others.
What Enabling Means
Because enabling is such a common relationship theme, it’s important to learn about it in drug addiction therapy. To enable means to assist, facilitate, or make possible. However, the pattern of enabling in families and relationships with someone with an addiction can be indirectly harmful and unhealthy. Instead of helping the one who is addicted to alcohol or substances, a spouse or sibling might do things for the addict that he could be and should be doing for himself. To help someone is to assist in a task that he or she cannot do alone, such as calling the pharmacy when your spouse has lost his voice from strep throat. Enabling is completing a task that he can do on his own, such as paying the bills for an addict who hasn’t or can’t work because of his addiction.
Enabling often exists in co-dependent relationships, where feelings of powerlessness exist. With this, there is often a belief among both or one of the partners that it would be impossible to make in life without the other person. The belief in being powerless in life leads to a dysfunctional relying on the other person for things that one can and should do on their own, such as being financially stable. This underlying belief in being powerless seems to attract an enabler who in turn believes that no one else can perform a task as well as they can. Enablers tend to take control of a situation thinking that they are being helpful without seeing that it would be more healthy to allow the other person to do that task on his or her own.
Stay Sober by Learning About Enabling
Learning about enabling in drug addiction therapy can help you stay sober, have healthier relationships, and stay empowered. Learning about enabling can help you see the ways that you might be enabling others. It can also help you see the ways that others might be undermining your own empowerment by enabling you.
Although enabling is common among families with addictions, it is a dysfunctional pattern that can occur in any family or relationship. The following are questions to ask yourself to determine whether you are enabling the powerlessness and possible addiction of someone you know:
- Have I ever called someone’s boss or supervisor and told her that he had the flu when he was really hung over?
- Do I find myself making excuses for my loved one’s unacceptable behavior?
- Have I dismissed my loved one’s drug use “as just a phase”?
- Have I withheld the truth from a boss, friend, or even the police in order to cover for my loved one’s mistakes?
- Does my loved one belittle me if I don’t comply with his or her wishes?
- Do I take on more obligations than I should and feel overwhelmed by all the responsibilities I have?
- Have I ever kept quiet in order to avoid an argument or because I fear emotional lashing out?
- Do I feel a sense of guilt when I stand up for myself?
- Am I more invested in the needs of others than in my own?
- Have I ever identified myself as a people pleaser?
- Do I minimize my emotions in order to not “rock the boat” of the relationship?
Taking the Steps to Change
Enabling is pattern that once recognized, can be changed. However, it takes a conscious recognition of patterns and learning about yourself and your interactions in relationship, which is an essential part of drug addiction therapy. Fortunately, all relationships are like a dance. If you change your steps, the other person has to change too. The first task, however, is asking yourself the above questions and uncovering whether or not you are indeed enabling someone else’s behavior.