How do I Stop Enabling?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
A parent who does her child's homework may be enabling the child to avoid responsibility.
A parent who does her child's homework may be enabling the child to avoid responsibility.

Enabling is a type of behavior that involves doing things for an addict that support his addictive behavior, even if you do not mean to do so. You may exhibit enabling behaviors because you want to help an addicted loved one or friend to feel better, behave more appropriately, or beat his addiction. Unfortunately, however, enabling often creates the opposite effect by making it easier for the addicted person to continue his behavior. Working to stop enabling can be difficult, as it requires a commitment to tough love. This means you decide to stop enabling behaviors such as making excuses for the person, lying for him, bailing him out of trouble, helping him to afford his habit, and pretending as if everything is okay.

Enabling can take many different forms; you may, for example, make excuses for an alcoholic friend, saying he's just going through a rough time. You may loan him money for food or bills, which only makes it easier for him to buy more alcohol since he doesn’t have to take care of himself. Likewise, you may bail him out of jail, clean up after him when he makes a mess or destroys something, and even lie to keep him out of trouble. You may even make idle threats to end the relationship in the hopes that the fear of losing you will give him incentive to stop drinking. While you may do such things because you care for your friend, these actions are unlikely to make him get help for his addiction.

One thing you can do to stop enabling is refuse to take responsibility for your friend's or loved one's actions. If he breaks the law and is incarcerated, do not bail him out. If he fails to show up for work or important events, don't make excuses for him. If he fails to pay his electricity or wrecks his home, you should not clean up after him or pay the bill. You may need to pay such bills if you live with the addict and his non-payment adversely affects you, but you may stop enabling him by refusing to pay for anything that is not important for your own comfort and safety.

When you want to stop enabling behavior, a big part of it is putting an end to threats you don't mean. If you make a threat and do not follow through, the addict is unlikely to believe you mean what you say next time. If you tell the addict you'll end the relationship if he does not seek help for his addiction, you'll need to be prepared to do just that. Seeking the assistance of a counselor may be helpful as well, as these professionals have experience in such situations.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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    • A parent who does her child's homework may be enabling the child to avoid responsibility.
      A parent who does her child's homework may be enabling the child to avoid responsibility.