Dilemma:         “I am the mother of a thirty year old son who is abusing drugs and alcohol. He has been hospitalized and detoxed once and has been through an excellent drug rehab program. However, he quickly relapsed and is again abusing drugs. He has lost his job and is now living with us. What can we do to help him? We love him very much and want to help him. In a family meeting at the rehab they advised us to go to Al- Anon meetings and learn how to cope with this. They also advised that we not give him money and not allow him to live at our home. But, we do not want him in the streets, we love him, want to help him to get better and we worry that something bad could happen if we do not give him money now that he has lost his job.”


Enabling behavior occurs when another person, often a co-dependent helps or encourages the addict to continue using drugs, either directly or indirectly. The definition of enabling is “to accommodate the addicted individual in order to protect them from the full consequences of their drug use.”


Refers to the need of the family of the addict to not give in while refusing home and board to the abuser until they get themselves into recovery.




  • Ignoring the addict’s negative or potentially dangerous behavior

– This behavior can involve anything from overlooking problems to denying that a person even exists.


  • Difficulty expressing emotions

– Enablers are often unsure how to express their feelings, especially if there are negative repercussions for doing so.


  • Prioritizing the addict’s needs before his/her own

– While it is natural to want to help loved ones, enabling takes helping a step too far, where the addict has her needs taken care of while the enabler neglects her own.


  • Acting out of fear

– Since addiction can cause frightening events, the enabler will do whatever it takes to avoid such situations.


  • Lying to others to cover the addict’s behavior

– An enabler will lie to keep the peace and o present a controlled, calm exterior.


  • Blaming people or situations other than the addict

– To protect the addicts from the consequences of drug abuse, the enabler might accuse other people of causing drug abuse and experiences.


  • Resenting the addict

– The result of the above behavior is that the enabler will likely feel angry and hurt.

He/she may act on these feelings by resenting the addict all while continuing to enable the addiction.



  • Leave messes as they are

– Leave the addict to clean the messes made during intoxication.


  • Weigh your options for short- and long-term pain

– Will helping the addict one more time cause more pain in the long run?


  • Get back to autonomy

– Don’t allow the addict to put you or others in a dangerous situation.


  • Follow through with plans

– Even if the addict refuses to participate in a planned activity, you should go through with it without them.


The Center on Addiction. 2017. Addiction as a Disease. https://www.centeronaddiction.org/what-addiction/addiction-disease.


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