How You Can Stop Enabling an Addict

enabling an addict

Life is one of those things sometimes where it’s best just to experience something for yourself rather than to be told about it. As children, we are told that the stove top is hot and that it will burn our hands when touched, yet most every child under the sun will burn themselves touching it out of curiosity. They have to experience the painful feeling life is delivering in that moment in order to understand. For the record, I’m still like this. I have to literally burn the already formed blisters on my finger tips 2-3 times before something finally clicks upstairs. Needless to say, this is all an excellent metaphor for addiction, of course. What if somebody who loved you helped smack your finger away from the stove or made sure it was cooled off first every time you were to reach a finger for it? What if they sat there and did that for you after you had been told repeatedly and taught extensively about the scalding nature of said heat source? That would seem a little absurd or redundant almost. Well, that’s a fine example of enabling and it can be applied to addiction just like the entirety of the metaphor.  

Tabling the Enabling

Sometimes in life, nothing changes if nothing changes and nothing will change if somebody is coddled their whole life. When a loved one facilitates somebody’s life mistakes and problems, it can be detrimental to personal growth. Let’s face reality here: we all make mistakes. Everybody on this planet and everyone that came before has never been perfect. This is a concept that is nearly impossible to achieve. In a little bit cynical frame of mind, life is just a collection of mistakes and learning from them. If somebody is there to help pick up your pieces every time, how is it that one will learn from personal experience? Forms of enabling can be construed as babying a person in a lot of ways. It can be interpreted as condoning a person’s negative behavior or allowing them to think that their mistakes and problems are okay. Now once again, imperfection is more than fine in these trialing times we live in. However, understanding why we are not perfect and striving to be the best version of ourselves can be the goal in recovery. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or other anonymous programs are just that. These steps do the opposite of permitting certain behaviors and can more or less teach us about our character defects. Recovery holds us accountable in a lot of ways when other people don’t know how to sometimes.

learn to say no

In recovery and early sobriety, establishing this new foundation of sorts is crucial. Just like the rest of life, finding ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time happens more frequently than we’d like it to, of course. Life rarely follows the final draft we have written out in our craniums. Not to worry, though because this is where taking action comes into play and we have to draw a line in the sand with our feet. Standing your ground and saying “no” to a loved one can be nerve racking because nobody really likes to be told no. Some people like myself struggle to say the word as much as we do hear it. People pleasing is most certainly a mentality that goes hand and hand with allowing a person’s behavior to continue- positive or negative. Such is life, though. It really can be summed up in the equation of life being 10% of things that happen to you, and the other 90% is how we choose to deal with whatever scenario we happen to be in. Life, of course, isn’t fair, but then again, what is fair? Fair isn’t about everybody having the same thing and dealing with the same problems. Fair is more about getting what you need to get by. As human beings, especially as addicts and alcoholics, we always want more. We tend to want to push life to its limits and then question why it decided to bite back. Most of us are required to start listening to our guts and become intuitive in a sense. Often times we are professionals at rationalizing our actions and thought processes. Making excuses becomes more than just a habit and before you know it, we start justifying relapses. The whole point of this recovery thing is to stay clean and not go back to the miserable existence we lived before hand right?

This idea complements so many different forms of growth. If one wants to continue to strengthen themselves mentally, it requires separating our wants and needs sometimes. All the things that we want and crave generally are not what we need to better ourselves internally. Looking at it as a form of maturity too, it doesn’t matter what age category you fall into. Whether you’re still in your adolescence or have graying hair, understanding society and the people we engage with takes a lot of effort. Learning to have motives that are less selfish and more selfless can really spell out the makings of particular human beings. If somebody allows you to think that your selfishness is alright and there’s no problem, you would never know the difference. Having real friends and loved ones that will tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear- that’s beautiful human interaction. The watered down truth doesn’t do anybody any good. It may prevent conflict, but in the end, enabling only holds your loved one back.

Stop Enabling and Start Growing with Coastal Detox

Being trapped in active addiction is a life consisting of bad choices and finding yourself repeatedly in the wrong place at the wrong time. It gets old while being uncomfortable almost becomes the norm. Sometimes it takes some simple changes and it’s amazing how different of a life can be conjured up. If you or a loved one is struggling with chemical dependency and are ready for help, please call1-866-802-6848 or visit We are ready to give you any suggestions possible and set you or your loved one on a path that we can all be proud of.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.