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​Are you being held hostage by your loved one's addiction? 

Enabling behaviour is born out of our instinct for love. It's only natural to want to help someone we love, but when it comes to certain problems, helping is like throwing a match on a pool of gas.

Enabling behavior means something positive. It's our instinct to reach out and help someone we love when they are down or having problems.


However, when we apply it to certain problems in living - addiction, chronic financial trouble, codependency, certain forms of chronic depression -- enabling behaviors to have the reverse effect of what is intended.

Definition of Enabling:

The Dangers of Being an Enabler: When you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, nothing good can come from allowing inappropriate behavior. Setting concrete boundaries may seem harsh at first, but not setting boundaries with your loved one will enable their addiction to continue. When you allow yourself to live in a household where anger, frustration, stress, and disrespect are a constant state, you are robbing yourself of the quality of life you deserve.

Bringing awareness by educating individuals and families that are suffering from “cycle of addictive coping skills” to improve relationships to gain constructive communication, personal healing and to create healthy boundaries. Enabling is defined in an unhealthy relationship as "to make possible; to make able." Typically, family members and friends only want to help their loved one who is suffering from addiction. However, the way they help the untreated person in their life can be counterproductive and damaging. Often, they are unaware they are even doing it. 

Examples of enabling include:

  • Overlooking the problem that their loved one is suffering from addiction and not doing anything about it.

  • Giving money to the friend or family member who suffers with addiction.

  • Aiding when the addict asks for help in situations, they got themselves into from using drugs or alcohol.

  • Being in denial when the addict coaxes and manipulates their family.

  • Being in denial or unaware of drug seeking behavior.












Enabling Symptoms:

Controlling behaviour, distrust, perfectionism, avoidance of feelings, intimacy problems, care-taking behaviour, hyper vigilance, denial, and physical illness related to stress. It is believed that we become codependent through living in systems (families) with rules that hinder development, flexibility and spontaneity. Some general rules in families that may contribute to co-dependency are;


  • It's not okay to talk about problems

  • Don’t trust your instincts or other people

  • Unpleasant feelings should not be openly expressed

  • Keep your feelings to yourself

  • Communication is best when it is indirect

  • Use another family member as a messenger between two others

  • Always be good, strong, right and perfect - or at least act it

  • Make us proud beyond realistic expectations

  • Don't be selfish

  • Do as I say, not as I do

  • It's not okay to be playful

  • It's not okay to shine or excel too much

  • Do not rock the boat

  • Disaster is always lurking just around the corner, so tread lightly

  • Guard the family secrets

  • You should feel guilty or scared to say "no"

  • Pretend there are no problems

  • Nice people are boring

  • If we disagree with each other, we are attacking or abandoning each other

  • Control others by manipulating with threats, fear, guilt or pity

  • If you need attention, be overly dramatic to get it

  • Set off others' emotional temperatures to see how you feel

  • If you control things and people you will be safe




  • Repeatedly bailing them out of jail, financial problems and/or other "tight spots" - Giving them "one more chance" - then another and another

  • Ignoring the problem - because they get defensive when you bring it up or your hope that it will magically go away

  • Joining them in the behaviour when you know they have a problem with it - Drinking, gambling 

  • Joining them in blaming others - for their own feelings, problems, and misfortunes

  • Accepting their justifications, excuses and rationalizations - "I'm destroying myself with alcohol because I'm depressed"

  • Avoiding problems - keeping the peace, believing a lack of conflict will help

  • Doing for them what they should be able to do for themselves -

  • Softening or removing the natural consequences of the problem behavior

  • Trying to "fix" them or their problem, repeating a cycle of “Rescuing"

  • Trying to control them or their problem - being consumed with creating plans




  • By setting solid boundaries and being inflexible to their pressure, you show your addicted loved one how important it is to live within those boundaries.

  • Addicts can be just like spoiled children. They will pressure you with lies, tantrums,withholding love, whatever it takes to get what they want out of you.

  • Once they have it, you won't hear from them again until they need something else.

  • If your boundary is solid, just like a child, your addicted loved one will feel more secure and more loved.

  • If you have an addict staying with you and there is no condition that they quit their addiction, you have no boundary.

  • If your loved one isn't staying with you but asks for help every now and then, the boundary is not the same.




First and foremost, it is important to understand that it is perfectly okay and acceptable to want peace in your home, respect, and appropriate behavior from everyone, including your addicted loved one.

Sharing stories is a way to connect with people and inspire others who may be struggling with behavioral health conditions. When you share your recovery journey and how your recovery has impacted those around you, you show people they are not alone. Your story can also demonstrate that treatment works, and recovery is possible.



Working with Family Members:

  • Seek out support groups to talk about your issues in a healthy manner

  • Set up family meetings in a professional setting to accomplish self-awareness and gain resources 

  • Do not blame the addict or pass judgement, look at yourself to define your enabling behaviours

  • Do not give in to manipulation. Learn how to stop enabling by access your own recovery healing

  • Be patient with the addicted or mental health person and let professionals treat them

  • Find a balance between the power of being a parent and learn how to reparent your adult child