Am I helping or enabling?

If the line is you’re trying to draw between “helping” and “enabling” is blurry, this will help.


It’s our instinct to take care of and support those we love when they're down and out. When a family member is sick, it’s natural to want to help them feel better. However, when we take care of someone struggling with addiction, help can have the reverse effect of what's intended, resulting in enabling.

People who enable act as a cushion, preventing their loved ones from facing the consequences of their actions.

[💥] Someone who enables helps the addicted person continue their addiction by taking responsibility for their problems. The enabler – this can be a friend, spouse, parent, grandparent, or child – over-functions in their role by doing what their loved one can and should be doing for themselves. The enabler starts with good intentions and wants to help, but in later stages of addiction, enabling becomes an act of desperation and family dynamics become a tangled ball of blame, accusations, justifications, rationalizations, and hurt.

  • Enabling removes the natural consequences of the addicted person's choices allowing them to continue their suicidal pursuit of getting high.
  • You're the first person they call when they need something.
  • Making excuses for the addicted person
  • Accepting responsibility for abusive or unhealthy behavior
  • Avoiding confrontation
  • Bailing them out
  • Paying their bills
  • Loaning money (and never getting paid back)
  • Threatening to kick them out but never following through
  • Paying child support
  • Putting addicted persons' needs above everyone else
  • Ignoring unacceptable behavior
  • Feeling resentful for being taken advantage of but refusing to set limits
  • Putting your needs last
  • Difficulties expressing your emotions
  • Blaming other people for your addicted loved one's problems
  • Continuing to help despite negative consequences
  • Giving one more chance … then another…and another…
  • Walking on eggshells
  • Denying the severity of the problem
  • Drinking or using drugs with them
  • Consigning their excuses about why they use
  • Doing for them what they can and should be doing for themselves
  • Repeatedly coming to the rescue.
  • Believing they’re a victim and unable to help themselves.
  • Viewing them as a child instead of an adult.
  • Trying to control them
  • Ignoring your physical, spiritual, and mental health needs.
  • Neglecting other significant relationships
  • Feeling angry when family members set boundaries with your addicted loved one.

If you see yourself on this list, it's time to make changes. It’s easier to set boundaries when you understand that enabling is aiding in the demise of the person you love. There is much you can do to improve your loved one’s chance of a successful recovery. But the first step isn't what you think.
Rather than focusing on your addicted loved one, start with yourself. A support group will teach you the difference between letting go and holding on. One is an act of love; the other is an act of poor boundaries.
The best way to help your loved one is to focus on you. Change what you can - YOU. Lead by example. Be a healthy role model and do whatever it takes – meetings, getting a sponsor, counseling, and learning how to set healthy boundaries and stick to them.
Statistics show addicted individuals whose families are educated and in recovery have the highest chance of success and with support, you’ll never have to make another uneducated decision again.”
Lorelie Rozzano
Jagged Little Edges