Enabling is a behaviour that promotes, overlooks or allows an alcoholic to escape from the reality (denial) of their situation.

Some Examples of Enabling Behaviors

  • Denying that the drinking or drug use constitutes a primary problem.
  • Avoiding problems and conflicts which might “cause” the dependent to use alcohol or drugs.
  • Minimizing the problems associated with use or the amount used by the dependent.
  • Rationalizing the use; excusing the dependent’s increasingly inappropriate behavior as if it is due to other causes.
  • Protecting the dependent from the natural and logical consequences of the chemical use.
  • Controlling people and situations in order to control chemical use. Attempts to control amount of alcohol consumed.
  • Waiting and Hoping. Things will get better. Be patient.
  • The “No Talk” Rule, which creates a multitude of taboo subjects including the chemical use itself, sex, family finances, and family relations. Personal feelings, attitudes, values, and fears, especially in any context which would threaten the shaky balance of the family system, also are forbidden topics.

Some examples Professional enabling

Some common problems affecting professionals who have contact with chemically dependent patients/clients include:

  • Lack of knowledge about alcoholism/chemical dependency, and the dynamics of recovery.
  • Mistaken belief that the dependent could eliminate problems associated with use if she/he really wanted to.
  • Feeling powerless to effectively confront the dependent.
  • Live and let live policy.
  • Resentment at being manipulated leads to emotional withdrawal from the dependent.
  • Fear of professional inadequacy leads to avoidance reaction.
  • Professional “No Talk” rule associated with issues of confidentiality, politeness, and personal uneasiness.
  • Discomfort with own chemical use or that of a family member.

Related Reading:

God Is For The Alcoholic
Codependency: Breaking Free from the Hurt and Manipulation of Dysfunctional Relationships
Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism/Third Edition
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself