10 Signs You are Enabling an Addict

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 23.5 million people in the United States required substance abuse treatment that year, however, only 2.5 million of them received it. The remaining 19.5 million people felt like those they did not need treatment.

This statistic indicates several different things. For example, it shows just how powerful addiction can be, as it can easily cause those who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol to remain in a state of denial about the severity of their abuse. While this is common, it does not make it acceptable, even if it is an unfortunate truth. And, in conjunction with denial is the fact that while there is a multitude of addiction treatment centers throughout the United States, many people in need cannot attend due to lack of insurance coverage or because their insurance company does not recognize substance abuse treatment as an insurable expense.

Many people in need of treatment also do not seek out help because they have people in their lives that continually enable their behavior. And, whether they mean to or not, those who are enabling an addict are only providing them with a disservice that can ultimately be life ending.

10 Signs You are Enabling an Addict

With millions of people throughout the country abusing substances like heroin, prescription painkillers, cocaine, alcohol, and more, chances are that almost everyone knows someone who is grappling with addiction. If you are one of the many people who have a friend, family member, or loved one who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, you know just how traumatizing and confusing this disease can be. And, there is also a chance that you might be enabling your loved one even if you think otherwise.

Many people who are connected to individuals with addictions tend to find themselves in their own state of denial regarding the severity of their loved one’s addiction. Their use can become normal, expected, and even accepted to a degree amongst loved ones. However, make no mistake that no matter how pervasive your loved one’s addiction has become, you are still responsible to yourself to ensure that you are not enabling your loved one’s addiction. Doing so can be catastrophic, as you have the potential to “love them to death”. And while this can be an extremely complex thing to understand and apply to your own life, it is important to know if and when you are enabling the addict in your life. Consider the following:

enabling an addict


  1. Ignoring the problem

You might not be ready to say it out loud that your loved one is an addict. It might be too painful to watch, uncomfortable to talk about, and even unbearable to be around. As a result, you might begin entirely ignoring the fact that there is a problem. This leaves space for your loved one to continue to use without experiencing pushback from loved ones.

  1. Putting the addict’s needs first

Characteristically, an enabler will put the needs of the addict before his or hers. This means that while you, the enabler, are ensuring that your loved one has food, shelter, clothes, money, etc., you are running yourself ragged trying to keep him or her afloat. As you wear yourself down, you no longer have the capacity to see the situation for what it truly is.

  1. Blaming others for the addict’s behaviors

Continually pointing the finger at other’s except for the addict’s only allows him or her to keep using, and actually feel supported in doing so.

  1. Feeling resentful of the addict

Resentment is a common emotion between an individual and an addict, as the addict’s behaviors have likely caused deep anger and sadness. If you are resentful, you might fight back or agitate the situation because of that emotion. And, the addict will continue to use to medicate the frustration that comes with your outward emotions.

  1. Acting in fear

Addiction is petrifying, especially when your loved one is the one who is addicted. So, if he or she is on the brink of financial disaster or threatening to cause harm to him or herself if he or she does not get something from you, you might fold and do whatever he or she wants because you are afraid of what could happen.

  1. Hiding emotions

Addicts are known to have mood swings and be extremely defensive about their use, which often makes those around him or her timid to share their own emotions about his or her use. As a result, everyone around the addict remains silent for fear of altercation.

  1. Rescuing the addict

Addicts often face many dangerous consequences of their use, including ramifications such as going to jail, getting in car accidents, or potentially losing their job. If you are always there in the wings, waiting to bail him or her out of any of these situations, you are not allowing him or her to reach the rock bottom that can possibly catapult them into treatment.

  1. Making ultimatums but not sticking to them

You might say to your addict something along the lines of, “if you use one more time in this house, you will be kicked out”. However, because you do not want him or her to be in harm, you do not follow through with your ultimatum. The addict then learns that you will not provide any consequences to his or her actions regardless of what you might say.

  1. Paying for drugs and/or alcohol

While it might seem like a no-brainer to withhold cash from an addict, many people do it out of fear that they will engage in dangerous behaviors to obtain it otherwise.

  1. Rationalizing use

Finding ways to rationalize your loved one’s use (e.g. “he had a really hard day at work, it’s OK if he has a 6-pack of beers tonight”) only keeps you in denial and him or her in the grips of addiction.

What Can You Do?

If you are enabling your loved one, the solution is to immediately stop – but how?

If you end your enabling behavior, you are likely going to receive extreme backlash from the addict. That is why it is important to obtain outside help, such as individual therapy, Al-Anon meetings, or even by contacting an interventionist. It is not easy to take this step, but you do not need to do it alone. By reaching out for help, you can develop coping skills to help preserve your wellbeing and while hopefully finding new ways to encourage the addict to get help.

If you need help, do not hesitate. Call us today.