enablerWhen it comes to a loved one’s addiction, family and friends may want to help the individual but are not sure what to do. Enabling a loved one to continue their self-destructive behavior only further damages relationships and can lead to severe consequences.The following are some signs to be mindful of when considering whether enabling behavior is being exhibited.


Covering Up

One of the key signs of an enabler is a willingness to cover for, or hide, a loved one’s behavior from others. The excuse is usually this is done to help keep the individual safe from harm but in reality it is actually keeping them from experiencing the true consequences of their actions.

Making Excuses

An individual who is addicted will exhibit poor decision making and behaviors which put themselves or others at risk (spouses, children). The most damaging thing a person can do is make excuses for a loved one who is putting themselves or others in harm’s way to maintain an addiction.

Avoiding Confrontation to Avoid Conflict

Tiptoeing around a loved one with addiction is generally about a fear of confronting them because it may lead to an argument or disagreement. A person with an addiction may not be willing to face what it is doing to themselves or others and will be unwilling to see the harm done.

Financial Responsibility

Paying the bills because a loved one used their income on drugs or alcohol is a common sign of enabling behavior. This may allow them to keep their lights on but does not allow for them to experience the repercussions of their decisions.

Taking Chances

Family and friends may be willing to forgive someone several times before enough’s enough. Offering several chances to an individual who makes poor decisions, harms others or does not take responsibility for their actions allows them to continue those actions without suffering consequences.

Bail Out

Bailing a loved one out of jail is common for families and friends of loved ones with addiction. This is also a financial burden on those who take on this responsibility.

Risky Behavior

Participating in risky behavior alongside someone with addiction is not only enabling, it is dangerous and could have severe consequences.

Poor Relational Boundaries

All relationships need boundaries to thrive. In a parent-child relationship, an enabler may become more of a friend and in a spousal relationship, it may feel more parent-child. If boundaries are being stretched within a relationship, it may be due to enabling behavior.

Letting Go

It may be difficult, but enabling behavior can, and must, be stopped in the best interest of all parties involved. Driving a loved one with addiction to the bar because of fear of a DUI or paying money to bail an individual out of jail does not help them understand the consequences the addiction causes in their life. If needed, seek help to set healthy boundaries knowing it is in the best interest of everyone involved.


If you have a loved one suffering from addiction and you’re worried you might be enabling their condition, get advice and treatment options from Hired Power by calling 800-910-9299.