You might call your partner’s work to say they’re sick when they’re hungover or blackout drunk. Or you may call your child’s school with an excuse when they haven’t completed a term project or studied for an important exam. If every conversation with your folks devolves into a tearful screaming match, it’s time to set some boundaries and get a little space.

You may feel obligated to continue helping even when you don’t want to. Missing out on things you want or need for yourself because you’re so involved with taking care of a loved one can also be a sign you’re enabling that person. There’s a difference between supporting someone and enabling them. Someone struggling with depression may have a hard time getting out of bed each day.

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation and treatment

Create a list of personal boundaries, rules around your home, your finances and yourself, as well as consequences for breaking these rules. Maybe this means telling your alcoholic son who is living at home that he must find his own place to live if he continues to drink. During your conversation with your child, make sure you clearly and kindly communicate these boundaries and the consequences for not respecting them.

When helping becomes enabling?

Helping becomes enabling when you diminish someone else's responsibility by not allowing them to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. Helping allows someone to gain further responsibility, whereas enabling takes away pain in the short-term, making a problem worse in the long term.

Typically, every dollar a with an addiction can get their hands on goes to buying drugs. When you allow an addicted person to live with you rent-free, you are essentially giving that person $500 or more a month to buy drugs with. You could be giving them the extra dollars they need to overdose and possibly die. Enabling can be spending money on a person with an addiction or buying them things that allow them to spend more money on drugs. It can also be making excuses for them and covering for them. Make it clear to your child that when they are ready to seek help, you will do everything possible to help find them the best care possible.

Avoiding the issue

They know what it takes, and they’re ready and willing to help get your loved one on the road to recovery. As the substance abuse problem grows worse, relationships between family members continue to erode, and the addict slips further away from his or her most important lifelines. That’s why it is critical that family members of addicts recognize and end their enabling behaviors. Parents are natural caregivers, supporters, and helpers in times of need. Most often, parents want to help their children succeed in school, purchase the things they want to buy (but maybe can’t afford), and go the places they want to go. Parents are advocates and aides for their children inherently.


It is important to note that many feel enabling behaviors fall under what it means to be a parent. However, what often happens is a parent’s own anxiety or fear dictates behaviors that are ultimately harmful to a child’s growth. It is not the job of a parent to shield children from pain, worry or fear. If a parent attempts to do so throughout a child’s life, that child will never know they have the capacity and ability to get through difficult situations. It is not healthy for an adult child to expect mom and dad to rescue them from consequences, difficulty or hardship. Understanding addiction, recovery, and the challenges that come with it will be instrumental to you and your child’s success. As previously mentioned, both family support groups and the rehabilitation facilities can be quite helpful when it comes to informing yourself about addiction and treatment.

Why Parents Enable Their Children

In recent years, there has been significant growth in opioid abuse, including heroin, fentanyl, and other prescription painkillers. Overdoses of the potentially deadly class of drugs have increased nearly fourfold since 1999, killing approximately 47,000 people in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control . Family members may think that they are controlling the situation if they allow their loved one to use drugs at home. They may even consume drugs or alcohol with the addict to manage their intake level and to make sure they gravitate toward home when using instead of more dangerous locations. We provide integrated treatment for mental health disorders and addiction. Your loved one makes a lot of threats when they’re confronted about their substance abuse problem.

However, when you continue enabling them, that is not helping them or you. Do not give or lend money for the addiction, or to cover debts caused by the addiction. For example, if the rent money has been spent at the bar, don’t block the natural consequences of that action. However, if young children are involved, this strategy may not be appropriate. Be vigilant in protecting these silent victims of addiction.

Personality Disorders

“We are not responsible for the boundaries that people have in their relationships with other people,” Tawwab said. In situations like those, you’ll likely need to renegotiate how your collective finances are managed, Tawwab said. On the other hand, if your parent is loaning your sibling money from their personal account, then it’s not really something you can set boundaries around—and realizing that can be freeing. There’s a whole different problem with enablers than there are with the addicted.

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