The term “enabler” is a catch-all phrase for anyone who supports, condones, or catalyzes bad or uncommon behavior in others. The term “enabler” is most often associated with high-profile substance abuse and addiction. It can also apply to individuals who enable other types of potentially destructive behavior. So how can you answer the question, “am I an enabler?”
It first helps to understand what the term “enabler” means in a clinical and mental health context as well as a social context. Enablers can appear as either a consistent influence on a person’s behavior or within a sudden, perhaps unexpected, situation. For example, an enabler at a large house party may encourage strangers and other guests to binge drink for just that evening. This enabler may have a devastating effect on these strangers without ever even knowing it.
So what does the term really mean? Furthermore, are you potentially an enabler? Finally, do you need to expand your addiction education? Furthermore, should you be looking for a family therapy program to help? Many people go through life without realizing they are enabling the bad behavior of others. Therefore, it’s important to know if you’re doing this to a friend or loved one. It’s also important to know if you’re doing this to complete strangers.
The Definition of an Enabler
Let’s look at an enabler by a basic dictionary definition. A dictionary definite of an enabler means any person who makes something possible (in general). It could also mean someone who encourages self-destructive behavior in another person. Basically, an enabler in terms of behavioral context is someone who encourages others to behave badly/irresponsibly/self-destructively.
Enablers tend to think that their viewpoint is the correct one or that another person is flawed in some way, which catalyzes enabling behavior. Enablers are especially dangerous if they are in relationships, friendships, or other close associations with individuals who have addiction issues. People tend to look to friends and loved ones for guidance. If you’re helping lead someone in the wrong direction, that is obviously a problem.
Enablers can be especially dangerous if they fail to recognize their own enabling behavior and continue doing it, instead of trying to talk someone into getting help. This is why it’s important for enablers to recognize when they are engaging in enabling behavior and work on understanding how their actions can negatively impact an individual with addiction. Enablers must be willing to set clear boundaries and not enable their loved ones. They should also seek help from professionals if necessary. Doing so can make all the difference in helping someone with addiction issues get better.
Many enablers may not understand some of their key behaviors and traits that lead to enablement of others’ bad behaviors or substance abuse:
Am I An Enabler? How Do I Know For Sure?
Enablers tend to have personality traits that deflect, blame, or guilt other individuals into using substances or questioning their behavior. A list of enabling traits to look out for include:
- Avoiding conflict in order to keep the peace or lower tension
- Denying the seriousness or magnitude of a loved one’s addiction or substance abuse
- Bottling emotions and believing that any problems in their life with subside with time
- Blaming loved ones consistently for their own problems and criticizing loved ones consistently
- Adopting the basic responsibilities of loved ones struggling with addiction
- Supporting their addicted loved ones financially even though they are a grown adult
- Treating addicted family members or spouses like a child or unequivocally dependent
- Joining in on the problematic activity even though it is hurting their loved ones or themselves
However, the most important trait to identify in an enabler is ignorance. No matter how much addiction or drug abuse is hurting a loved one, an enabler will continue to ignore these problems until it is too late.
Enablers must be willing to admit their role in an addiction issue and then work on changing their behavior. They should also be open to seeking help from professionals if needed. This is the most effective way to help an individual with an addiction problem get better.
Enablement is one of the most dangerous behaviors whenever someone is struggling with drug addiction. Mainly because it allows a person to continue their substance abuse without any repercussions or pushes an addict to keep using.
How to Protect Family Members Struggling with Addiction
Usually, the best course of action to help enablers and addicted individuals alike is to consider family therapy services like the ones offered at Crestview Recovery in Portland, Oregon.
Family therapy services allow enablers and addicts to identify harmful behaviors, coping mechanisms to reduce those behaviors, and tailored treatment options to help build a stable, substance-free lifestyle. If you have asked, “am I an enabler,” it’s important to learn more about our support services by calling 866.262.0531.
Since 2016, Dr. Merle Williamson, a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, has been the Medical Director at Crestview Recovery, bringing a rich background in addiction medicine from his time at Hazelden Treatment Center. He oversees outpatient drug and alcohol treatments, providing medical care, setting policies, detox protocols, and quality assurance measures. Before specializing in addiction medicine, he spent 25 years in anesthesiology, serving as Chair of Hospital Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and Chief of Anesthesia at Kaiser Permanente. This experience gives him a unique perspective on treating prescription drug addiction.