Am I an Enabler?

Enabling is a popular term in the world of addiction. It usually refers to a person that helps, or ”enables” a person to use drugs or engage in negative behaviors. Such people are referred to as ”enablers” and are looked down upon by people in the addiction treatment field, and the addiction recovery communities.

However, what constitutes ”enabling” is not clear. Not clear because the term ”enabler” is subjective. It’s used as a derogatory term, as a descriptor of a behavior, or even as an insult, depending on who is saying it, and in what context. A parent may be called an enabler because she lets her addict son sleep in her house so he won’t sleep in the streets. A wife may be called an enabler because she buys her alcoholic husband beer to prevent him from experiencing dangerous withdraw symptoms. A passerby may be called an enabler for giving money to a panhandler that may be suspected of using it to buy drugs. Which one is an enabler? Which one is a helper? Can one be both? Here’s the answer.

An enabler is a person that supports a person that is doing nothing to help themselves. A person that continues to help another to engage in behaviors that have been proven to be detrimental to all. A person that continues to support people who are suffering, but refuse to act to stop their own suffering.

Enabling cannot be defined by a particular action. It can’t be judged by whether or not it helps. It is defined by the attitude of the person receiving the help. It’s defined by how the person helped reacts to the help. If they use the help to engage in behavior that leads to change, or if they insist on continuing to engage in their dysfunction, and continue to demand that others continue to help them do it.

The person that continues to help those that continue to strive for betterment and health are not enablers. The people that continue to help those that continue to engage in destruction, without trying to help themselves are enablers. I hope that this simple definition is helpful.