9 Signs You Are Enabling Your Addicted Loved One

Get started on your road to recovery. Reach out today

Trying to help a friend or family member who is suffering from addiction is a difficult task. There is a fine line between actually helping and enabling your loved one’s addiction. Many of the things that friends or family members do to try and support someone in the grips of addiction actually end up fueling the addiction further and allow afflicted individuals to continue abusing drugs and alcohol.[1] However, it’s not always easy to determine whether you are helping or enabling your addicted loved one.

Addiction is a devastating disease that wreaks havoc on the mental health of the entire family – so family members may not be thinking clearly. On the other hand, some firmly believe that it is their responsibility to protect their loved ones no matter the cost. It’s important to recognize the difference between enabling an addicted love one and providing healthy support so you can protect your own wellbeing and put an end to codependent behaviors. Here are 9 signs that you are enabling your addicted loved one.

You Give Your Addicted Loved One Money

Many people suffering from substance use disorder are low on cash because they spend a lot of money on their drugs. Plus, many people with addiction have difficulty holding a job, and if they are able to work, they put most of their resources towards obtaining drugs and alcohol. People in active addiction typically look to friends and family to provide them with the money needed to support their habits. Enablers find it extremely difficult, if not impossible to say no. While it is difficult to watch a loved one suffer, the majority of this money is no doubt going towards their habit. If you’re giving your loved one cash every time they ask and you know they have a drug problem, you are enabling your addicted loved one.

You Provide Shelter When They Are Capable Of Providing For Themselves

For some people in the grips of addiction, they are unable to pay rent and end up homeless or bouncing from couch to couch. Like money, addicts commonly turn to family or friends to look for a place to sleep for a free place to live. Enablers view turning their loved one away as heartless. Instead, they welcome the addict back into their homes, even to their own detriment. However, people with substance use disorder typically do not seek help unless they hit a personal low. By providing them with a place to live, it may give them the false sense their addiction is not that bad and ultimately prevent them from seeking help. This is one enabling behavior that needs to be addressed when setting boundaries with an addict.

You Deny The Severity Of Their Substance Abuse

Whether downplaying it to yourself, the actual person with the addiction, or others, denial is extremely harmful and is another enabling behavior that codependent people engage in. Downplaying the severity of a person’s addiction allows the person suffering to continue lying to themselves and say “I’m not that bad”. This type of thinking keeps people in active addiction and stops them from getting treatment for their disease.

You Ignore Your Addicted Loved One’s Unhealthy Behaviors

It may be tempting to completely ignore the harmful behaviors of an addicted loved one. However, ignoring unhealthy behaviors simply allows the other person to continue acting out on these behaviors. As a result, your addicted loved one continues to believe that they aren’t hurting anyone else by abusing substances. If no one notices their problem, they convince themselves that there actually is no problem and continue to live in active addiction.

You Rationalize or Make Excuses For An Addicted Loved One’s Behavior

As a person’s addiction progresses and gets out of hand, the problem becomes glaringly obvious not just to family and friends, but to others as well. Enablers will typically reason with themselves or others that there is a justifiable reason for their addicted loved one to behave this way. This enabling behavior gives the notion that someone suffering from substance abuse does not need to take responsibility for their actions. If you’re covering up or rationalizing your loved one’s addiction, you’re enabling his or her addiction to go on.

You Lie For Your Addicted Loved One To Protect Them From Negative Consequences

The majority of people suffering from addiction engage in problematic and risky behaviors that can lead to unwanted consequences.[2] Sometimes, they will steal money, drive drunk, or go to other desperate means that ultimately result in legal charges. Other times, they may miss out on important events because they were too drunk or high to make it. On a regular basis, enablers lie for their addicted loved ones to prevent them from having to face the consequences of their actions.

You Place The Blame On Others

Loved ones of an addicted friend or family member sometimes do not want to admit that the addicted loved one’s unhealthy behaviors are a side effect of their drug problem. Instead, enablers look to outside sources to place the blame on, instead of the addict themself. Pointing to other people or things as a cause for someone’s behavior is a tell-tale sign that you’re enabling your addicted loved one.

You Prioritize Your Addicted Loved One’s Needs Before Your Own

Enablers usually engage in the above behaviors to their own detriment. Some enablers will give money to their addicted loved one, but then not have enough money to pay their own bills. Others may put other relationships at risk by putting so much and effort towards trying to help their loved one with their addiction. Focusing an immense amount of energy into your loved one’s addiction will take an emotional toll on you and your mental health. If you aren’t taking time to care for yourself and are putting your mental health on the line to help your loved one, you might be enabling his or her addiction.

You Are Resentful Towards Your Addicted Loved One

Although friends and family of addicts ultimately love them, that love is usually accompanied by fierce resentments. Individuals in the grips of addiction leave a lot of damage in their wake. They cause others emotional, physical, and even financial distress, so it’s not surprising that friends and family develop resentments.

Recognizing that your enabling behaviors are perpetuating the cycle of addiction is the first step towards getting an addicted loved one the real help they need.  Putting your foot down and saying “no” for the first time has a powerful effect. Instead of engaging in enabling behaviors, steer the conversation towards treatment or consider staging an intervention. Acknowledge that they are suffering from a disease and need to seek professional help.

If you’re ready to stop enabling your addicted loved one and get them to seek treatment, contact our addiction specialists in New Jersey today.

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/enabler#how-to-stop
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction

Medically Reviewed: May 9, 2020

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *