What is an Enabler?

Many people dealing with an addiction or have a family member who is dealing with one may find themselves asking: “What is an enabler?

An enabler is a person who makes it easier for an addict to access their drug of choice, whether it is alcohol or another substance.

An enabler is usually someone close to the person with a drinking problem, such as a spouse or other family member.

At BriteLife Recovery, we recognize that enablers and alcoholics need help.

That is why we are here to help you recognize the signs of an enabler and offer ways to help both the addict and his or her enablers to overcome unhealthy habits.

Understanding “What is an Enabler?”

Recognizing the role of an enabler can be hard for the enabler and the individual struggling with substance abuse. This is usually because the enabler may not realize what they are doing. Understanding if your behavior is that of an enabler can help you see how your behavior affects a family member with a drinking or drug problem.

Being an enabler doesn’t mean that you necessarily support the destructive behavior of your loved one. However, enabling an alcoholic or addict doesn’t help them or the situation. Over time, enabling can make their behaviors even more damaging for them and other members of the family. If you don’t let an individual struggling with addiction experience the consequences of their addiction, it is unlikely they will seek help for their problem.

What Are Alcoholic Enabler Symptoms?

There is no single way to enable someone with a drinking problem. Instead, there are a number of different signs that may mean you are acting as an enabler.

If you’re wondering what an enabler is, here are some of the common signs and symptoms:

  • Ignoring or allowing bad behavior:
    Even if you disagree with your loved one’s behavior, you might choose to ignore it instead of talking about it. You may think they are drinking for attention and hope to discourage them by not giving it. You might even be afraid of what your loved one will say if you talk about their problem.
  • Giving them money:
    Many families loan or give money to a member that needs help from time to time. But if the alcoholic or addict in your life always seems to be in need of money, it is likely because they are using it to fuel their addiction.
  • Making excuses for their behavior:
    It is normal to want to protect your family member from having a bad reputation. But covering up for them won’t help them change their behaviors. Instead, it can help them feel like they are doing nothing wrong because they aren’t experiencing any negative effects or consequences.
  • Avoiding talking about the issue:
    One of the biggest signs of enabling is avoiding talking about the drinking or substance abuse problem. Because it is a difficult subject to discuss, it may be easier for an enabler to avoid it entirely. This is especially true when the individual has anger issues or is confrontational. However, avoiding talking about a substance abuse problem only helps extend the substance abuse issues.
  • Denying the problem:
    One of the hardest things for a person struggling with addiction to do is admit they have a problem. It can also be hard for an enabler to admit their loved one has a problem. You want to believe the person with a drinking or drug problem when they say they’re fine. But by not acknowledging a problem, an enabler allows an alcoholic or addict to continue harming themselves and others.
  • Resenting your loved one:
    When you see that your loved one has a substance abuse problem and isn’t doing anything about it, it is easy to become resentful — whether of them, the situation, or even yourself. You may feel hurt or angry about their substance abuse problem. These feelings can be unhealthy for you and for your relationship with your loved one.

What Effects Can an Enabler Have?

We must examine the effects an enabler can have on someone with a drinking or drug problem. An enabler may be trying to force their life with their loved one to be “like it was” before the addiction issues began. An enabler often does this by trying to control the situation as much as possible or ignore the problem.

However, an enabler is only allowing the addiction to continue. If someone with a substance abuse problem cannot realize they have a problem, they will not have any incentive to change things or get better. This can result in serious harm to themselves or others, including death.

What Does Alcohol Abuse Look Like?

After understanding the role of an enabler, you should also understand what alcohol abuse looks like. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is when a person’s drinking causes problems in their life. The person may need to drink more alcohol to feel its effects. If they stop, they may feel withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol use disorder is a disease. It can cause cravings for alcohol, a feeling of anxiety or irritation when not drinking; and, an inability to stop drinking once started.

There are many other symptoms of alcohol use disorder, including:

  • Drinking more than intended
  • Not being able to drink less or stop drinking
  • Spending a lot of time drinking alcohol or having hangovers
  • Missing school or work because of drinking
  • Not doing as well at school or work because of drinking
  • Drinking even when it is harming your relationships or yourself
  • Choosing drinking instead of other activities you used to enjoy
  • Doing dangerous things after drinking, such as driving or having unsafe sex

Also, there is not a certain type of person who becomes an alcoholic. There are many reasons a person might develop a drinking problem. They may have a history of alcohol abuse in their family. They may be an impulsive person or have low self-esteem. Additionally, people with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, or other mental health issues are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder.

Treatment Options for Users and Enablers

At BriteLife Recovery, we believe that treating the alcoholic and their enabling family member or members is the best way to get everyone healthy and on the same page. Our treatment options include detoxification, inpatient programs, outpatient programs, partial hospital programs, residential programs, sober living, and more.

You and your loved one will receive a specialized recovery plan tailored for your needs and recovery. We recognize the behavior of enablers, and we know they need support as well. Moreover, with our family therapy program, enablers can learn more about substance use disorders and how best to support their loved ones after treatment.

Paying for Treatment

The most common concern with our clients is figuring out how to pay for treatment. That is why we have developed a simple four-step process to make it easy for you to use your insurance benefits to cover part or all of your rehabilitation costs. We work with you to determine if your insurance provider is in our network or not and what is covered. Our admissions team can also help file claims with your insurance company in order to use your coverage to the fullest.

Located in beautiful Hilton Head, South Carolina, BriteLife Recovery knows no one-size-fits-all treatment for alcoholism. We have perfected a range of treatment options to help people across the southeastern United States successfully stop drinking. At BriteLife Recovery, we treat your mind, body, and spirit to help you live your life to the fullest in recovery.

When thinking about enabling, it is important to know that most enablers aren’t purposefully helping their loved ones continue their addiction. But continuing enabling behavior won’t help an alcoholic stop drinking or an addict stop using. Research shows that addicts with families invested in their treatment process are more likely to stay sober after treatment.

Don’t let your behavior keep your family member from seeking treatment.

Call us today, and let us help you and your loved one get started on the road to recovery.

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