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How to Stop Enabling a Drug Addict

As an enabler myself, it was a rude awakening when I realized that my “helping” was actually hurting someone that I loved. That was never my intent.

It is possible to still love and support the addict while stopping the enabling behavior. Try to point the addict in the right direction to obtain the help they need. An intervention may be possible, but even then, there is no guarantee that the addict will accept the help.

That is why it is so important that you set healthy boundaries and take good care of yourself.

Enabling vs. Helping an Addict

Drug addiction, in any form, is a complex disease that not only affects the user but their friends and family as well. It is important to understand that there is a difference between enabling and helping an addict. Although it may appear as a very fine line at times, crossing the line from helping to enabling can be devastating for all involved.

Helping = assisting the addict with something that they are truly unable of doing themselves.

Enabling = assisting the addict with something that they are truly capable of doing and, by all means, should be doing themselves.

Enablers Mean Well

Enabling begins in small ways as we show that we love and care about someone. We don’t mind helping where we can. Of course, we like to do nice things for people. And most of us genuinely do not want to see a loved one suffer.

Yet, in the case of dealing with an addict, our kindness and helpfulness can easily turn into enabling.

For example, let’s say the addict was up late last night using their drug of choice. They didn’t get to sleep until 4 a.m. and their alarm is going off at 7:30 a.m. for them to go to work. By constantly trying to wake them up so they are not late for work, we are enabling them to avoid the consequences of their actions.

Rescuing an addict is not always a wise choice!

Rescuing an addict is not always a wise choice!

Rescuing an Addict

Enabling often becomes a habitual day-to-day routine that allows the addict to continue their unacceptable behavior.

Just like the addict is in denial about their disease, the enabler tends to deny how bad things are getting. When the addict is rescued, they begin to rely on their enablers more and more, which in turn, allows them to continue the addiction.

As the enabler’s efforts to rescue the addict become more and more ineffective, deeper problems continue to develop and everything becomes intensified. This vicious cycle can become extremely painful for the enabler when frustration and anger start to build.

The enabler may stop taking care of themselves. Their main focus is on fixing the addict and all the problems this craziness has caused. They become a “firefighter” constantly putting out fires. An array of exaggerated feelings such as sadness, loneliness, anger, rage, fear, depression, hopelessness and mistrust are bound to surface. And things may become so painful for the enabler that they shut down physically and emotionally.

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Warning Signs Of Enabling behavior

  • Do you rationalize the addict’s irrational behavior?
  • Do you make excuses for the addict?
  • Do you loan money to the addict over and over again?
  • Are you surprised when they use the money to get their next fix?
  • Do you end up finishing projects that the addict never completed?
  • Do you pay their bills?
  • Have you bailed them out of jail?
  • Have you paid their legal fees?
  • Have you ever called in sick to school or work for them?
  • Have you cleaned up their messes?
  • Have you believed their lies?
  • Do you blame yourself in part for the addict’s behavior?
  • Have you lied for the addict?
  • Have you covered up for them to avoid embarrassment?
  • Do you think that you can fix the addict?
  • Do you give them one more chance ~ time after time?
  • Do you threaten to leave but then never do?
  • Do you threaten to kick the addict out but don’t follow through?


The addict could end up homeless on the street.

The addict could end up homeless on the street.

Breaking The Toxic Cycle

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO ENABLERS: Enabling behaviors can be stopped and YOUR healing can take place even if the addict refuses to seek help.

Scroll to Continue

When you begin to identify enabling behaviors, you can then start to make changes. This will take time and effort, and an understanding that enabling will not simply disappear overnight.

As you stop enabling and making excuses for the addict, they will begin to truly experience the consequences of their addiction. You must stay strong as the addict will likely become angry. In addition, you may have a difficult time watching the addict struggle.

You are not responsible for their addiction! You cannot fix them! They must get to a point where they want to change and help themselves!

In the meantime, you must take care of yourself by taking the steps to change your enabling behavior.

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Build A Support System

As an enabler working on changing your behavior, it is important to create a support system:

  • Private Counseling
  • A Spiritual Advisor
  • 12-Step Meetings
  • A Sponsor
  • Supportive Family & Friends

Specific Actions To Stop Enabling Behavior

  • Do not lie for the addict.
  • Do not make excuses for the addict.
  • Do not loan them money.
  • Do not be their alarm clock.
  • Do not bail them out of jail.
  • Do not pay their bills.
  • Do not be afraid to file a police report for theft, violence, etc.
  • Do not be afraid to obtain a restraining order if necessary.
  • Do not clean up their messes or destruction.
  • Do not remain in arguments.
  • Do not make ultimatums if you are not 100% confident that you will stick with it.

Wishing you the best during this difficult time. Take care of yourself!

This is Sharyn's Slant

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Sharon Smith


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 22, 2018:

Hi Teresa,

OMG how horrible. I am so sorry your family has to go through this. Thank you for your feedback. I wish you the best.

Teresa on January 20, 2018:

I’m not sure what to think. This is spot on. I will save this article . My nephew and his girlfriend was enabled because the family didn’t want to see them be homeless due to addiction. I and the rest of the family had no idea because it was so hush hush and the family lived with this secret in a beautiful neighborhood behind closed doors. We all found out June 1, 2017 , when someone came in and but a hole through my brother, the father, my nephew and his girlfriend. I’m morning and can’t understand the gray line between loving and enabling and I feel sick I didn’t know my wonderful brother was going through this with his family and my nephew dealing with this demon so privately .

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on June 25, 2014:

Hi Kathleen ~ Thank you so much for your feedback. This is a really important topic and I appreciate your vote and pin as well!

Kathleen Odenthal from Bridgewater on June 18, 2014:

FANTASTIC hub! Very comprehensive and you touched on all the big points that really matter! As a recovered drug addict, I really appreciate this. Voted up and pinned

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on June 14, 2014:

I totally agree Larry!!! Thank you so much for your feedback!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 05, 2014:

Very sound advice. It's hard not to want to always come to the aid of those we love, but consequences must be learned.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 19, 2014:

Cygnetbrown ~ I apologize for not responding sooner. Your feedback is AWESOME and no doubt what you did for your brother was the right thing. It's a great success story. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. Happy New Year!


Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on January 10, 2014:

This information is right on! I have a recovering alcoholic brother who was always calling my parents asking for money and they were always giving him money when they shouldn't have been. He was drunk and called me. I told him that I would not give him money and that he was never to call me unless he was sober. He didn't call me for six months, but when he did, he thanked me for being hard on him because after the called he realized that he needed help. He's now LEADING AA meeting around his area and is doing well. As you said, enabling is not helping. It actually prevents the addict from reaching rock bottom which is where the addict needs to get if he or she is to begin recovery. It is definitely true that recovery is an inside job.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on November 14, 2013:

Hi Marla ~ thank you so much for your wonderful feedback. And I appreciate your votes as well. Thanks for stopping by!


Marla J Neogra from Parkersburg, West Virginia on November 14, 2013:

I just read your hub and wanted to let you know it is a very good and well rounded hub with lots of valuable advise and information without being preachy. Thanks for publishing it. I voted up, helpful and interesting.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on April 25, 2013:

Hi Ausseye ~ Hello "humble consumer." It's okay to be a little silly. I appreciate you stopping by.


Ausseye on April 22, 2013:

Hi GoodSlant:

You have just made my drug of choice “hard love”

And I see you true love, and the grit to live it

And you have made a known, an unknown or might have know

Your hub shines and I am just a humble consumer

At the same time being a little silly

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi Simba ~ Thank you so much for your compliments and enthusiasm in getting this information out to others. I am very appreciative and wish you the best!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi bac2basics ~ It does sound like your friend is quite "stuck." It is difficult to see our own enabling when we are in the midst of the chaos. Thank you for sharing this with your friend. I hope it helps her to see how some of her own actions are not helping the situation. Thank you SO much for your great feedback. Take care,


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi pinto ~ I appreciate you stopping by. Thank you for your feedback.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi Rebecca ~ I really appreciate your compliments. I hope this hub helps a lot of people too. Thanks for stopping by!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi Dana ~ Thank you for sharing your story. Everything you say I can relate to. I do believe my enabling started with my family and then into other relationships as well. And oh gosh do I understand ending up in debt. I truly lost everything a few years ago including home, car, pension etc. What a horrible reality. I'm so glad you started saying no. Please take care of yourself. I really appreciate your feedback on this sensitive subject.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi Vicki ~ thanks for stopping by and for your compliments. Very much appreciated!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi justateacher ~ Unfortunately, many of us have "been there, done that." And I understand "still working on consequences" too. I am thrilled for you to hear that the addict in your life is no longer using. But I know that it can still be difficult in many ways. I wish you the best as you keep working through this process and find a balance where you are taking care of yourself first. Thank you so much for your open feedback.


Jon from UK on March 06, 2013:

Awesome !!!!!!

This hub is so true and lets get this info out to as many as possible, I too was an enabler and this kind of article could have saved so much heart ache, I admire your courage to use you own bad experiences to help others

love Simba

Oh yeah , voted up sharing and all that jazz gotta get this out to as many as poss :)

Anne from United Kingdom on March 05, 2013:

Hi Sharyn. I have a friend who´s son is a drug addict and she either refuses to see he´s still using or won´t admit it. He has had thousands and thousands of pounds off her over the years and she still bails him out every week, he uses the most bizarre excuses as to why he needs money on a regular basis and giving it to him is causing her to struggle. I will print this off and give it to her if she ever finally admits that she thinks he is still using, it could help her find the strength she needs to stop enabling him. Great job Sharyn, voted up and sharing.

Subhas from New Delhi, India on March 05, 2013:

Very well thought and thoroughly conceived material. A must read.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on March 05, 2013:

Wow, I have known a few people in this position. I'll bet this Hub does really well and helps a lot of people. Way to go!

Dana Strang from Ohio on March 05, 2013:

THANK YOU for writing this. People really need to read and learn!

I spent years of my life enabling both my mother and my grandfather - both of them allowed me to be the parent and them the children. As a result I ended up in debt, exhausted, sick, and at 30 years old realizing I spent so much energy on them I never worked on myself... Nothing I did helped them one bit because they just kept taking. The best thing I did for them and for me was to finally stand up to them and start saying no. I am happier and know I will get healthier. They are no worse off then they were when I was helping them!... It was very hard to do, and I wish I had realized what I was doing years ago.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 05, 2013:

Well said! It's easy enough to enable and good to be aware of it and work on it. Nice hub!

LaDena Campbell from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on March 04, 2013:

Been there done that....still working on addict is no longer using, but I am now enabling him in other ways...I'm working on it though!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 20, 2013:

Hi Sarita ~ Thank you so much for your compliment, votes and sharing.

SaritaJBonita on January 20, 2013:

Great article, voted useful and shared! Thank you

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on December 20, 2012:

Hello aykianink ~ Thank you for the compliments. I definitely have wrote this from experience as an enabler and someone who has been through a lot with those I love who are addicts. I appreciate you stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on December 20, 2012:

Hi Robert ~ Thank you so much for your comments. Whether struggling with addiction or enabling, it is extremely difficult. I do think that an addict getting into some sort of "trouble" can help them see reality. I really appreciate your feedback.


aykianink on December 19, 2012:

Not sure how much of this is from experience and how much of it is from research. I applaud you if you've lived through all this. Regardless, good hub.

Robert Erich from California on December 19, 2012:

This is a very hard to read, but very good article. Thank you for writing. I know several people who are struggling with addictions and several people (I believe including myself at times) that are enabling. It's hard to see someone you care about mess themselves up and get in trouble. But I suppose getting in trouble can be the only way that some people learn.

Thanks for writing!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 03, 2012:

Hi B. Leekley ~ I apologize for it taking me so long to respond. You are correct that the same things apply to alcoholics. I have been to Al-Anon and it does apply for partners of drug addicts too. And yes, enabling behavior is something that is discussed often in those meetings. Also, I went to Al-Anon even when my partner was not doing anything to get help for themselves. It is so important that the enabler take steps to change things no matter what the other person decides to do. I appreciate your wonderful feedback. Thank you so much.


Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on September 27, 2012:

Good advice. Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared.

The same applies to alcoholics. The 12 step program organization that alcoholics have, Alcoholics Anonymous, has a branch organization, Al-Anon, for partners and close relatives of alcoholics in AA. In Al-Anon, the more experienced members are very helpful to the newer members in advising on recognizing and weaning themselves from enabling behavior. Unfortunately that help usually doesn't come until the alcoholic has chosen to join AA, likely years since their boozing was coming ahead of their responsibilities. I think, though, that an enabling partner or close relation who wants to learn a different approach can join Al-Anon even if the alcoholic refuses to get serious about sobriety and take the 12 steps (or their nonreligious equivalent). Is there a similar organization for partners and relations of drug addicts?

An important principle is that everyone has a right to have a life and to love themselves as they love others. That means saying no to the martyr syndrome. If, for instance, the wife of an alcoholic man is mothering their five children plus him, doing what's needed day by day to keep him at least minimally functioning, being his emotional crutch and personal servant to get him through emotional and practical crises, and shouldering his responsibilities, then perhaps it is time to say enough of that imbalance. "Wash your own work clothes, because I'm going to tend to my neglected flower beds and quilting."

The ultimate decision is to say and mean, "Handle your responsibilities or the children and I are leaving you." Much enabling is done to postpone that decision. The question is where to draw the line, when to say enough, no more, no farther.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 10, 2012:

Hey Cyndi ~ thanks so much for your feedback. I hope this advice is helpful to many. Hope you have a great weekend!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 10, 2012:

Hi Vicki ~ I appreciate you stopping by and leaving great feedback. Thank you so much!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 10, 2012:

Hi Kelley ~ thank you for your compliments. I do hope this is helpful for many people. It is a topic that is close to my heart. I appreciate your feedback and votes. Thanks for sharing too!


Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 10, 2012:

Great advice here. I love all your tips and suggestions. I believe this will help lots of people in this situation. Nice!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on August 10, 2012:

Great info. I've seen many cases of this. You laid this out really well!

kelleyward on August 10, 2012:

What a great hub full of useful information. I like how you organized this up and pointed out the differences between enabling and helping. This will be helpful for many people. I love the book "Codependent No More!" Voted up and useful. Shared! Take care, Kelley

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 26, 2012:

Hi leenamartha ~ great to meet you! I do hope to write more on this topic. I appreciate your feedback, thanks so much.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 25, 2012:

Hi Susan ~ There can be a very fine line between helping and enabling. And when we realize we are enabling and begin to use "tough love" - it can be extremely difficult on all involved. But it is the right thing to do. I agree and also hope this article is an eye opener for many. Thank you so much for your feedback, votes and shares.


Leena Martha from USA on May 23, 2012:

I hope you will write even more about this tremendously important topic as it is a lifelong battle once begun. We, the enabler or "fixer" have to live ours lives one day at a time as well and be wary not to trade one addict's need for a person with another type of addiction.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 23, 2012:

Hi Billy ~ I do hope that others learn from this and gain an understanding that enabling is so damaging and that tough love may be the only choice that may help in the long run. I appreciate your feedback. Thank you so much!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 23, 2012:

Hi Steph ~ I like how you used the term "broken" person. The way I look at it, I feel addicts are "broken but can be fixed if they want it." Thanks so much for your feedback.


Susan Holland from Southwest Missouri on May 23, 2012:

Sharyn, as I read your hub, I found there were times I have been an enabler. It seemed like I was doing it for love, but I realized, like you stated, that I was hurting not helping. I did start to practice tough love. It is called "tough" for a reason - tough on me and tough on the one I loved so much.

I hope your hub is an eye opener for those who do enable. Making excuses, "helping" the troubled person out... seems right, but it is not. Your hub serves as a guide to become helpers and not enablers.

Awesome! Votes and shares!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 23, 2012:

An excellent hub my friend and as a recovering alcoholic I echo your words and hope others will internalize your message and learn from it. Enabling is damaging to the addict and the family members and as you say, tough love is needed so that healing can begin. Well done!

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on May 23, 2012:

Wow - fabulous and eye-opening. I have dealt with many a "broken" person in my life, and not realized my own enabling behavior at times. Rated up! Steph

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 22, 2012:

My dear sweet friend Maria ~ Wow, you sure know how to make me feel special! I know you mean what you say and your comment here has to be one of the brightest compliments I have ever received on HP. I keep re-reading it because it means so much to me personally. You really do see what I put in to the writing from my heart.

Especially here, with a deep subject like this one, I definitely end up putting myself out there in hopes of truly "touching" my readers and lending a helpful hand if possible. Thank you SO SO SO much for the kind, caring, open, honest and awesome friend that you are to me. I love you!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 22, 2012:

DoItForHer ~ absolutely not, you should not have been fired. I give you credit for doing what you did. You were thinking in the best interest of your "client." I bet that kid did learn from you. I hope things are better today for you job wise. Thanks again for stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 22, 2012:

Hi Dusty (50 Caliber) ~ Thank you SO much for your open and heartfelt comment. I apologize for taking so long to respond. I wanted to read your important words several times before I responded. I love how you say, and appreciate the term "self enabler." As an addict, you definitely "enabled" excuses upon yourself, not necessarily needing another enabler at your side.

And you mention that for you, it was a matter of "showing up where I was supposed to be on time and in a condition to do the things that were expected of me." That statement very much reminds me of my alcoholic father. The problem was/is that he worked hard his entire life. He took his job seriously, went to work every day and did what he was supposed to for his family. Yet, that caused him to believe he really didn't have a problem. And all these years later, at 80 years old, I think he still believes that. He rarely admits, if ever, he has a drinking problem. And truly, he is a great, caring guy and he did support his family. But in addition, he has a disease that has hurt him and his family over and over. I could understand in your case as a business partner, the fear your addiction must have caused knowing that one mistake could ruin everything.

In addition, I have experience being in personal relationships with addicts. Your comment "the dealers are happy to deliver" really hits me to the core making me cringe.

You spoke about "the light hasn't come on in our brain yet." Well, I am glad to hear that it has for you. I am sad to say that I know others that may never see it. You were fortunate enough to first, have the courage to make a change, and then to have the finances to get some intense treatment.

It's amazing when you talk about needing to get rid of all your friends and everything related to the addiction. I certainly witnessed how a drug addict's entire life revolves around dealers and the chase to get their next fix. No one and nothing else matters.

I am thrilled to hear your success story. I am thrilled that you are sharing it here and elsewhere. Be proud. Congratulations on 21 years, that is SO awesome. A big thank you for your wonderful comments. Best wishes to you,


Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on May 21, 2012:

Dear Sharon,

You have an ability like no one else on HubPages in my opinion to provoke a universality of our feelings and emotions on subjects like grief and recovery/ addictions. You draw from your tapestry of life experience and have developed such meaningful pearls of wisdom in dealing with these life stressors.

The comment stream and your beautiful responses are healing in themselves.

Voted UP & UABI -- what a wonderful essay for us all, whether personally or professionally. Hugs, Maria

DoItForHer on May 20, 2012:


I had also complained about a coworker swearing and smoking around the kids. I wasn't rude or inappropriate, but was young and less than tactful. Then my hours were reduced to 4 hours or less. After a couple of weeks of this, I got another job.

A week later I ran into the boss and he asked if I wanted to still work. I told him I was working somewhere else. He asked again if i wanted to quit or stay on with him. I said I didn't want to quit (just to be a jerk to him). He then fired me.

I wish I could afford to be more like that. Lol My behaviors weren't the best, but I feel I shouldn't have been fired.

I bet that kid still thinks about how I wouldn't bail him out when he tries the same thing in his adult life.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 19, 2012:

Hello DoItForHer ~ Thanks for your feedback. Enabling comes in many forms and as you described, the parents kept helping their son avoid the consequences. And in turn, he didn't learn. I think your decision to not rescue him was a good one and certainly got his attention. Yet, why on earth would you lose your job because of it. I'm sorry to hear that. It seems extreme for sure. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving an insightful comment.


50 Caliber from Arizona on May 19, 2012:

Sharyn's Slant, a magnificent essay on enablers and actions to consider which are best for each situation. As a self enabling, functioning addict, I lied to myself made excuses for myself and arranged my style around my addiction, being quite able to financially cover the cost, it was a matter of showing up where I was supposed to be on time and in a condition to do the things that were expected of me.

I found that an addict doesn't wake up one day and say "Hey, I'm stopping this, I could have had a Corvette with what I spent last month". It was a creeping feeling that between the moments prepared to fool others (who weren't fooled)and preform the duties, I had to realize that they were holding back a confrontation of whether or not they wanted to bet that as partners in a business, that even though the books were good and we were all making money, could they trust me not to blow up the success of all with one event that brought a law suite via company car wreck or something catastrophic that would end the dream for everyone.

Seems for some, with success comes temptation and the fall. One only need look as far as the people who were on top come tumbling down. Johnny Cash a survivor, like me but so many who were promising in great careers like River Phoenix, actor, Jimmie Hendrix, Janis Joplin, big names, unlike me a small name but still well off enough to have low risk in obtaining, the dealers happy to deliver.

The second high is never as good as the first, and if your predisposed of the personality flaw of liking the high and obtaining release from the reality, with obsessive, compulsion disorder that a doctor is happy to call a disease because he gets to be paid to treat the symptoms of what really is just the inability to face reality that no matter what, we are responsible for our own actions, only that light hasn't come on in our brain yet.

Quitting what I was doing was medically unsafe to just stop. So I signed up for a 7 day detox program $6,500.00 and a recommended 4 week stay for counseling at the same price per week. I took the 7 day detox and felt great, no problem, they begged I refused the extra time, I was in control. Didn't work that way, as soon as a friend showed up with the goods, I fell right in and headed down the same road for 5 more weeks knowing I had to stop. I had written down the drugs they gave me to detox. A $17.50 round trip ticket to the Tijuana border to Mexico, a cab to a doctor who spoke a little english but recognized the drug names and dosage amounts I put on the paper, he asked if it was for detox for my drug of choice, I answered yes. Seems he'd seen this before, he doubled all the medicine, told me to start taking it while I finished what I had left, then to get ready for a week long couch ride with blankets. Sounded like what I'd done before. He told me one single and probably most important thing, "Get rid of all your friends and start hanging out with new ones that didn't do drugs or drink, and get rid of every thing related to the drugs in my house and vehicles"

I walked across the boarder with a sack of drugs I figured they would take away. It was like they were expecting me, I held the bag out for inspection and just got flagged through, rode the train back to Santa Ana, Ca. and followed his orders. It was harder to do by yourself, but I sweated it out and got through it. Then after ridding my self of equipment prior to detoxing, it was a matter of ridding myself of temptation. I went to a place called the Alano Club in Costa Mesa and hung out with enablers and junkies as well as alcoholics, all there for the same reasons.

That was a couple decades ago and life's been good all on it's own. I know you can't force anyone to do what I did, they have to be ready. I'm not sure how I got ready but I know what it takes to succeed.

One more is too many. Pretty simple, or is it? I make it a point to go to town and give a 30 minute talk about how the first year turned to the 21st year just a couple months back.

Great hub with great attributes to the enabler. Voted up!,



DoItForHer on May 19, 2012:

I worked at a group home for emotionally disabled teens. One of the kids had a habit of leaving his stuff at home when he went to school, on an outing, or anywhere. His mom had unwittingly created a very difficult problem.

One morning I got a call from him when he was at school. He asked me if I could bring him a textbook with his homework in it. If I didn't bring it, he would get an "F".

I told him no and that this was a natural consequence of leaving his stuff at home. I was totally polite about it, too.

The group home manager was called and, after a heated argument with me, he brought the book to the school. I made a formal complaint to upper management and was fired in part from my steadfast refusal to comply with management.

Sometimes enabling is the lesser of two evils; however, despite me being in the wrong, I would make the same decision again.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 19, 2012:

Hi lambservant ~ I do too . . . hope a lot of enablers read this information. I'm glad to hear you are in Alanon. I have attended meetings over the years also. It is a great help. Thanks you so much for stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 19, 2012:

Hello PNJ30 ~ Great to meet you and thank you for the follow. I'm sure your cousin's parents thought they were doing what they should for their daughter. They thought they were helping and could not see how important it was to let her hit bottom. Thank you for your feedback.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 19, 2012:

Hi LBB ~ great to see you. You are right, it is so difficult to watch someone that you love spiral out of control because of an addiction. I believe that is why enablers do things to take the pain away. They really want to help. I like your analogy "It is like watching a train coming and not being able to push your loved one off of the tracks." Yes, exactly, because you hate to see them get hurt. Thank you, I really appreciate your comments.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 19, 2012:

Hi Tammy ~ I could only imagine how you feel as a mother needing to enforce some tough love. No doubt it took its toll on you. Making the decision to not enable an addict can be extremely difficult and make you feel like you are being cruel. But it is so essential.

I am thrilled to hear that your actions helped your son not destroy himself. And him thanking you, that has to mean a lot. I too hope this article reaches many who need that extra push to stop enabling. Thank you so much for opening up here as well.


Lori Colbo from United States on May 18, 2012:

This is an excellent hub. I am in Alanon and everything you say is right on. Hope you get lots of enablers reading your hub. Blessings and thanks

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 18, 2012:

Hey Wesman Todd Shaw ~ Yes, I am definitely "experienced" when it comes to enabling and have learned the hard way how to change this behavior. Thank you for sharing your experience as the addict. It's true, addicts are masters at manipulating. I hope things are better now and your mother was able to forgive you. Thank you so much for your open feedback.


Mary from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet. on May 18, 2012:

Great hob,my cousin was a very bad crack addict several years ago,her parents enabling her was the worst thing they could have done for her.Sometimes the only way a person can get better is for them to fall to the bottom.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 17, 2012:

Hi Vinaya ~ I remember you telling me about the story of your roommate. It's sad but I am sure you did all that you could at that time. You were young and had lots to learn yourself. Trying to help him occupy his time was smart, something to get his mind off the addiction. You are not responsible for what happened. Thank you for your feedback, take care,


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 17, 2012:

Hi Brenda ~ I'm happy to see you. Yes, every situation is unique and difficult in so many ways. It is hard to stop trying when we love someone. Thank you so much for your positive feedback on my work.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 17, 2012:

Hi MissOlive ~ you are such a sweetheart! Thank you for sharing how enabling and addiction has affected you. As a witness only to the crazy dynamics, it can certainly be painful for you as well. Because the enabler was preoccupied with the addict, you were definitely robbed of precious moments and time that you cannot get back. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

It is so difficult when the addict does not want to help themselves. I believe that some addicts are "so far gone" that they truly do not have it within them to accept the help. As far as forgiving an addict who does not want forgiveness, I feel that is up to you only. No matter what they want, you must take care of yourself. If you have it within yourself to forgive, I say by all means do it so you can move on from past pain.

I too hope this information reaches many who are struggling with enabling and also those struggling with addiction. It robs you deeply from living and enjoying life.

Thanks MO for your great feedback and your friendship. Big hugs,


Deborah Turner from Surprise Arizona on May 17, 2012:


What a difficult task it is to sit back and watch the one that you love spiral out of control. Enabling is not the answer either and just as painful. It is like watching a train coming and not being able to push your loved one off of the tracks. Thank you for approaching such a painful subject. I guess there are just no easy answers. Addiction affects everyone who loves you, no one is safe from collateral damage. God Bless … and thank you.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 17, 2012:

Hey PP ~ Absolutely, many of the principles would also refer to a "problem child." And your point about divorce cases makes a lot of sense! Thanks for your feedback and sharing too!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 17, 2012:

Dr. BJ ~ great to see you! Yup, there sure is a difference between helping and enabling. I know it all too well first hand. Thank you so much for stopping by!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 17, 2012:

Hi Mike (CE) ~ Many people that enable have no idea that is what they are really doing. They mean well with their actions and do not realize the consequences. That is why it is a fine line between enabling and helping. Thank you so much for your feedback!


Tammy from North Carolina on May 17, 2012:

This is an exceptional article. Unfortunatley I have been down this road. I fought being the enabler but when it came time for the tough love part, it really took its toll on me as a mother. I had to make some VERY difficult and sometimes cruel decisions that ripped my heart out. I had to tell myself all along the way that my job as a single parent wasn't to make my child "happy", but a whole adult who could have a happy life and in this case, to keep my child alive. I am still living with the consequences, but my son has actually thanked me for the tough love and helping him turn his life around and not letting him destroy himself. Enablers, tough- lovers, need to be very tough and work at these things every day. I hope this article touches many. Well done.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on May 17, 2012:

I'm the addict, and I think you've got it down here very well.

I was a master manipulator/abuser....but I never saw it that way then.

When I call myself an "abuser," I mean emotionally and poor mother the usual victim.

I'm thinking you must be experienced on this topic....probably from the enabling end :/

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on May 16, 2012:

When I was in high school, my roommate was a drug addict. I did not know what to do, my tried to help me by making him occupied to other things.

Had I known these points, I could have made a difference.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on May 16, 2012:

You have tackled a tough subject. Every situation is so unique and all are incredibly painful. It is difficult to know when to stop and take a step back. When we love someone, we just keep on trying. Sharyn, you did a great job on this Hub.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 16, 2012:

Hi Cindy ~ You had asked if I thought drug abuse is a disease? Since you and I have also chatted about this on Facebook, I'd like to paste my same comment here for others to also ponder.

Here was my response: "Many people believe that addiction is a genetic predisposition. Yet there is no one single gene that is responsible for an addictive disorder. BUT, studies have shown that children of addicts are 8 times more likely to become addicts themselves. So I guess I believe that addiction is a life-long disease that may include a genetic predisposition. Maybe not the best answer but that is what I am thinking."

Cindy, your question is a good one and I feel that we will find many different answers depending on who we ask. Thank you for stopping by and for your feedback.


Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on May 16, 2012:

Sharyn's Slant - Sharon, EXCELLENT!

This line in the introduction is extremely important and I totally agree with you, "It is important to understand that there is a difference between enabling and helping an addict. "

You have explained the difference between the enabler and the helper VERY well. I said yes to almost every bullet point on your enabler warning list. Not as the actual enabler, not as an addict but as a witness. It was extremely painful to watch both the addict and the enabler, which were loved ones, go through this vicious cycle time and time again. Definitely toxic. The enabler has since passed and I feel robbed of many precious moments that the addict selfishly robbed from us.

Also, this quote from your hub, "They must get to a point where they want to change and help themselves!" Oh so true. This brings to mind two questions that have haunted me for years, 'How do you help someone that doesn't want true do you forgive someone that really does not want forgiveness.' Until an addict is truly ready to heal it will be hard to begin the road to recovery. The enabler cannot fix this.....unless they offer tough love and follow the steps on your list of specific actions to stop enabling behavior.

You've outdone yourself Sharon and I pray your hub and the various testimonies reach those in need. May they be blessed with the convictions needed.

Voted up, across and shared

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Oh Lela ~ that is a tough one for sure! But of course, I would love to write more about addiction and its effects on the ones close to the addict. I will keep it in mind. Thanks so much!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hi Angie ~ Really great point you make "this could also apply to all those who enable and cover up other behaviours of those they love." Similar enabling behavior could happen when a parent is dealing with a child who refuses to work or do anything productive and the parent continuously makes excuses for them. Great feedback, thank you so much!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hi Lela ~ Yes, I thought about that. I should add a blurb about "you don't need to do all these actions to be considered an enabler." I will think about this more. Thank you so much for your feedback.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hi Ecal ~ I really appreciate your feedback and compliments. Thank you so much!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hey Susan ~ "You can't help someone unless they want to be helped." - is sad but so true. And you are right, an intervention won't work if the addict does not even realize they have a problem. That's a tough situation and you can only hope that they admit they need help before it's too late. Thanks so much for stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hi Kelly ~ It really can be a nightmare for the addict as well as the enabler. I wish it was easier to get the help for addicts that they so desperately need. Thanks so much for your feedback.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hi Sherri (ST) ~ Thank you so much for stopping by. Your compliments mean a lot to me. Have a great evening!


Sharilee Swaity from Canada on May 15, 2012:

Sharyn, this a very important hub and I agree with the commenters who noted that the same principles would apply when talking about an errant child. It is so true that the enabler only believe they are being kind. I find this often happens in divorce cases where the non-custodial parent wants to "make up" for not being able to be there and does not confront behaviour.

You have done a wonderful, compassionate job on this, and I will be sharing. Thanks for writing!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on May 15, 2012:

Excellent information, Sharon, to help folks understand the difference between helping someone who is addicted or enabling them. World of difference. Voted up, m'dear.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hi Yvonne ~ lucky that you have not been in this position. And yes, I too believe some of the suggestions could also pertain to parents dealing with "difficult" kids. I am glad you mentioned the word NO. That has always been something that really bothered me that when an addict is persistent in getting what they want, they truly do not have the word NO in their vocabulary. It's sad really. For kids, they eventually learn the word :)

Also, thank you for bringing up development. Without getting in to details here, I knew someone who was doing drugs beginning at a very young age. It appeared that they actually stopped developing in to adulthood and lacked many skills (social, decision making, etc.) that most adults acquire.

Thank you so much for your great feedback!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hi Penelope! It IS difficult to get the helping/enabling thing right. But as you mentioned "until you start to take care of your own needs." To me, that is critical. It has always been difficult for me to put myself first. Thanks so much for your comments and votes!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hiya Pooh ~ I love your statement "web of addiction." I use that term often. In fact, the "fiction" novel that I wrote and is sitting in a box currently - is titled "Wicked Web."

Your comments are RIGHT ON about codependency and "We seek out people we can "help" subconsciously and are soon caught up in another relationship or friendship just as toxic as the previous one." - ABSOLUTELY TRUE and difficult to change at times.

Your comments reminded me: What's that song? "I'm a ____ and a joker and a mid night toker. Well, I'm an enabler, and codependent, and a life long fixer . . . la la la.

Love ya Pooh, thanks for your feedback!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hey Paula ~ what awesome compliments, thank you! I did learn "up close and personal" unfortunately. But I am glad I am able to share it all here. Thank you again!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 15, 2012:

Hi Krystal ~ I agree, it is a tough topic. I'm glad you appreciated the questions. Thanks so much for your feedback!


Mike Pugh from New York City on May 15, 2012:

I always felt that encouraging a person to do more wrong to themselves was bad, and so the whole enabling thing has always been out right wrong, in my book as well.

You've definitely cued into each and every aspect of the enabling factors that many weak minded folks partake in, and so making your hub here not only valid in every way, but also useful to those who simply do it out of ignorance, and because they love the person so much it hurts.

Nicely done Sharon, I never enable folks I do my best to be honest even if it hurts them to do so, and I help them with advise mostly to seek for real true life counseling help from professionals in the field.

Voted up and getting shared for sure.

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on May 15, 2012:

All of this is so very true! The enabler must stop. And fortunately or unfortunately that may me they lose the relationship with the one they were enabling. Do you think that drug abuse is a disease?

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on May 15, 2012:

Hi Sharyn. Could you do a hub about How to get an addict to recognize and accept that they ARE and addict? Of How to motivate an addict to give up their addiction?

Thanks, Lela

Angie Jardine from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... on May 15, 2012:

Another important hub, Sharyn and it struck me that this could also apply to all those who enable and cover up other behaviours of those they love.

The addict doesn't have to be a drug addict ... they could just be idle and not want to work. Exactly the same things can happen when a parent continually bales out an idle child. It is a form of cruelty not love as it makes the child totally inadequate for life ...

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on May 15, 2012:

It may be important to know that even if you don't meet all of the enabling actions, you may still be an enabler. There does have to be a limit or something that you will absolutely not do to enable an addict. Stick to that one or two things for sure.

Your advice about taking care of yourself first is the best advice ever.

Anastasia Kingsley from Croatia, Europe on May 15, 2012:

Sharyn, what a fabulous read. Thank you for writing it. Voted up and awesome. My hat's off to you, you obviously know what you are talking about. Best to you, Ecal

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 15, 2012:

Superb hub! You can't help someone unless they want to be helped.

I've often thought of an Intervention for someone very close to me, but they don't even realize that they have a drug problem.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on May 15, 2012:

You did a great job! I do know a few people who could use this kind of help:) such a shame when someone turns their life over to drugs,'s a nightmare to watch. Hooe people follow this and find out life's way better sober d:).

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on May 15, 2012:

I admire you for having the courage and skill to address enabling behavior in such a professional and organized yet compassionate way. Voted up and useful, but I wish "imperative" were a choice.

Yvonne Spence from UK on May 15, 2012:

This is a very interesting hub Sharon. Fortunately I have never been in this position, but I was struck that many of your suggestions and information here are similar to those that might be given to parents who are having difficulties with kids. (Or to any parents.) In particular your last advice to not issue ultimatums unless you are confident you can stick to them is very pertinent to parenting, and children often don’t understand the word ‘no’ either.

I read recently that development is arrested when someone starts drinking, though equally arrested development could lead to addiction. Either way, addicts are likely to have arrested development and need someone to set clear boundaries. With that in mind, I agree with the other comments that this is excellent advice.

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