There is little doubt that addiction is a family disease that impacts not just the addict but also affects the entire family unit. One of the ways this occurs is through enabling. Enabling, in the context of addiction or alcoholism, is a behavior of the family or friends that allows the addict to continue with their destructive lifestyle. The issue with enabling is that the family members and friends that are enabling often are “well-intentioned” and either believe their actions are beneficial to the addict or through natural human instinct they are not capable of stopping or changing the behavior.

Definition of Enabling

As an example, it is the basic human nature and instinct for a parent to protect their child, to care for them and give them a safe place and protect them from harm or pain. However, in the context of addiction, this natural parental instinct often crosses a line to enabling. The parent continually gives the addicted child money, security, a roof over their heads and other ways to give the addict safety and security, when in actuality this behavior is allowing the addict to continue using dangerous substances and avoiding negative consequences.

Attempting to change dangerous enabling behaviors of parents, families and loved ones can be extremely difficult. Why? Because again it goes against natural human instinct. Additionally, addicts and alcoholics intuitively understand and are able to knowingly or unknowingly prey upon the emotions of their loved ones and manipulate them into continuing their enabling behaviors. Groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, parental group and family therapy and other platforms exist that attempt to teach and coach families into how to stop enabling behaviors and support them in setting healthy boundaries. It is also extremely difficult for family members to follow through on things such as kicking loved ones out of the house, not giving them money or not taking them in if they leave treatment or rehab AMA (Against Medical Advice) or ACA (Against Clinical Advice). Parents and families often need constant support, encouragement and coaching from treatment professionals in order to hold the line. This is another important reason why parents, spouses and family members should always be encouraged to seek out help and get on their own recovery path. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings, individual therapy and family therapy and support groups would all fall into this category. Here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, we have partnered with Caron Treatment Centers ( to offer a free parent/family support group for anyone in the community with an addicted family member. The group meets twice monthly and is open to anyone in need:

Signs You May Be Enabling the Addict

  1.  Ignoring unacceptable behaviors from the addict/alcoholic
    This could include lying, stealing, using drugs in your home, etc.
  2. Blaming others
    When placing blame on people, situations, and circumstances, it allows the addict to be a victim and protect the addict from their own self-made consequences. This could include the addict getting fired from work, arrested, or blaming other people for the addict’s addiction or drug abuse.
  3. Making excuses
    Creating excuses for the addict’s behavior to others or lying to them to cover up the addict’s behaviors or attitudes.
  4. Making concessions
    When you are making exceptions to avoid fearful or uncomfortable situations, it could be giving the addict money or other things so they don’t get mad . Allowing them to use in the house so they don’t face the possibility of getting arrested. Losing sleep due to not knowing where they are each night but still allowing them to live with you. Paying for an apartment for them because they can’t afford one but not allowing them to live with you because you know they’re using and that their behavior is dangerous.
  5. Codependency issues
    Are you finding yourself working harder in your relationship or the only one working for a relationship with your addicted loved one? Are you finding yourself constantly rescuing them? Are you prioritizing the addict’s need above your own? Are you finding yourself continually doing for the addict yet never receiving any level of gratitude or thankfulness from them? Do you fear if you stop supporting the addict and setting healthy boundaries they will ultimately leave and not need you?


Again, it is typically a natural thing for parents, spouses and loved ones to enable the behaviors of an addict because it the natural, instinctive thing to do. Unfortunately, as it relates to addiction and alcoholism, these behaviors are ultimately allowing the addict or alcoholic to slowly kill themselves. It is vitally important that the family unit get on their own recovery path, regardless of whether the addict or alcoholic is willing to seek help for their illness through treatment and a process of recovery.

If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment in the Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia area.

If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at Contact us today.

For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at