The Truth About Enabling

Addiction is a Complicated Illness

Loving someone who struggles with addiction is heartbreaking, The truth about enabling is it is intense, scary, and chaotic. To minimize chaos, balance is sought through survival dynamics.

Survival dynamics are the patterns of relating between family members. Every family is unique. However, there are common patterns played out in homes with addiction. The most common of these patterns is enabling behaviors.

The Truth About Enabling in a family setting

The family typically adapts to the chemically dependent person by giving in to their demands and meeting their needs. The truth about enabling is the payoff reduces stress in the home, allowing the family to function as normally as possible under highly challenging circumstances. This unfortunately is a very short term plan.

Keeping the peace and surviving in families with addiction means saying yes when no is the correct answer. It means turning a blind eye and a deaf ear. It also means keeping the addicted person happy at the cost of everyone else in the family. You learn to bite your lip and shut down your emotions.

The-truth-about-enabling addicts

Truth about enabling and being the peacekeeper

The cost of being the family’s peacekeeper is not free. Over time, living on high alert negatively affects every aspect of your health. Neither the person abusing substances nor their family notices the changes occurring within themselves because they are other-focused. The addicted person focuses on getting their next fix. And the family focuses on the addicted person.

Other focused individuals lose sight of themselves. Substance abusers are unaware they’ve become addicted until they experience withdrawal symptoms. Family members are unaware they’ve become codependent until their physical/psychological/emotional body breaks down.

Families want to help. However, most don’t understand that the truth about enabling means putting up with or making excuses for neglectful, abusive, self-harming behavior is not an act of love. If anything, it is just the opposite. Enabling is aiding in the demise of your loved one.

The truth about enabling is Addiction is a complicated illness

There is nothing simple about addiction. People do not all struggle the same. Some have substance use disorder only. Others have mental health issues and substance use disorder. There are also trauma-related problems, mood disorders, personality disorders, how long the person was using, and what they’re using. There are many contributing factors to the addiction puzzle.

Substance use disorder radically changes brain chemistry. Behavior is greatly affected. Imagine you were drowning, and you needed air. What would you do to get it? Addiction is found in the fight/flight area of the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for survival. This part of the brain says get drugs or die. It’s instinctual, not conscious. Addicted persons can also be narcissistic or struggle with an inferiority complex.

The truth about enabling is it disguises itself as helping

But enabling is not helpful. In fact, enabling is deadly as it partners with addiction and aids in the demise of your loved one. Enabling is a physical response to an emotionally painful experience. Enabling facilitates a temporary escape from uncomfortable emotions. Saying yes takes the pressure off. Only it doesn’t stay off. The next time the addicted person needs something, the pressure is on again. The fix? More enabling, and so the cycle begins.

Family members navigating the murky waters of addiction alone are drowning. The truth about enabling is addiction is too big and complex for any family to deal with on their own. Survival is meant to temporarily keep you safe, but you weren’t meant to build a lifestyle around it. Some family members spend decades in survival mode feeling numb inside and never really living.


To recover from the effects of addiction, you must speak your truth, be your truth, and live your truth. As Oscar Wilde so beautifully says, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

But there’s excellent news! With help, you can live a beautiful life no matter what your addicted loved one does. So give yourself a big hug and make the commitment. No more secrets. No more shame. Instead, reach out and lead the way. Because statistics show that addicted persons are most successful when their families are educated and in recovery.

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