By: Eileen Katz-Schulman, MS LMFT LCMFT

The Encarta Dictionary defines “to enable” as to provide somebody with the resources, authority, or opportunity to do something, or to make something possible. Sounds good, right? What if you enable a drug addict? You provide him/her with the resources, authority, or opportunity to do drugs. You make drug use possible. Doesn’t sound so good anymore.

While most family members do not give loved ones the paraphernalia to do drugs, they might be giving the opportunity or the resources without even realizing it. Here are some examples:

You are enabling if you…

  • know (or suspect) a loved one is on drugs and you given them money;
  • know (or suspect) a loved one is on drugs and you provide them with other means (buy them groceries, pay their rent, let them live rent-free in your home, etc.);
  • give a teenager unlimited privacy, bowing to their edict to never enter their room -you are giving them authority and opportunity; 
  • fail to question you child/teenager about his/her activities and his/her friends;
  • excuse or cover up a loved one’s behavior (making excuses for the hangover, calling out sick when s/he is drunk, etc.) -you provide the authority to engage in the behavior;
  • misuse medication by giving it to others;
  • drink to “take the edge off,” to “loosen up,” or to “relax” -you are be giving the authority to abuse alcohol;
  • shield a loved one in any way from the consequences of his/her drinking or drugging.

Addiction is a family disease. It negatively impacts all family members. It, also, cannot survive in a home where family members refuse to enable it. If you take away the opportunity, you eliminate the resources and you invalidate the authority, the behavior is no longer possible. With drug and alcohol use/abuse, NOT enabling is the better choice.  

Want to know more? Visit www.theantidrug.com or http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/info2/a/aa052197.htm