Enabling is An Interventionists Biggest Enemy

Enabling is to give someone or something the authority or means to do something or make something possible.  When applying this definition to addiction and substance abuse, it is essentially the family or friends of the addict making it possible for the addict to continue using drugs or alcohol regardless of consequences.  The concept of enabling may sound straight forward, but for many parents it is hard for them to distinguish between helping and enabling.  Any type of enabling behavior is shielding the addict from experiencing the full impact and consequences of their behavior.  Enabling behavior is the biggest enemy of the professional interventionist.  This is a topic that any good interventionist will spend time on when educating the family prior to any intervention.


What is enabling full?


This type of behavior is the biggest obstacle that any good interventionist must overcome.  This is one of the most common problems that successfully de-rails any intervention.  Below are some examples of enabling behavior:


  • Behavior or support that protects the addict from the consequences of their addiction
  • Family members or friends who keep secrets about the addicted person’s problems
  • Anyone who is connected to the addict who makes excuses for the addicted person’s actions
  • Any family or friends who bail the addict out of trouble, such as legal problems, financial debts, or paying bills
  • Those who are connected to the addict and are blaming other people for their addiction
  • Some family members may avoid the addict or avoid talking about them to keep the peace
  • Family or friends who give money to the addict for whatever reason
  • Any type of caretaker that the addict may have, such as someone who drives them around, buys them groceries, cleans up their mess, etc.


What is the difference between supporting and enabling?


It is human nature to want to care for someone close to you, especially if they are going through a difficult time.  However, there is a fine line between being supportive and enabling destructive behaviors.  An interventionist expects a family to be supportive and wants the family to understand the dangers of enabling behavior.  Supporting or helping includes assisting with things that the individual is incapable of doing for themselves.  For example, this could facilitate them regaining control of his or her life.  Enabling behaviors keep the person from dealing with the negative consequences of their actions.  When someone stops taking responsibility for their actions they are under the impression it is ok for them to continue this destructive behavior.


Why is enabling an interventionists enemy?


Simply put, any type of enabling behavior prevents the interventionist from performing his or her job and saving the life of the addicted person.  The moment anyone taking part in the intervention enables the behavior of the addict, the intervention is lost.  All of the work, planning, and preparation was for nothing, and the addict will continue to use drugs and alcohol at their leisure.  Anytime someone is abusing drugs or alcohol they inherently know it is bad, yet will always seek to justify or make right their own actions.  This is much easier to do when other people around the addict are in agreement that the drug use is ok, and there is no problem.


Professional interventionists spend a significant amount of time with the family breaking down barriers and addressing the enabling behavior.  Out of all the problems that may arise during an intervention, enabling is the most destructive.  It brings the entire intervention process back to the beginning and makes it close to impossible to convince the addict that day to go to treatment.


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