• Karen Rivera

“Let’s Get Real”

Do you know the difference between Helping vs Enabling? Often mistaken, but immensely important for the health of those involved, is to know the definitions and differences. Not identifying or exposing an Enabler can have toxic results.

“Helping” is doing for others what they are unable to do for themselves.

“Enabling” is doing for others what they can and need to do for themselves. Enabling is common in families, friends, parents, partners, and relationships when “supporting” a substance abuser or alcoholic. One of the obstacles in helping those into recovery are the dynamics of contributing Enablers. Those looking for freedom from the bondage of drugs and alcohol, need to be desperate, eager, and willing for recovery and healing.

Why do Enablers enable? Some have the innate desire to be needed, co-dependent, and indispensable for another, fulfilling their need for self-worth or self-esteem. Niceness is different than kindness. Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit meant, where niceness is a generic shallow approach to make the person “feel better”; ie placation. An Enabler tries to fix or remove all the conflict or consequences that addicts should face in their own lives. However, protecting the addict from the inevitable consequences actually encourages the continuum of their behavior and self-destruction. Results can be disastrous even deadly to both the relationships and lives that can be lost.

An Enabler can lose themselves when they’re no longer needed; the relationships are non-reciprocal.

They usually surround themselves with takers and become emotionally empty, self-martyring, and resentful, spawning anger.

Parent or partner -- Do you find this scenario familiar in your life? If so here’s some help:


√ Support for recovery efforts

√ Set boundaries

√ Let a substance abuser or alcoholic deal with the consequences


× Keep supplying their “safety net”

× Make excuses for a substance abuser or alcoholic

× Take over personal responsibilities

× Save from legal consequences

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