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Enabling versus helping?

Discussion in 'Helping an Addicted Friend' started by MrsJones, Jan 18, 2015.

  1. MrsJones

    MrsJones Community Listener Community Listener

    For a long time I have had a problem with the use of the term 'enable.' This term is used a lot in rehab, AA and NA programs identifying people who basically give the addict what they want to continue on with their habit e.g., money for drugs or what have you. At least that is what I believe it is suppose to mean.

    From past experience I have found that this term ' enabler' may be used addressing those that truly are trying to get the addict to seek help. I found it very offensive and resented that I was called an 'enabler' when in fact I was actually try to get the person to seek treatment.

    I wonder if counselors realize the difference when using the term 'enabler' when speaking with someone who is just as much a part of helping the addict as they are.

    I feel comfortable saying that we who are struggling to get a normal life back don't consider ourselves as someone who helps keep the addict on the same track of destruction and are not enablers.
    Joseph likes this.
  2. Janie

    Janie Active Contributor

    It's easy to call someone an enabler when you see them living with an addict and don't know the whole story. It's also easy to judge when you are not in the same situation. I think you could be considered an enabler if you haven't gotten up and left the situation - which is not possible when it is your family. I understand why you would feel offended. I think at times it's a term that's thrown around too freely.
    MrsJones likes this.
  3. wander_n_wonder

    wander_n_wonder Active Contributor

    For me, it can only be called "enabling" when you are actually just serving as a guide for the addict towards recovery, but you actually empower them to do things on their own. Helping in most cases would develop dependency, and that's exactly what you don't like to happen when dealing with addiction. What you'd like to do as an enabler is help the person develop the motivation from himself and with that, he'll have the initiative to personally recover and you're just there to guide him through in case he needs it.
  4. MrsJones

    MrsJones Community Listener Community Listener

    I agree the term has been and is thrown around too freely. At least it was for me.

    This is what has and is happening today with my husband.
    I think that the term should be revamped or removed, or counselors need to be reeducated with the meaning and use it appropriately as in one-on-one with the non-user.
  5. LostmySis

    LostmySis Senior Contributor

    I sat in on a rehab session with family members about enabling.. they showed a movie. All of the addicts in the room then blamed their enablers. The movie showed a woman who went to lunch with her co-workers and they were all drinking. The co-workers were not aware of the severity of the woman's drinking, but they were called enablers. The family then had a party that night for someone's birthday and the husband was called an enabler because they served booze to the guests. What offended me was that the rehab therapists pointed out the faults of the enablers who meant well, but never once pointed out that the addict is responsible for herself--"but she is an alcoholic". Too bad. Sorry, that is just an excuse. There are millions of addicts who seek help and enter recovery.

    I hate the whole "it's a disease, they can't help it" excuse too. Yes, it is a disease, but that does not mean you get to blame all of your actions on it and not seek treatment. The addict has the choice of whether to get sober, the family/friends have to the right to walk away if the person does not. But blaming those who wish to help is a cop out. Blaming the disease as a reason for your actions is a cop out.
    Zyni and MrsJones like this.
  6. Janie

    Janie Active Contributor

    I will give you an example of an enabler. A mom who lets young adults drink beer or alcohol at her house. She goes out and purchases it and has the house stocked. She will drive home kids or pick up her kid drunk. All under the argument that she feels she is helping by having everyone safe in her house under her care. That is an enabler.
    MrsJones likes this.
  7. angel_lou

    angel_lou Active Contributor

    Is my mum an 'enabler' when she gives me £10 and I buy drugs with it, even though she doesn't know what its for? If she did know, she would not hand it over so easily.
    MrsJones likes this.
  8. Twinsmommy31

    Twinsmommy31 Active Contributor

    Enablers often feel as long as they are in control of it then they are helping the addict. People do not often see themselves as enablers but as someone trying to help. We can't always assume someone is intentionally enabling to keep the person addicted. Sometimes it is the only way people know how to help.
    angel_lou likes this.
  9. DancingLady

    DancingLady Community Champion

    Enabling does have s negative connotation. But if the person doing it doesn't realize that's what their actions are doing they may not see it that way.

    I think enabling is anything that makes it easier for the addict to continue in their addiction. That could be supplying money or even just repeatedly bailing them out of s situation they got themselves in because of their addiction. Once someone can identify how they are enabling an addict they can avoid responding that way and look at what they could do differently that would be more helpful for the person.
    Zyni likes this.
  10. zaerine

    zaerine Community Champion

    Nice to learn more things about words on here. :)
    I do agree that enabling is just like influencing someone to change by serving as an inspiration or a motivator. While helping is directly doing things for someone to change.
    MrsJones likes this.
  11. catherine_sky

    catherine_sky Member

    This is really interesting as I have not really thought about this too much in this way. We have enablement (or re-enablement) services in the UK but the use of the term is completely different in these services. These services enable people to become more independent and improve their quality of life. I know this might primarily be doing something for someone first in order that they get moving themselves but the whole idea is to motivate and get moving someone in a positive way. In families the enablement is to enable parents to manage better, tooling people up, strengthening, helping the family or individual to not feel as helpless in their own abilities. I thought to enable someone it was to help them take own responsibility and self reliance and therefore self esteem and therefore strength. Guess this is double complicated in addiction though because it is about 'whose goal is it'. Guess if an individual's goal is to deal/manage/change the addiction then enablement is supporting this move 'away' from the addiction, however if the individual goal is not to face the addiction then this changes the function of the 'enablement'.
  12. MrsJones

    MrsJones Community Listener Community Listener

    After reading these responses it is definitely clear to me that the term 'enable' and its derivatives that it is perceived differently by the individual both as a negative and a positive. Which makes me think that its use should be reviewed by those who are involved in treatment including non users. A clear explanation would and should be noted.
    Zyni likes this.
  13. gmckee1985

    gmckee1985 Senior Contributor

    A lot of folks do end up enabling addicts instead of helping them. It often times comes out of sincere love. But misguided efforts really just end up setting the addict back. Tough love is important. You have to be firm and honest.
    Zyni likes this.
  14. 003

    003 Community Champion

    Enabling isn't form of helping. It's easier that's why people resort to it, because superficially when you do this, you don't see the addict under in pain, yet. But wait until it comes to worse that you'd even blame yourself for what your loved one has become. A form of help, a real one, is always hard. It aches the heart. So don't expect that whatever is giving you a relief at the moment is a long-lasting solution. Most often than not, it's not.
  15. Zyni

    Zyni Community Champion

    I don't know, perhaps there is some miscommunication or misunderstanding here? In my experience, when it comes to addiction, the term enabler means someone who (even unwittingly) "helps" the addict continue the negative behavior. I've never heard it used to refer to someone that is actually being helpful in a good way, at least not in the context of addiction.
    angel_lou likes this.
  16. angel_lou

    angel_lou Active Contributor

    Same as that.