Monday, January 30, 2012


When I was younger, I never heard about “enablers” or “enabling,” but now we hear it all the time. And what exactly is an “enabler?” You could say it’s someone who is trying to help someone, but is actually doing more harm than good. Why? It’s because they are seeing to it that the person they and helping is becoming more entrenched in their problems by not forcing them to help themselves. They actually mean well and they care a lot, yet they are making it not only possible, but even easy for the person to continue their problematic behavior. Let’s see what the definition has to say, because I am curious.

“Most often the term enabler is associated with people who allow loved ones to behave in ways that are destructive. For example, an enabler wife of an alcoholic might continue to provide the husband with alcohol. A person might be an enabler of a gambler or compulsive spender by lending them money to get out of debt.”

It might be hard to describe yourself as an “enabler” when you actually see your actions as helping a person out of love. You might think eventually they are really going to do something about their problem. You have hope that this is the last time you will need to help and that they will finally get their acts together. But as long as they keep getting help from anyone, they are going to keep things the way they are; and why shouldn’t they, they are happily making anyone else, everyone else, responsible for their problems. They won’t take responsibility for it themselves. Many enabled people, who are fortunate enough to have loving family and friends, can take advantage of their feelings and have a nice circle of enablers established. And often, enablers feel that they are bad people if they don’t keep trying to help. They don’t want to let their loved ones down. The problem is that their help is keeping the person from hitting rock bottom and realizing they are the ones who have to “fix” the problem, no one else can do it for them. And while no one wants to see a loved one “hit rock bottom” because it’s painful,  it’s really only way they are going to seek the help they need. They have to have no other choice.  Everyone seems to agree on that.

If you have a loved one who exhibits destructive behavior you might want to take a look at whether or not you are helping them solve their problems or making them worse? I guess that why interventions were created? Maybe a group of enablers confronts the enabled person in question and tells them officially that they are not going to help them any more unless they get the help the need. Interventions seem to work in many cases, not all.

I guess if you really love or care about someone with a serious problem, an enabler is the last thing you want to be.

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