Enabling is basically doing or arranging something for someone else so they don’t really have to feel the full consequences of their own actions. It is really common in families dealing with addiction. In particular what happens is, especially at the earlier stages of addiction, the family starts noticing problems that a family member is going through. Problems start to rise that are associated with their addiction, such as maybe they don’t have any money. Maybe they get some legal issues, relatively minor at first. Maybe they even lose their job. Stuff like this.
What happens is, the family members, especially if they don’t have a full understanding of addiction, feel like ‘OK If we can fix these problems, then the addicted family member will not want to use drugs or alcohol anymore’. Likewise, ‘Hey they’re having all these legal issues, so maybe if we get an attorney or bail them out, help them through this legal case, then they will feel better about themselves and also they’ll learn their lesson’ or if they have financial problems, same thing maybe ‘we’ll help them out financially, they’ll feel better about themself and they won’t have the need to do alcohol or drugs.’ Seems logical, right?
Unfortunately, addiction really isn’t logical. It’s a disease. Enabling an addict rarely works. It just doesn’t. What happens is that the family members keep doing whatever they’ve been doing. The reason it’s so dangerous is that what results, generally, is the addicted person never really feels the full consequences of their addiction. Therefore, it takes a lot longer to hit what is called ‘a bottom’. They never really get to feel that despair.
A family member may feel like they are helping but really what’s almost always happening is that they’re just kicking the can down the road before the inevitable happens. Because if an addict is not able, not allowed to feel the full consequences of their action, there may never be a sincere motivation or effort to change their behaviors before something serious or drastic takes place in their lives.