Enabling occurs whenever a person makes it easier for an alcoholic to continue drinking and engaging in unacceptable behavior. By enabling, we allow the alcoholic to avoid the negative effects of their actions and easier for them to continue behaving irresponsibly. We shield and protect their negative behaviors and actually promote exactly that which we are attempting to prevent.

We tend to be unaware of the actual consequences of our actions as enablers. You might be unintentionally enabling.

Have you made excuses for the alcoholic’s drinking or alcohol-related behaviors?

Have you lied to cover up for the alcoholic’s behavior?

Have you repeatedly given the alcoholic just “one more chance”?

Have you threatened to leave if the alcoholic’s behavior didn’t improve but then not done so in the absence of change?

Have you accepted any blame for the alcoholic’s behavior?

Have you avoided discussing the problem with the alcoholic for fear of the response?

Have you acted on the basis of the alcoholic’s promises, although they’ve been repeatedly broken before?

Have you helped the alcoholic avoid the consequences of unacceptable drinking behavior (called in sick because of a hangover, posted bail, paid legal fees, performed work that should have been done by the alcoholic, and so on)?

If so, you have enabled the alcoholic to continue drinking abusively.

However, you can help by forcing the alcoholic to face reality. This is easy to say but very hard to do. You simply replace misplaced kindness with tough love. Nevertheless, it’s really essential in order to really help the alcoholic. Stop doing anything that makes it easier for the alcoholic to continue living a destructive lifestyle.

Stop covering up for the alcoholic.

Stop helping the alcoholic avoid the consequences of unacceptable drinking behavior (calling in sick because of a hangover, posting bail, paying legal fees, performing work that should be done by the alcoholic, and so on).

Stop accepting any blame for the alcoholic’s behavior.

Don’t give or loan any money to the alcoholic.

Don’t make threats, plead or argue with the alcoholic.

Set boundaries and stick to them.

Don’t react to the alcoholics unacceptable actions, thus forcing the person to respond to your reactions instead of defending his or her behaviors.

If these actions fail, you need help. Any 12 step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), is generally ineffective for most people and can actually reduce recovery for most people.

Non-Twelve Step Programs are available for those wishing either to cut back or to quit drinking. They include HAMS (Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support), LifeRing Recovery, Women for Sobriety, Moderation Management, Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety) and the Life Process Program.

There are also non-12-step retreats such as the fully accredited St. Gregory Retreat Center. It can provide medical detoxification services if needed and welcomes most health insurance in payment.

Disclaimer: This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about alcohol, drinking, rehabs, programs, or any other matter and none should be inferred. Neither this website nor your host receives any compensation, directly or indirectly, from listing or describing any program. Such listing or description does not imply endorsement. [+]


  • Falkin, Gregory P. and Strauss, Sheila M. Social supporters and drug use enablers: A dilemma for women in recovery. Addictive Behaviors, 2003, 28(1), 141-155.
  • Harkness, Daniel and Cotrell, Gretchen. The social construction of co-dependency in the treatment of substance abuse. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 1997, 14(5), 473-479.
  • Rotunda, Rob J., West, Laura, and O’Farrell, Timothy J. Enabling behavior in a clinical sample of alcohol-dependent clients and their partners. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2004, 26(4). 269-276.
  • Rice, John Stedman. A Disease of One’s Own: Psychotherapy, Addiction and the Emergence of Co-Dependency. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998.

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