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Codependency and Enabling

"Loving them to Death"


Women stressed out from enabling drug addict and alcoholic

Preventing Codependency: When saying “No” might just save someone’s life…


The damage caused by drug and alcohol addiction is something all too many of us are familiar with.  Not only does the addicted suffer, but those closest are often dragged down as well. Unfortunately, many of us really don’t understand what codependency is and how harmful it can be.  


What is Codependency?


When related to addiction, codependency is the mutually destructive relationship between an enabler and another individual who is in active addiction.  Usually, the one enabling is someone close to the addicted person, a friend, family member or spouse.  Most think that they are supporting and taking care of their addicted friend, partner, or family member.  The truth is... they’re doing the exact opposite. What they are really doing is allowing the addict or alcoholic to control them and most likely perpetuating the problem.


What is Enabling?


Enabling is encouraging or tolerating behavior that is ultimately conducive to the addict’s ability to drink or use drugs.  Enabling can be as obvious as buying someone alcohol or providing money for drugs. Sometimes though, it’s more subtle - like the parent who allows their child, or adult child, to continue living at their house while drinking and using drugs.  Enabling is counterintuitive to most. That’s why it’s so important to be educated on addiction and effective ways of dealing with it. It’s incredibly difficult to watch someone close fall down the spiral of addiction. Emotions are often high and judgment clouded.  What you think is helping is actually allowing the problem to become worse. Countless intelligent, responsible, and altruistic individuals have been caught up in this devastating cycle of codependency and enabling. So what’s the “right” thing to do? Set Boundaries.


What are Boundaries?


Boundaries are standards of acceptable behavior that are set and held.  Boundaries are setting a precedent for never accepting behavior that is unacceptable.  For example, let’s say someone who has a drinking problem is living in your home.  A boundary may be that they cannot drink at your home. If they do, the known expectation is that they will have to find a new place to live.  The boundary needs to be communicated and also followed through with.  It’s crucial to follow through with preset consequences made by boundaries.  In another example let’s say that the problem drinker just discussed is your child and that you are also supporting them financially.  The boundary may be that they have to go into inpatient treatment and no longer deny their alcoholism. If they go into treatment maybe you will fully support them and help them whatever way possible.  If they don’t, you cut them off completely, no financial help, no communication, etc. This ultimatum puts real and immediate consequences in front of the addict or alcoholic. It forces them to deal with their issues and not hide behind excuses and justifications any longer.  It makes it crystal clear that no one else is going to continue supporting their habit. The importance of boundaries cannot be emphasized enough.  It’s important to understand what boundaries are and how to use them.  It can literally save someone’s life.


It is also important to understand that setting boundaries and stopping enabling behavior can be very uncomfortable.  Especially for a parent or loved one, it goes against every instinct. They think, “If I cut them off, they will have nowhere to go, nothing to eat, nowhere to live.  They might die.”. What’s important to understand here is that enabling the addict or alcoholic allows their condition to progress quickly with no resistance, and it actually puts them in life threating danger.  The best thing to do here is to find a professional who can help.


If you are struggling with someone who has a drug or alcohol problem Coastal Addiction Center can help.  We have a team of experts who have heard every lie, excuse, justification, and situation imaginable.  We have the experience and the insight to be able to conduct an intervention, help establish boundaries, and give your loved one the best chance possible to successfully recover and start living a better life.  Please call us today to learn how we can be of service to you and your loved one.


Coastal Addiction Center

527 S Archer St, Anaheim, CA 92804

1(844) 627-3268

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