The Damage of Enabling

By definition, enabling means to make able, give power, means, competence or ability; authorize; to make possible or easy; to make ready; equip.

Examples: Her specialty degree enabled Mary to land her dream job. The internet has enabled us to have better communication programs. By allowing the GPS to track your position, you’ve enabled your car to be located if stolen.

In the world of addiction, enabling has a slightly different meaning. While it does authorize, provide means or make possible or easy, enabling is damaging.

How many times have you been out and seen an individual who appears to be homeless holding a sign asking for money because they have no job? While not always, quite often it is addiction which has led them to this point. In Sarasota, FL, some city leaders are proposing that old coin-based parking meters be used to accept donations that will then be turned over to local organizations that help the homeless through meals, medical care, family reunification, as well as substance abuse and mental health treatment. These leaders are discouraging residents and citizens from giving spare change to the homeless, stating that rather than helping these individuals, you are enabling them to buy drugs or alcohol.

While this example seems extreme, it is really no different than a family member giving money to an addict for rent, groceries, utilizes or transportation expenses. In reality, these bills often go unpaid and the substance abuser buys drugs or alcohol.

The disease of addiction causes layers of damage to the individual. While family and professional relationships suffer, physical and mental health risks increase. Addiction often leads to criminal behavior because the substance abuser will start finding new, often illegal ways to obtain drugs. By rewarding the bad habits of someone abusing drugs, rather than forcing them to face the fact that they have a problem and seek help, enabling prolongs the process, allowing more damage to occur.

If you have a family member with a substance abuse problem and they are asking for money to support themselves, tell them no. If you want to help, do so by getting them to a substance abuse treatment center, such as Pathways 28-day and extended care programs. To learn more, call Pathways at 855-349-5988.