“Bail me out … just one more time, please!”
Hannah Harrison
AFA Journal intern

October 2019“Did you call in?” he demanded.

“Yes,” his wife answered.

“What’d you say?”

“What you told me. Migraine.”

She knew it was a lie. He was drunk again. The boss probably knew it, too.

Clearly, those who are caught in addiction are struggling. But those who are often neglected are the ones enduring the addiction, or even enabling it.

An enabler is someone who overlooks the root of the addiction. For example, a mother who is waiting on a son hand and foot, while he lies in bed heavily obese, is supporting his addiction. A wife who lies to her husband’s boss about a hangover is furthering and supporting an addiction; she’s an enabler.

Shielding the addict
Actions that stem from love and the desire to protect have good intentions, yet they are likely depriving addicts of realizing the impact their choices have. Enablers believe they are helping. Instead, they are shielding the addicts from coming to grips with the consequences and taking responsibility for their behavior.

No one wants to see a husband or a child, a mom or a friend suffering. In Romans 2:13, Paul teaches, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

The enabler is, in effect, an obstacle to the addict’s recovery. By financially, physically, or emotionally aiding someone suffering from addiction, a stumbling block is created. Instead of leading a loved one to life, destruction may be the result for the individual and the 
family unit.

Tommy Wilson, founder of Living Free Ministries, told AFA Journal, “If you bail them out once, that’s mercy. If you bail them out twice, that’s enabling.”

Shaming the enabler?

Contrary to wanting to protect, some enablers feel shame and guilt due to their loved one’s addiction. The U.S. Census Bureau says that one in four children does not live in a home with a father. In dysfunctional or one-parent families, many fear that they are to blame for the addiction of a child or spouse.

Enablers need to know that an addiction is no one’s fault other than that of the addict. Whether love, guilt, or shame is the driving force behind addiction, there is hope for enablers. It may be difficult to change a situation, but one can learn to cope with it.

When an enabler decides to seek help and practice “tough love,” he may be leading the addict to get on a path toward health and recovery. Wilson suggests three C’s as a recovery program for enablers:

You did not cause this problem.
You cannot control it.
You cannot cure it.

The beauty of loving one another is that enablers do not have to face their challenges alone. In Christ, the old has passed away. He brings forth a new creation. Whether that new creation is oneself, one’s loved one, or one’s family – the old has passed away. By receiving help, enablers empower themselves and their loved ones.   

Ways to stop enabling
1. Refuse to help your addict financially.
2. Stop covering up. Allow the addict to see the effects of the addiction.
3. Protect your family. Do not put yourself in a situation where you are in danger due to substance abuse.
4. Get help. Go to a counselor or find a professional who will help you diagnose the problem and come up with ways to safely stop enabling.
5. Join a church family.
6. Find an Al-Anon group or a ministry-based treatment source.