Helping vs. Enabling Alcoholics

Helping vs. Enabling Alcoholics | What’s the Difference?

Many times, despite their best intentions, friends, family, and other people close to the addict actually exacerbate the problem by providing alcohol abusers with offers that might feed their addiction. You may be enabling someone with an alcohol problem if you ignore their conduct, offer them financial support, make excuses or cover for them, or take on their duties.

Anything you do to shield the alcoholic or addict from the repercussions of their behavior may allow him to put off getting assistance for their issue. In this blog, we will look at some of the things loved ones might do for an addict that actually harms them in the long term.

Residents at The Sanctuary Recovery Foundation support and encourage one another to reach their goals of a sober, productive, and fulfilling life. Contact us to learn more about our proven track record of helping people in their journey to recovery.

Why Do People Enable?

Codependency frequently results in enabling. Codependency implies an unhealthy reliance on someone who frequently needs extra help due to an illness or addiction. Enabling may develop as a strategy to deal with or avoid emotional suffering. You can read a more in-depth guide on whether a co-dependant relationship can be saved here.

People who enable a loved one with a substance issue frequently do so for various reasons. But mostly, many people’s first reaction is to want to protect their loved ones when they are hurt or acting in a way that might have unfavorable effects. Ask yourself the following questions to discover if you might be enabling.

Are You Doing Things to Help the Alcoholic Avoid Consequences?

Are you covering some of the expenses a loved one would have incurred if they hadn’t lost their job or missed work due to drinking? By giving them a safety net that helps them avoid the consequences of their actions, you are enabling.

Are You Giving them Money?

No matter what they claim they will do with the money, it will end up on alcohol. Whether this is directly, or if they use the money to pay for bills, they may have more left over, which will go towards drinking. Paying for things is enabling.

The Outcomes for Enabling

Enabling may have disastrous consequences for the enabler. It also doesn’t allow the alcoholic to do things for themselves. As a result, they may feel disrespected rather than cared for. This may lead to devastating consequences such as losing the relationship or even severe health problems for the addict.

Some things that may happen are the following:

  • The enabler may base their self-worth on how valuable they feel.
  • The enabler may only feel love when they are rewarded for their help.
  • The enabler may lose their home or belongings.
  • The addict may lose a relationship with the enabler.
  • The self-esteem of both parties becomes damaged.
  • Both sides will experience emotional emptiness since love becomes conditional.

Helping vs. Enabling Alcoholism

It’s important to understand the fundamentals of enabling and helping. Below we have outlined some differences for you to examine.


When you are enabling you will find you often are making excuses for them, taking on their obligations as your own, and offering resources (such as money for food, etc.) that may be readily utilized to get alcohol or drugs and result in more alcohol and/or drug addiction. Enabling refers to giving assistance that, even unknowingly, helps an addicted loved one continue to drink.

  • You don’t worry about their addiction and don’t take it seriously.
  • Lying for your loved one.
  • Making ultimatums that you don’t follow through on.
  • Giving them money they can use to travel to get alcohol, call people to get alcohol or a place to stay so they can continue to drink without the consequences of homelessness.
  • Doing some of their work for them, homework, or completing other tasks with deadlines the addict cannot reach because of their drinking.


However, helping is when you don’t stop the consequences of someone’s actions from impacting their life. This involves keeping healthy boundaries and not making excuses.

  • Encouraging your loved one to get help, or providing resource ideas.
  • Listening to them and being empathetic.
  • Setting healthy boundaries.
  • Going to therapy yourself to help you navigate this tricky relationship.

Get Help with Sanctuary Foundation

Understanding the distinction between helping vs helping is important. This is also something for the alcoholic to consider in the relationships they surround themselves with. Having those close to you who have been through this before and understand how to set loving boundaries can help the addict on their way to recovery. To find help for your addict today, contact us to discover the benefits of living with others who have the same desire to build a sober and healthy life.