Enabling takes many forms, all of which have the same effect -- allowing the alcoholic to avoid the consequences of his actions. This in turn allows the alcoholic or drug abuser to continue merrily along his or her substance abuse ways, secure in the knowledge that no matter how much he screws up, somebody will always be there to rescue him from his mistakes.
Individuals are identified as enablers when they "help" others who can and should take care of themselves. For instance, if you are in a dysfunctional relationship or living with an alcoholic or an addict, or there is an illness or an addiction in the family, you find yourself feeling obligated to care for the person who should be caring for him- or herself. You feel the need to make certain that every situation is handled and under control.
Enabling is actually disabling to the individual who needs help with a compulsion or addiction. At that point, you need to seek help to identify your enabling behavior and change that behavior in order to truly help the addict. Many times when family and friends try to "help" alcoholics, they are actually making it easier for them to continue in the progression of the disease.
Q: How can I stop being an enabler?
A: Seek professional treatment to explore the reasons you feel the obligation or compulsion to help those around you who have problems that need their own attention.
Q: Can I be cured of enabling?
A: As with other diseases, including codependency, a period of remission is possible. Continual treatment and training of family and friends may prevent reoccurrences.
Most therapeutic approaches to codependency and enabling are based on the 12-step program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous and adapted by many other groups dealing with addictions—including Caron. The programs stress awareness as the first step in recovery; the second step is acceptance, both of which need to occur in a supportive group setting.