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Drinking And Alcoholism Six: What Is An Enabler?

Every alcoholic has enablers, often a spouse or partner and perhaps many others such as employers, extended family, friends, religious leaders, etc. An enabler is someone who will not only refuse to challenge the alcoholic’s drinking by setting boundaries but who will often actively support the drinker. For example, an enabler may drink with the alcoholic so he or she won’t have to drink alone. An enabler may even purchase and provide the drinks for the alcoholic. An enabler will help the drunk to bed, clean up after them, and make excuses for them when they fail to keep their commitments. The enabler is in  a sense addicted to their enabling behavior as deeply as the alcoholic is to drinking. Often the enabler is so entangled with the alcoholic that they are afraid to set boundaries for fear of the consequences. For example, a woman who is married to an alcoholic and is afraid of his temper or to be alone will continue to support her husband’s drinking out of fear. A friend will refuse to say “no” to the alcoholic friend for fear of hurting feelings or being rejected will continue to enable. For an alcoholic to change, his enablers must also change or leave. The enabler may need counseling as much as the alcoholic. First recognize how you enable then consider that you are caught in an addiction as much as the drinker. Seek the help of someone who works with addiction and free yourself.

Wendy Hill, M.A., Ph.D. candidate (2013) has been in private practice in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy in San Diego and Encinitas for over thirty years. As a therapist and counselor Wendy specializes in transforming self-defeating core beliefs. Her therapy includes using hypnosis and counseling to treat anxiety, depression, addiction, childhood abuse, sexual abuse, relationships, self-confidence, and life challenges. Her website is

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