“The Codependent Family”-Enabling

dictionary definition - addiction
Addiction dictionary definition

“The Codependent Family”-Enabling

Hi, it’s Dermot again. If you read my last blog, you will know that this is a follow up to that blog and part of a “Recovery from Addiction Series”, If not read on:

I decided as part of my blogging series, “Recovery in Addiction Series”, to include a few blogs on the family. It is an undisputed fact that family is directly affected by addiction and in most cases, it is the family that eventually help to motivate change in an addict or at least do their utmost to do so. Families also suffer immense hardship through addiction and it does leave emotional scars in everyone. No one escapes the impact and effects of addiction.


To enable someone is to do something for someone who is perfectly capable of doing it for themselves. In addiction, this is a coping mechanism, just so life can get on despite the addiction.

Working in an addiction center, I have heard some amazing tales of “The Codependent Family”-Enabling, which led me to call it “Donegal Mammy Syndrome”.

I heard cases of such extreme enabling where the mother would dress her adult son in the morning so she could get him up and out of bed. Another story was where a mother would contact the drug dealer and buy the drugs on her son’s behalf, every day.

Other forms of enabling are covering up, making excuses for, lying, deceit, hiding, keeping secrets all done to protect the addict and make their life as comfortable as possible.

I know some of these cases are extreme, and not all enabling is as excessive as that, every family/ relationship that has an addiction will enable in one way or another. I was enabled in addiction and also an enabler of addiction.

Why do we enable?

a.) A quiet life – addicts are very needy and demanding and when they are under the influence and over a period of time become a nuisance to say the least, even aggressive,  I know I was one. Families tend to give in to the shite, just for a bit or respite. “If you give him his drink or money for it at least he might go out or pass out and we can get peace”

b.) Guilt – addiction causes co-dependency and co-dependent people tend to blame themselves or be blamed, as when you are made to feel guilty over a period of time it sticks & due to that guilt, will enable.

c.) Love- Of course, you are not going to let another family member suffer. Unconditional Love, prevents us from doing this, no matter how bad the behavior.

These are the 3 main reasons why I would have enabled other family members, but I do know that everyone has there own reasons of why they enable.

There is a very fine line in helping someone and enabling someone. You must keep in mind though that addiction kills and enabling can help speed up that process.

What to do in recovery or to counter that enabling:

1. Sing from the same Hymn sheet – The advice we give to families who attend family days at our center is for ALL the family to sit down together and redraw the boundaries and agree on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable going forward. Addicts & Co-dependents are very manipulative due to years of trying to control each other. Everyone must agree, even if its to agree to disagree initially. Cooperation is vital for recovery to last.

2. Family members must also accept that they too have been affected by addiction and must also access help for themselves through Al-Anon Support Groups & or One to One Counselling. All too often I have seen the addict get well, but the family members stay codependent and continue to suffer.

3. Boundaries – As said in point 1. Boundaries in recovery are not optional if you want to maintain a “sane” household they are essential. As addiction made life abnormal, you have to do everything to make life normal again. How to do this, do more of what works and stop doing what doesn’t or hasn’t been working in the past.

4. Not Cured – I had a family member ask me once “As this is a 2-year programme, can Johnny drink again after 2 years?” He was being genuine and I have to emphasize that my belief is that the only solution to addiction is abstinence. When we see people, they have already gone down the harm reduction route, but it hasn’t worked for them. “Recovery is not a destination, but a journey”

5. Be as open and honest with each other as possible – Years of mistrust cause everyone to clam up and not talk. Recovery is time to recognize that there is still an “Elephant in the Living room” and get down and talk & even cry from the heart. There is immense strength in being vulnerable and studies show that families who really talk to each other have very strong Love and bonds.

6. It’s Okay to make mistakes – Slips, lapses, & Relapses are common in early recovery. From my observation, sometimes its better to have a relapse in early recovery, as any ambivalence that was still there, is soon exposed. If there can be a learning from it then it wasn’t in vain. In many cases, families react to relapses, and understandably so as no one wants to go back to where they were, however, it’s best to intervene if you can and give encouragement to get back in recovery again.

7. Call a spade, a spade – Again the old elephant raises its head here and this is why boundaries are so necessary. People in early recovery will struggle, emotionally and even physically with cravings. These can be brought on for a whole array of different reasons, but a lot of the times the person might not even be aware that they are having a craving, or try to deny it for something else. If you notice that the person in recovery is somewhat agitated, restless, emotional or moody, ask them straight “Are you craving for a drink/drug”.

Doing this will give them permission to talk about it or could be a “break-state to get there mind off the craving. Don’t think that if you ask them, then they might storm out of the house to go drinking (if the craving was bad enough, they would do that anyway) as naming it is a lot better than denying it.

8. You cannot control anyone – None of us can’t (as hard as we might think so), You have to put your well being and that of the whole family first. If the addicted person chooses to go back drinking/ drugging, you have to just detach with Love, from them.

My next 2 articles are on Family & Addiction/Recovery. The next one will be on Codependency



Call To Action Button

Recovery is about growth and everyone does grow at a different pace. My advice to anyone in early recovery is to wait at least 2 years before making any major life-changing decisions that might have emotional ramifications.

An example: get a mortgage, get married, change career, emigrate. In light of this everyone has dreams and we all do want to better our lives in one way or another, so it is important in early recovery to start to put those dreams into reality by creating achievable goals which can be reached in time.

I found in my early recovery, although I had dreams, I wasn’t aware of creating goals and my life unfolded by default. It turned out well for me but had I had clear goals, I do feel that it would have been even better.

I do try to learn from my mistakes, and that is why they are little miracles in themselves that happen for a reason. I am a growth-seeking being I will continue to seek change in myself.

What motivates me is the Pain – Pleasure, which moves me away from my pain points (a lack of finances, time & peace of mind) to my pleasure points (freedom of finances, time & peace of mind).

The way I have found to achieve this freedom and to move away from the “Groundhog Day” of life is through online marketing. I have taken this step into the abyss, I’m not tech savvy at all, and with the support of SFM, I am working my way through it. The internet is here to stay and is the future for all of us, so don’t get left behind because it is gaining momentum.

If you want to learn what I am learning and are in a point in your life where you want to change, then I offer you, through my mentors, a no obligation FREE 7-day video series to watch.

The articles in “Recovery from Addiction” Series, are the opinion of the author and if you would like to contribute to it, please leave a comment in the comment box below. If you want to subscribe, for free, to any further blogs of mine please leave your email in the box below & not on social media sites.

Thanks for your time and have a great day.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *