Alcoholic partner Enabling is the ideas, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that unintentionally continue to foster drinking, alcohol related problems or make matters worse by not allowing the alcoholic to deal with the consequences of their alcoholism.

Enabling is part of the set of behaviors practiced by co-dependents of alcoholism.

Researchers report that the majority of partners took over chores or duties from the alcoholic client at some point during the relationship, drank or used other drugs with the client, and lied or made excuses to others to cover for the drinker. Moreover, particular relationship beliefs were associated with higher behavioral enabling scores.

Enabling Behaviors are practiced in four forms;

Direct Enabling

The behavior that acts upon the alcoholic’s actual drinking behavior.

  • promotion of drinking – i.e. stating its okay to drink, attending social functions with the alcoholic where drinking will occur or offering an alcoholic a drink, buying alcohol for the alcoholic.
  • demotion of potential deterrents to drinking – i.e. cleaning up the alcoholics alcohol related messes, avoiding social contact, calling in sick for the alcoholic.

Indirect Enabling

The behavior that acts upon the alcoholic’s non-drinking behavior.

  • demotion of recovery and non-drinking behavior – i.e. spouse persuades alcoholic to go to the movie instead of an AA meeting or interferes with a hobby the drinker only does when sober.
  • promotion of potential stressors to non-drinking behavior – partner increases the level of stress, anxiety, frustration, and conflict in the alcoholics life, which may precipitate the alcoholics return to drinking.

Enabling is one of the behaviors addressed by Al-anon, Alateen, ACOA and Naranon.


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Related Reading:

Seven Weeks to Sobriety: The Proven Program to Fight Alcoholism through Nutrition
Codependent No More Workbook
The Language of Letting Go: Hazelden Meditation Series
Seven Days Sober: A Guide to Discovering What You Really Think About Your Drinking
Breaking Free of the Co-Dependency Trap