Six Styles Of Enabling

Six Styles Of Enabling

I wanted to share this article that the Parents Support Group in New Jersey was kind enough to allow us to print in The Sober World.


Enabling includes a superstructure of perspectives which many people relate to in terms offostering chemical dependency in one with whom one has a continuous relationship.No single definition is agreed upon by all professionals. The following is an attempt to pinpoint behaviors which are characteristic of different styles of enabling found among codependents.

1. Avoiding and shielding: any behavior by the codependent covering up for, or preventing the abuser, or self from experiencing the full impact or harmful consequences of chemical use.

• I made up excuses to avoid social contact curing abusive period

• I threw away, hid, or destroyed chemicals.

• I threatened violence to get the person to quit.

• I shielded the person from a crisis.

• I helped the person keep appearances or covered—up.

2. Attempting to control any behavior by the codependent performed with the intent to take personal control over the significant other’s chemical use

• I brought things to divert the person from using

• I stayed home to get the person to quit or to take care of

• I reminded the person of his/her failure or consequences

• I preached, screamed, yelled, swore, cried

• I threatened to hurt myself

• Stayed away from home

• I threatened to leave.

• I withheld affection.

3. Taking over responsibilities: any behavior by the codependent designed to take over the abuser’s personal responsibility, such as household chores or employment

• I woke the person to be on time

• I did his/her chores

• I payed his/her bills.

• I covered his/her debts/bad checks

4. Rationalizing and accepting any behavior by the codependent conveying a rationalization or acceptance of the significant other’s chemical use

• I believed/communicated that the use of one chemical was better than another.e.g.better that you drink than use cocaine)

• I rationalized that his/her use gave confidence

• I enjoyed that his/her use kept him/her out of my way

• I believed that his/her use made the person less depressed

• I believed that his/her use made the person more tolerate, sexual, energized, creative, tolerable,alert, fun, powerful, clearer thinker, open, confident, productive

• I provided aids to sooth the person after excessive use.

5. Cooperating and collaborating: any assistance or involvement by the codependent in thebuying, selling, adulterating, testing, preparing, or use of chemicals.

• I helped the person take the chemical.

• I helped the person prepare the chemical.

• I helped the person get to the source to buy the chemical.

• I supplied the person with the chemical.

• I gave money to buy the chemical.

6. Rescuing and subserving: any behavior by the codependent over— protecting the abuser and subjugating himself or herself.

• I cleaned up after.

• I checked and measured to determine the amount used.

• I encouraged ‘home use’ rather than go out.

• I waited hand and foot.

Review the history of the codependent’s relationship to pick out the basic pattern/ Style of enabling.

Why do codependents enable?

Genuine Concern: They see their behavior as helping.

Self preservation: They fear the consequences of not helping

Discount behavior: Not identified

Not identified as harmful

Identified as harmful, but temporary.

Fantasize: Feel helpless, and wish it away.

Esteem enabling becomes the source of self—esteem, enmeshed

Necessity of concurrent treatment Metaphor of the Human Body and its movement toward equilibrium. Metaphor of Mobile art and its movement toward equilibrium. The codependent has learned adaptive behaviors directed toward survival and directed to counter the dependent person’s dysfunctional behavior. As the dependent person expands his/her competency, so too must the codependent expand his/her competency. to meet the new functional behaviors of the dependent person.

Adapted from: Charles Nelson, Styles of Enabling in the Codependents of Cocaine Abusers, (San Diego: United States International University, 1984.).