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What Is Enabling and Why Is Enabling and Empowering Important?

The term enabler has two definitions according to the dictionary; one definition would seem a positive one, “a person or thing that makes something possible.” The second definition is “a person who encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in another.” How can one word have two polar opposite meanings?

What Exactly Is an “Enabler?”

An “enabler” in the context of stigma surrounding substance use disorder (SUD), is someone who makes excuses for destructive, toxic behavior and takes responsibility for what is not their responsibility.

Does an “Enabler” Act From a Place of Love?

One thing people who enable have in common is that they love someone whose life is out of control due to a chronic, progressive illness. While trying to help, they take responsibility for things to protect the person because it is clear that they are unable to do it for themselves.

People with substance use disorder (SUD) are people first and foremost; they are not their disorder. When someone has a long-term chronic illness, whether it is diabetes or substance use disorder (SUD), the first order of business is to care for them, not judge them or their family.

When Is Enabling Destructive?

  • Avoiding necessary conversations to keep the peace
  • Lecturing, blaming, and criticizing someone to change behavior
  • Treating an adult like a child
  • Trying to control or punish another human being
  • Joining in on the problem behavior
  • Lying for someone

Empower vs Enable?

When someone empowers another, they share their power with the other person. When they enable the other person, they make the person able. Both words mean sharing, caring, and love. The goal is to help someone become able and to empower them. It is daunting for anyone to enter recovery. As someone who cares for this person, it is your job to help them find the tools and resources needed to execute their job, which is to get better. An enabler is someone who helps something happen at the time it is able to happen. Empowering and enabling should never have a negative connotation.

What Tools Can You Supply to Empower and Enable Someone?

  • When they are ready, help them locate and enter a good safe program
  • Encourage them to continue to grow without fear
  • Help them align their vision with success
  • Participate in family therapy
  • Learn more about substance use disorder (SUD), as well as any secondary mental illness
  • Learn how to set healthy boundaries
  • Communicate
  • Never use substances with someone suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Enjoy healthy activities together
  • Encourage positive peer relationships
  • Compassion and empathy are always the way to go

Substance use disorder (SUD) creates a world that feels out of control. It is important to learn from mistakes and failures, but empowering and enabling someone to gain tools for success is the most important thing. The Guest House has integrated programs available to provide these tools. People who are ill with substance use disorder exhibit an inability to control many of their actions, even when their actions create negative consequences. We have the resources needed to sort out a healthy future and life. Learn more by calling us today at (855) 483-7800