When it comes to recovery from addiction or alcoholism, even the strongest and most driven people find that they simply can't stop using on their own. But while many addicts and alcoholics are extremely independent and refuse to ask for help with their problem, most don't realize that they couldn't maintain their drug or alcohol use or their own. Even highly functioning users find that their substance abuse is made possible by the help – in one way or another – of someone else in their life. This person is called an enabler, and can be one of the most significant obstacles to recovery. Conversely, the enabler can also be the very person who leads the addict away from drugs and into addiction treatment.

According to Colorado State University; "The enabler is the person who allows substance abuse to continue by "saving" the abuser from the consequences of his or her actions. For example, if an alcohol-dependent teen doesn't come home on time, an enabler would likely make excuses to other family members for that absence." However, the enabler can sometimes be as destructive in their behaviors as the addict. Some enablers have been known to regularly purchase drugs or alcohol for the user, to make excuses for or hide the severity or frequency of use, cover up abusive situations, lie to prevent the user from suffering legal consequences, and in some cases assume the blame for problems caused by the user.

The enabler can be anyone close to the user. This includes a parent, spouse, sibling, grandparent, uncle, aunt, friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, neighbor, teacher, employer, co-worker or anyone else who helps to make the user's substance abuse problem possible. The problem with most enablers is that in general they believe they are helping the user by protecting them from harm or somehow managing the addiction to mitigate and minimize the consequences. But while this behavior may seem to temporarily aid the user, eventually it will only make things worse as the enabler falls farther and farther into the pattern of their role.

Despite the harm that an enabler can do to an addict, they can also be the most significant driving force behind recovery treatment. This is accomplished by reversing the role of the enabler. Whereas before the enabler would make the drug use possible they must now take steps to prevent or lessen the use in order to effect a successful recovery. For many people this can be extremely difficult and can be the source of conflict in the relationship, so it's important to seek professional help for both the enabler and the addict or alcoholic.

In order to be successful, the enabler most often feature prominently in the addiction recovery treatment of the user. This includes participation when possible in family therapy, group counseling and support sessions, and couples therapy for spouses. When the enabler has an active role in the treatment of the user, success is much more likely. If you think you might be an enabler, it's time to take action and reverse your role.

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Author's Bio: 

Ms. Javis is a former attorney and cirotta judge in the western Sahara. She is a prolific writer and editor and spends her free time writing from her mountain home in the Congo.