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The decision to seek help and stop abusing alcohol is a step toward recovery, but family dynamics and relationships also play a role in the recovery process. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, or NIAAA, roughly 24.6 percent of adults over 18 years old admit to binge drinking and as many as 56.3 percent of adults drink alcohol. When a loved one is seeking treatment and is ready to recover, you and other family members must understand the behaviors that are enabling or encouraging alcohol abuse.

What is Enabling?

Psych Central explains that enabling means that you or a loved one is removing the consequences of alcohol abuse. For example, cleaning up a mess that a loved one made while he or she was drinking is an act of enabling. Psych Central says that individuals who drink heavily do not always remember their behaviors while they were drinking. By leaving evidence of their behavior intact, the family is showing that the alcohol abuse is a problem.

Enabling Behaviors

The University of Pennsylvania states that enabling behaviors are providing a pillow to cushion a loved one when he or she falls. By allowing a loved one to overlook the consequences of his or her behavior, a loved one is encouraging the individual to continue drinking alcohol.

Common behaviors that enable a loved one to continue abusing alcohol include:

  • Drinking alcohol with the other individual
  • Denying that there is a problem
  • Agreeing with justifications
  • Keeping personal feelings or thoughts away from the loved one
  • Protecting the individual from the consequences of his or her actions
  • Taking over the responsibilities and obligations of the other individual, such as cleaning up his or her messes
  • Criticizing his or her behaviors

Enabling a loved one does not always mean that you are ignoring the problem. It can also mean that you are lecturing him or her about the alcohol problems or that you are criticizing his or her behaviors. Blaming the other party will only result in defensiveness and anger, which results in more alcohol abuse.

If a teenager or young adult is abusing alcohol, the parents should realize that consuming alcohol during holidays or in the evenings may be an enabling factor. Even though moderate alcohol consumption does not seem dangerous, it encourages the justifications of a loved one. He or she can use the holiday or a loved one’s behavior as an excuse or a reason to drink alcohol personally.

Changing Personal Behaviors

Family relationships can enable alcohol abuse, but that does not mean it must persist. Encourage a loved one to seek professional treatment by discussing the situation openly and explaining your personal feelings, fears and concerns. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains that treatment specialists can evaluate the situation and explain the treatment options that are available. Furthermore, a professional program involves the entire family.

Seeking treatment for alcohol abuse requires an active approach for a realistic recovery plan. Involving family members or a spouse in the treatment program helps with the recovery process because it identifies specific enabling behaviors and helps loved ones encourage a sober lifestyle.

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How Relationships can Enable Alcohol Abuse
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