Quiz: Are You An Enabler?
(created by Elizabeth Silva)
Choose the best answer, and assign a point value to each question. Then total your score.
Where does the addict/alcoholic live?
1 In his own home
4 In my home
3 He is homeless
2 In the home of friends/family
Do you hate to see your loved one in pain and thus try to make things better for her?
4 Of course, I love her and will do everything I can to help.
2 Yes, but I know there is a limit to what I can do to help.
1 Yes, but she has made unwise choices that have led to this pain, and I can’t make it better.
3 No, I wash my hands of this situation.
Do you give the addict/alcoholic money to buy necessities or pay bills?
4 Yes - always
2 Only in emergencies
Has the addict/alcoholic completed a rehab program at your request?
4 No, he refuses
1 No, I have not requested it
2 Yes – once, but relapsed
3 Yes- more than once
Have you bailed the addict/alcoholic out of jail?
2 Yes, once but not after the first time
3 No, but I asked someone else to do it
4 Yes, every time
Do you set boundaries and follow through on consequences if the boundary is crossed? (example: If you live in my home, you must follow my curfew.)
1 Yes – all the time
2 Yes – most of the time
3 Yes- seldom
4 I never set boundaries
Do you ignore or minimize dangerous behaviors? (example: The addict/alcoholic “disappears” for long periods of time, and you tell yourself she is just visiting friends, or you completely ignore her disappearance.)
3 Sometimes, if I don’t think the behavior is that serious.
4 Always. Ignorance is bliss.
2 No. But I feel helpless to keep it from happening.
1 Never – I always assume the worst and take appropriate measures
When the addict pressures you after you have said “no,” do you give in and say “yes”?
4 I never say no
Do you feel guilty when the addict blames you for his problems? This is called gaslighting. (example: He says he relapsed because you wouldn’t let him live at home.)
Do you make excuses to others for the addict’s behavior? (example: She’s didn’t show up for a job interview, and you tell others the alarm clock must have not sounded.)
Do you put the addict/alcoholic before yourself? (example: He tells you he has no food, so you buy him groceries and cut back on your own necessities.)
Do you give the addict/alcoholic multiple chances? (example: You allow her to move back in many times after you have kicked her out.)
Do you try to control the addict/alcoholic? (example: You tell him if he doesn’t go to rehab, you’ll cut off all financial assistance.)
4 Yes – all the time
3 Yes – usually
2 Once in awhile
Do you lecture or criticize the addict/alcoholic?
Choose the description that fits you best:
4 I will do everything in my power to help my loved one because I love her, regardless of her choices.
3 I have chosen to be estranged from my loved one due to her addiction.
2 I recognize that I am an enabler and am trying to stop, though it’s very hard.
1 I have maintained my relationship with her, but I will not do anything for her or give her money.
Total score: ________________
What does your score mean? Be honest…I scored 30. Still lots of work to do.
15: You are totally NOT an enabler. You understand that the addict must want to be clean and sober and that you do not have the power to make that happen. The only person who can do that is the addict.
14-30: You understand you’re an enabler, and you’re working hard not to give in to your natural urges to “help” the addict because you know the help will not be productive in the long run. You might be doing counter-productive things like completely cutting the loved one out of your life, when doing so will cause YOU to suffer. The lower you are on this continuum, the less enabling behavior you exhibit. It would be helpful if you would join Al anon or Nar anon, or any similar support group available – even if only online.
31-45: You are probably aware that you are an enabler, but you confuse the efforts to help with true help. Remember, addicts are very manipulative and will do whatever they can to force you to do what they think is in THEIR best interest – to continue to practice self-destructive behaviors. If you bail the addict out of jail, you will remove his opportunity to get clean by force, and he will continue with his bad habits. If you give in to her tantrums and gaslighting, she will have a tool to manipulate you in the future. She has little motivation to change her life. The lower you are on this continuum, the less enabling behavior you exhibit, but you need assistance. You probably need to join Al anon or Nar anon, or any similar support group available – even if only online.
46-60: You are in denial. You either don’t want to believe your loved one is an addict, or you believe you have the power to change him/her. You think you are supporting him, but you are enabling him to continue to make bad choices without taking responsibility for his actions. He has zero motivation to change his life. The lower you are on this continuum, the less enabling behavior you exhibit. However, you need to join Al anon or Nar anon, or any similar support group available – even if only online.
What can you do stop enabling and take care of YOURSELF? The following suggestions are taken from
Get Support For yourself. You can’t do this alone. Consider going to an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting. These are 12-step fellowships that support friends and family members of alcoholics and addicts. You may think it is uncomfortable to walk into a room full of strangers and share the innermost thoughts. But, you don’t have to! You can just listen and hear other people share their experience about enabling. They will offer you strength and hope and give you the tools you need to refocus the attention on the own recovery. You can’t change the addicted person in the life, but you can change yourself and the reactions to the situation. These programs can help. If you don’t feel comfortable going to one of these meetings, consider talking to a therapist or addiction expert. They will teach you how to navigate a life that doesn’t center around someone else’s addiction. You will learn coping skills and strategies that will help you establish boundaries.
Consider Staging an Intervention. You are probably not the only person who is fed up with the behavior of the person in question. It may be time to stage an intervention. This is one of the most effective tools in getting someone the help they need for a problem with substance abuse. It often motivates people to go to rehab or get into a 12-step recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. It also gives you and other family members or friends the opportunity to present a unified front. Together, you can set some healthy boundaries and stop enabling. When at all possible, helping someone get into recovery should be a team effort. During an intervention, you can tell the person you care about that you will do everything in the power to help them get sober. But, explain that you are no longer going to help them continue in their self-destructive cycle.
Make the Commitment Today to Stop Helping Financially. If the person in the life wants to use alcohol or drugs, it’s time they start using their own money to support their habit. If they don’t have any because they don’t work, they need to get a job. If they blow all their money on their habit and then don’t have gas to get to work, they are going to have to walk. If they don’t have food, they will have to go hungry or go to a soup kitchen. These may seem like extreme measures, but they are totally appropriate. Stop loaning them money. Stop buying them things they should be able to afford on their own. If they are living with you, demand that they start paying rent. (Even if it is only a couple of hundred dollars a month…..insist that they act like a grown-up who pays their own way through life!) It is not the responsibility to clean up the financial messes of someone who has a substance abuse problem. Stop making it easy for them. Make them face their own consequences. They won’t like it, but it’s for the best.
Stop Tolerating Abusive Behavior. People who are under the influence of drugs are often verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive. Stop tolerating this kind of treatment. You deserve to be treated with respect. If you are not getting it, change the dynamic of the relationship. This, of course, might require some drastic moves on the part. You may have to ask a spouse to move out until they are willing to get help. You might need to end a romantic relationship or friendship. You may even need to stop talking to someone altogether for a while. Do what you need to do to preserve the own physical safety, emotional health, and spiritual well-being. This is an important step in establishing healthy boundaries and taking care of yourself. You have probably been putting up with some kind of abuse from the addicted person in the life – in one form or another. If nothing else, they have been abusing the kindness. Put an end to it.Learn the Power of the Word “No”. Sometimes one of the greatest gifts you can give someone – especially a person who is addicted – is to tell them no. Think about it this way….what if an 8-year-old child asked to borrow the car? It would require almost no thought to come up with the answer. It wouldn’t be safe for the child. It wouldn’t be fair to other drivers on the road. And, it would almost guarantee that the car would be wrecked and undrivable. You would NEVER let an 8-year-old borrow the car, right? Think of this example the next time you are tempted to enable the addict or alcoholic in the life. No, they can’t borrow the car! No, they can’tborrow money! No, you won’t bail them out of jail! No, you won’t take them to go buy drugs! NO! NO! NO! Telling them no forces them to learn how to manage their addiction problem on their own. When they run out of resources, they are more likely to ask for help and get sober.
Set Healthy Boundaries. If you think an intervention is too dramatic – or you just aren’t ready to take that step – set some boundaries with the addicted love one. Tell them you are no longer going to tolerate their behavior. Explain that you care about them and want to help them, but that you are done enabling their addiction. Let them know that if they want to get sober, you will be fully supportive of their recovery. You have the own life, the own responsibilities, and the own challenges to deal with. And dealing with the own stuff can be difficult enough! It’s okay to put yourself first and take care of you.Stick to Your Guns. To stop enabling once and for all, you have to be consistent. When you set boundaries, you have to stick with them. You can’t be wishy-washy. The “no” has to mean “no.” If you give an addicted person an inch, they will take a mile, put it in a pipe and smoke it! Stay strong.Good luck on your journey, and remember, I’m here for you. Email me any time, or go to my Facebook page at