To Enable or to Help

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I’ve known several people over the years with addictions of some type or another. Some may just be obsessions which the people find a joy or distraction. But real addictions become the only priority in some peoples lives.

What Are Addictions

Usually people think of alcohol and drugs as being addictions. From my experience I would include gambling, pornography, co-dependency, voyeurism, whoremonger, & computer gaming. In all cases what may have started as an interest became an obsession became an addiction. The person’s ability to function, albeit not the best, is severely restricted without the addiction. It becomes the primary overriding purpose of a person’s life.


The key factor in maintaining an addiction is enabling. This enabling allows the addict to experience no consequences for their destructive habits. And a person who is co-dependent also will not function well if they don’t have some way to shelter the addict. There is also an addiction in this. And is one of the most common addictions of wives and mothers.

Here is a chart I found from

Forgive, Forget, or Enable

We should always forgive. And forgiveness needs to include prayer for the cycle of addiction to stop. We also need to put our pain behind us. But forgetting the addiction is not what we should do. And we should be looking for ways to put the consequences of the addict on the addict.

Addictions have negative consequences for the addict (eventually) and the people who deal with the addict. The family, relatives, friends, and society all live with the consequences that should be on the addict alone. Certainly those who are closest to the addict have an obligation to confront the addictive behavior.

A minor example of unwholesome behavior, short of an addiction is covered in the following scripture.

(Matthew 18:15-17 WEB) 15 Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear [thee], [then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] to the church: but if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.

When the church recognizes a corrupting influence in their midst, they should exercise needed Biblical discipline. The addict is by definition and experience a corrupting influence. And the corrupting influence should be made to leave.


Here’s a snapshot of a woman in Al-Anon which is a family ministry for coping with alcohol addiction by someone in the home. I copied parts from

When the mother stopped the enabling and gave the consequences back to the son, the son was faced with his own problems and did conquer the addiction.

Before he entered New Life House and before he admitted having a substance abuse problem, I was an enabler to my son, with the best intentions.

To sum it up, the way it was before taking meaningful action, nearly every waking moment was spent (a) tracking my son’s whereabouts via our cell phone provider’s website; (b) making sure he did his homework which he was apathetic about completing; (c) checking the school’s online homework assignments for him; (d) making appointments with the substance abuse specialist; (e) searching for, finding and confronting him about empty bottles of alcohol found at various places in our home; (f) requesting urine tests and mailing the samples to the lab.

Detachment with love is not avoiding my son or being disengaged from him. Detach is an action word, and it is hard to do. However, detachment has provided me the opportunity to place faith into the excellent program at New Life House where my son is an active participant. Detachment has allowed me to redirect my focus from an obsession with my son’s actions and inactions to my own quality of life.


(Luke 15:11-13 WEB) 11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to [his] father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth [to me]. And he divided to them [his] living. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

Now why would a father throw caution to the wind and let his greedy immature son do such a foolish thing? The son was apparently old enough to be on his own. The father, although hurt by his son’s request, chose not to control his son and let him grow up on his own.

(Luke 15:14, 17-18 WEB) 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land; and he began to be in want. … 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I am perishing with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

The father had not disowned his son and instead gave him a celebration. The father had forgiven his son and accepted his apology.

Prodigal son returns

(Luke 15:14, 20, 22-23 WEB) 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land; and he began to be in want. … 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. … 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill [it]; and let us eat, and be merry:

But since the father told his older son that he would inherit the entire estate of the father, it’s obvious the father was not going give back to the younger son what he squandered. Even after the son learned his lesson, it would still be enabling if the father restored his status as it was before he left.

Suffering Molds the Personality

Letting addicts face their own consequences is the only way they will overcome their addiction. It is really a kindness that demonstrates a willingness to let the addict hit rock bottom. If there’s love in the actions of the literal caretaker, then the suffering will strengthen the addict and result in recovery. But if there’s not the love the addict will drift even farther away from their caretaker(s) and look to other addicts for friendships.

Love is Not Mush

Love looks out for the welfare of others. In this scenario hard choices are made for the sake of others. Too often it’s our own feelings that hold sway. Remember this quote from Al-Anon “Detachment with love is not avoiding my son or being disengaged from him“.

I believe “detachment” is generally easier for the husband than the wife. And I’m not talking about a man who would just like to get the problem out of the house and his wife’s mind. Taking the tough love alternative should be painful for both husband and wife. This is where, in general, the husband’s ability to focus and setting emotions aside, is why God will hold the man accountable, not the wife.

The man is to leave a legacy for the family and ignoring the disruption and possible danger to anyone in his home is contrary to God’s desires and the man’s legacy to his adult children.


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1 reply »

  1. I just met a mother today that is sheltering her son, who’s over 40 years old, from the son’s bad choices. The son, has lost his job and is threatening the financial security of both the mother and the son. The son has left his Christian faith and is now dependent on the mother for food and shelter. And it is the son’s unwholesome choices that are the reason for his situation and job loss. And the mother says that the mother always wants the best for her children. But how is she doing that by enabling the son?

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