An open letter to an addict's enabler

Dear Enabler,

Look, I know your intentions are good.  I KNOW that you think all of your “helping” is leading someone back to you from the abyss in which they swim. I get that your rescuing comes from the absolute deepest place of love that humanity offers.  But, I also know that it’s fear and shame that are blinding you and its quite wrong of you to expect EVERYONE to share your perspective of reality.

See, we all handle fear and shame differently.  You’ve chosen to “help” someone keep an addiction alive, even if you honestly believe you’re doing the opposite.  But others probably do not share your wish to keep an addiction alive; they have distance and separation and they probably don’t really want to suffer anymore.  Believe it or not, they are just as afraid of Addiction as you are, but they know that behaviors such as handing out money and rescuing an addict from his messes aren’t going to do anything but make them just as addicted as the addict.

What you don’t realize dear enabler, is that responsibility and accountability are NECESSARY components to all of human life.  When ANYONE doesn’t have to be responsible or accountable to anything or anyone other than an addiction, the addiction WILL PERSIST AND WORSEN.  That’s right: as long as you’re part of the problem, you are actually OBSTRUCTING any solution.  It isn’t really fair of you to drag everyone into your fear-based delusion that avoiding responsibilities will do anything other than make the addict stronger in the addiction.

What’s the solution? You don’t want one. At least, not one that requires hard decisions and actions that will separate you from your worry and anger.  See, over time, you’ve become addicted to Addiction’s emotional draw and you don’t want to detox any more than the addict.  Otherwise, you would try to make yourself as healthy as possible and not allow yourself to be caught within the same addictive cycles as the addict you think you’re helping.  What you want me, as a treatment provider, to do is congratulate you on your actions.  But I can’t.  YOU are making my job nearly impossible.  Your rescuing behaviors have hijacked any real opportunity to find reasons to change.  I can’t congratulate you because with you in the picture, I have a lot more to deal with than just an addict: I have to deal with all of your drama and it’s that drama that keeps unhealthy behaviors alive.

I pray for you.  Really.  I pray that you find light within your darkness and that you can surrender your fear and shame to God.  There really isn’t anything any treatment provider can do as long as an addict is allowed to benefit from his addiction.  I pray you figure that out sooner rather than later.



  1. Dear Addict-
    I am so sorry that I tried to rescue you from yourself. That was never the intention. Coming from a place of good intentions and love. I thought I was supporting you.
    I’m sorry I didn’t let you fall and get yourself back up. I wish I had. It would have saved both of us a lot of time and heart ache. But honestly I didn’t know.
    I’m sorry from the bottom of my broken heart.
    A codependent

  2. Thank you for this.

    I am an Interventionist, and just yesterday I was explaining to my daughter why I have turned down more interventions than I have done. You have summed up the reasons in your post.

    Until the enablers are willing to let the addict fall down, I can do a ‘successful’ intervention (success being that the addict goes for treatment), but have to expect the enablers to sabotage the recovery. I’m looking for success, not to turn a buck. Everybody has to work at getting healthier!

    Thanks for your insightful words.

    1. Agreed — I have seen cases where I conclude that the “enabler” NEEDS the addict to remain addicted in order to maintain a sense of identity — thank you for commenting!

  3. As a women in recovery myself, I thought I knew what others should or should not do with loved ones who were drinking and using, and I was not afraid to share my opinion. But when my child went from a perfect High School student, full scholarship to a great college, to a full on addict/alcoholic, I had to look at things from a different perceptive. I knew enabling was bad, tried not to, but after not seeing my child for two years, and receiving a phone call from a hospital telling me my child was homeless and had a broken back, unable to walk and nowhere to go, naturally I went and got my child. The next 3 years of our lives were living hell…… I was forced to make the choice of getting the phone call that would surely be coming to tell me my child had died, or simply finding her myself dead in my home was the hardest thing I ever had to face. How do you decide?? I had to look at myself and ask, who am I really helping? The answer was myself, just like the “Open letter” said, I did not want to feel the guilt, worry and pain of making her leave. But thank-god for a great group of friends who shared with me their own experiences, and were not afraid to tell me some truths about myself. Luckily, things got way worse really fast, and I was forced to make the right decision for her. Today she is happy, clean and sober, and thriving as the beautiful women she always was. Just a beautiful young women with a terrible disease. Either way there is pain, worry, fear, guilt and shame. I now know that it also takes a group of people supporting the enablers, and for the enablers to take a risk on being stronger than they think they are. It is a war, ….

  4. Yes, the letter is excellent…too bad more don’t understand the issues. Control is the root of addiction and codependency. As has been said, “the codependent is as sick if not sicker than the addict”. Unfortunately many of them don’t get treatment for codependency. Many addicts were codependents long before they became addicts. I have encountered many codependents who run and/or own agencies and they are truly toxic. I have seen them enable relatives and/or staff with major addiction problems. The truly obnoxious occurrence is when a practicing relative or addict on staff is giving “treatment” to clients or is put in charge of “Clinical Operations”.