Enabling or Empowering? – Episode 261

How have you enabled your loved ones’ alcoholism? What is enabling, anyway? How do you know when you’re doing it and when you are empowering them, instead?

  • What does the dictionary say?
  • Merriam-Webster
    • 1 a : to provide with the means or opportunity: training that enables people to earn a living
    • b : to make possible, practical, or easy: a deal that would enable passage of a new law
    • c : to cause to operate: software that enables the keyboard
    • 2 : to give legal power, capacity, or sanction to: a law enabling admission of a state
  • From Urban Dictionary
    • Enabling
      Shielding a person from the consequences of a destructive behavior; Allowing a person's destructive behavior to persist by managing or minimizing the ill-effects of the behavior.”Enabling” vs. “Empowering”Enabling: supporting a person's behavior that (repeatedly/habitually) instigates a negative or destructive resultEmpowering: supporting a person's ability or effort in a positive or progressive endeavorEnabling can be as destructive as the behavior itself . . . a person enabling a destructive behavior is motivated by their need to do so and is gratified by reinforcing their superiority or control over that person; An “enabler” holds a person in an inferior state by denying them the motivation to change and therefore, the opportunity to grow.
  • What does enabling mean to you?  How does that relate to the definitions we just read?
  • Did you understand/head you heard of enabling before you came to Al-Anon?
  • What are some ways in which you have enabled others' dysfunction/addiction/behavior?
  • How can we (especially as parents) distinguish between supporting, helping, empowering, and enabling?
    • Can we look at our motivations, expectations, fears?
    • Slogans
      • Let Go and Let God
      • How Important is it?
      • WAIT
      • THINK
    • Boundaries
    • Detaching with love
    • Clarity: “mine or not mine?”
    • “When in doubt, don’t”
    • Serenity prayer (knowing the difference)
    • “Al-Anon pause”
  • What are healthy ways to be supportive without enabling?

We read from or discussed these resources:

Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Music from the show

Katy Perry: Circle the Drain

Jason Mraz: Beautiful Mess

Reba McEntire – She Can't Save Him

The music we open and close the show with is Teleportationism by Nostalgic Afterlife. If you enjoy it, you should check out his other compositions on Bandcamp.



3 comments on “Enabling or Empowering? – Episode 261

  1. Sharon C says:

    Hello Spencer, I really enjoyed the Enabling vs empowering podcast. I often become confused when trying to decide whether my behavior is enabling. I know what the obvious enabling behaviors are, buying booze, giving money, allowing or ignoring unacceptable behavior. The part of empowering is so life changing for me. I truly believe in a hand up, not a hand out. When you asked the question,”What are healthy ways to be supportive without enabling?” This has me spinning my wheels I’m a grateful Al-anon member for over a year. August was my one year anniversary. I grew up in an alcoholic home, married an alcoholic, divorced and alcoholic, raised a son who is in recovery from drug addiction, married another alcoholic. (We can’t make this up right?) Al-anon saved my life. This is such a great way to live life empowering vs enabling. Thank you for all you do and I really enjoy listening to the podcasts! It works if you work it so let it!!! One of my favorites.

    1. Eric says:

      Thank you for the support. Eric B.

  2. Maurice says:

    Hi Spencer

    Your guest, on this episode, shared my story exactly. My wife is a raging alcoholic. Right now she is sober, 9 months. We have two young daughters and I have had to leave many times. Sometimes towing my girls in the middle of the night other times, just running away from the crazy rage.

    She is a scary person and still has this behavior- fortunately/ unfortunately- we are separated right now. She is still blaming me for many of her issues and doesn’t seem to have taken full accountability for her disease. (I know that there is nothing that I can do about it and it isn’t a true reflection on me.

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