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Am I Helping or Enabling?


You know that your friend, family member, or loved one has a substance abuse problem and you love them just the same. Time after time when they’ve called on you to cover for them, give them a ride or maybe even asked for some money you’ve followed through for them. After all, it’s important to always be there for your friends and family, isn’t it? Sure, but when dealing with someone with a substance abuse problem there’s a point at which such ‘help’ becomes harmful. Can you tell where that point is? Though they seem very similar, helping and enabling are often difficult to differentiate. It’s the ‘helping’ actions provided within clear boundaries encouraging the addict to get themselves healthy and into treatment/recovery that make the most positive change. ‘Enabling’ behaviors however can hinder the addict’s progress and may even make them worse.

What is “enabling” and why is it bad for an addict?

Though the word itself sounds positive, in the setting of addiction “enabling” is anything but helpful. In this context enabling refers to the perpetuation of someone’s substance abuse in at least one of three broad ways: tolerating it or making it seem acceptable, managing or hiding their consequences for them or by actually helping them to continue using.

Enabling behaviors come in many forms and often seem reasonable and helpful, at least on the surface. Ignoring someone’s addiction is often justified as avoiding confrontation or giving the addict a “chance to get better on their own.” Being the family member of an addict isn’t easy and many times the addict will make the loved one feel as if they are to blame for current problems or refuse to acknowledge that there are any problems to begin with. Many times the path of least resistance for the loved one of an addict is to look the other way.

Covering for an addict’s bad behavior is another common way to enable them. Whether it’s calling them off for work sick, taking care of their responsibilities for them or repeatedly making excuses for them, none of these are healthy. While they might seem helpful, the reality is the addict is being protected from the natural consequences of their actions. In essence they are not being allowed to suffer, or hit their ‘bottom.’ We know that consequences alone will not change an addict’s disease process or behavior but a lack of consequences most certainly makes things worse.

Sometimes the enabling is more directly contributory, actually helping feed their addiction. A ride to the liquor store, picking up a “package” for them or loaning them money that is likely to be used for their addiction are common examples. Giving someone a ride or loaning them money can be a pretty routine thing to do for a loved one. But when addiction is involved these simple gestures often become enabling behaviors with serious effects on both the addict and the person enabling them.

Like drug use itself, enabling behavior seem harmless at first and often grows until it feels almost inescapable. Since you’re reading this article right now you are probably already concerned you may be enabling someone’s addiction. Maybe you already find yourself down in the hole of enabling and are not sure what to do to get out. Perhaps you feel it isn’t fair to change the rules and start enforcing boundaries now after enabling for so long. Maybe you think, like many people do, that setting limits and stopping enabling will cause you to “lose” your loved one forever.

If these are your worries you’re not alone. Those thoughts and feelings are very common. We understand that enabling behaviors often come from a place of love and are thought to be helpful, which is part of what makes them so difficult to change. Seperating yourself from your loved one’s addiction, not taking ownership of their problem for them and no longer helping them manage it is often seen as “abandoning” them in their time of need. However setting healthy limits and stopping enabling is often the first step to healing the broken family. At the very least it will help the loved ones of the addict begin to heal and distance themselves from the chaos their family member is causing and ultimately might be what motivates the addict to seek change.

How can I tell if I’m helping or if I’m enabling?

Here are some characteristics of an enabler:

  • You have taken on more and more small responsibilities that the addict they should normally be able to do for themselves.

  • You have put their needs or desires above your own.

  • You have lied or made excuses for them to other friends or family.

  • You have felt resentful towards the person, even while continuing to do more and more for them.

  • You have ignored or made excuses to yourself for their negative behavior, even when that behavior is serious or even dangerous.

  • You have provided money that you are fairly sure is being used for drugs or alcohol.

  • You have covered for them to authority figures or bailed them out of jail, letting them escape the consequences of their actions.

  • You have felt that if you didn’t do something for them then they would leave you, have an emotional outburst, or attack you in some way.

If any of the above sounds like your relationship with someone else, you may very well be enabling instead of helping. Don’t worry, it’s not too late to change those behaviors. In fact you may have already taken the first step toward healing by reading this blog and understanding how you might be an enabler.

Could I also have become codependent?

If your enabling behavior has gone on for some time, you may be in a common dysfunctional relationship pattern called codependency. A codependent person is someone who has taken an unhealthy ownership of someone else’s wellbeing. This typically means the codependent person’s self-esteem and well-being is somehow tied to their ability to take care of their loved one. This often presents as feelings that you will be a failure or a ‘bad’ spouse, parent, or friend if you refuse their requests for help and that you are somehow obligated to fix things for them. But as we know the addict’s requests and ‘needs’ are often unhealthy and not helpful at all! Frequently these ‘needs’ lead to further harm to both the addict and the helper. Doing things for someone else that they CAN and SHOULD be doing for themselves is the definition of codependency and often at the core of enabling.

It can be difficult to overcome codependency, so again remember that ending enabling behaviors doesn’t mean not caring, it means you’re putting both them and you on a path that leads to recovery.

How can I stop enabling and start providing real help?

If you think that you may be enabling your loved one, you’re probably right. It may seem daunting but right now is the time to transform your enabling behavior into real help. To do that you’ll need to set definite, healthy boundaries in your relationship with the addict. Breaking yourself free from enabling and codependency means letting your friend or loved one feel the consequences of their substance abuse. No matter what you think or what your loved one tries to tell you, keep it firmly in your mind that you are doing this because you care about them and this is the way to show you care.

Get yourself help as well. Not only does your loved one need professional help with their addiction but you too may benefit from therapy or counseling. Get into a therapist and start your journey to wellness with these words: “My loved one is addicted and I think I may be enabling them. It’s hurting me greatly and I want to learn how to change.” Your therapist will know just what to do to help you! If you’re not quite ready to see a therapist you can check out an Al-Anon meeting where you will find many people who have gone through exactly what you have.

For more information on ending your enabling or codependency and getting high quality addiction help for your loved one, please contact Parkdale Center at

Further resources:

Codependent No More, the go-to book on dealing with codependency:

Nar-Anon Family Groups, providing support for friends and family of those with a substance abuse problem:

Al-anon, providing support for friends and family of alcoholics:

Difficult, But Not Impossible: Medication Assisted Treatment for Substance Abuse

Difficult, But Not Impossible: Medication Assisted Treatment for Substance Abuse

There are a growing number of health professionals that believe medication-assisted treatment (or MAT) is an effective form of treatment as it uses FDA approved medications to help curb cravings and deal with the pain and other symptoms that can come from withdrawal.

The Growing Market for Substance Abuse Treatment

The Growing Market for Substance Abuse Treatment

According to the global substance abuse treatment market was valued at US$ 13.22 billion in 2016, and is expected to reach US$ 27.91 billion by 2025. The intent of this blog is to provide a snapshot of what’s covered in this study and at the very least pique the interest of the reader, perhaps to garner a discussion among the community about whether or not this magnanimous undertaking will be effective.

Depression, the silent killer.

Mental illness .jpg

As mental health disorders continue to be diagnosed at an alarming rate, it has become evident that those who suffer are often compelled to initiate self harm to relive them of the symptoms.  As it stands, mental illness is the only known disorder that carries a stigma of shame, guilt, and societal judgment so great that often the only recourse for relief is suicide.  Until we as a society can show the same compassion and empathy towards mental illness and addiction that we do towards other diseases, we will continue to lose our children, parents, friends, and idols to something that is more times than not, preventable. 

The following  remarks were penned by a powerful advocate and someone who truly cares,        Ms. Katy Peiters-Haslar. 

"There are a lot of great posts, articles, and other sentiments out there right now in the wake of the suicide-deaths of two very prominent public figures. The outpouring of support is great, but I wonder if those who have never experienced a clinical depression, the jail of addiction, or extreme anxiety understand WHY this tragedy happens, especially to people who seemingly "had it all." 

As I was watching CNN's special last night on the life and career of Anthony Bourdain, it occurred to me, as I listened to the myriad of friends and co-workers who spoke about Anthony, that the common threads in their sentiments regarding his suicide - we are baffled, we are shocked, we didn't see it, we didn't know he was hurting, it came out of nowhere - speak to the pervasive and hopeless truth of people's mental states: we never truly know what someone else is going through. And that's our fault as a society for perpetuating the stigma that mental illness is taboo, uncomfortable, or self-inflicted.

To those of us who have faced some of the same demons Bourdain had - clinical depression, extreme anxiety, feeling like your thoughts are tormenting you, and addiction - we know all too well that one minute we can be feeling just fine, and the next minute, our brain is hijacked by one of the many mind ruminations that get caught in horrible loops in our thoughts and derail our sanity and ability to think rationally. We lash out, or we crawl in our hole, or we do something to kill the pain. Sometimes, that thing ends our life. I would never say I wasn't devastated by the news of Bourdain's suicide, but I also will never say that I'm shocked or surprised - by ANYONE's suicide, quite frankly, sad as that is.

Our feelings that it will never get better, everyone would be better off, and we can't stand another minute in this human body, in this pain, are very real to us and virtually undetectable if we're among those who try to keep a "stiff upper lip." Maybe we aren't good at asking for help. Maybe we've been shamed before for our thoughts and feelings. Maybe we've done a lot of stupid shit while we were in pain and have isolated ourselves by our actions. Maybe that stupid shit has driven people away, making our case even stronger for our worthlessness. Or maybe we just don't possess the knowledge of how to reach beyond the mental anguish to someone who can help. And we're convinced we don't even want to. 

And maybe those who've tried to help us before got tired of getting nowhere, so they stop. And who can blame them? But we blame ourselves for yet another failed relationship, yet another person we've let down and sent away. One of Anthony's friends quoted him as saying something like - he has many friends, but really no friends. While those speaking on the subject couldn't seem to comprehend this thought, I know I can, and I know many of you can. We push people away, or our brain tells us we're unlovable as we are, so we put walls between who we really are and our friends so they don't see the real us. God forbid they see the crazy. 

Crazy. It's a word we throw around a lot in our culture to describe people. There are "people who do violent unspeakable things' crazy, (and I'm not talking about them), and then there are people who are clearly flailing in their brains and are desperately clinging to people while also vehemently pushing them away, saying and doing strange things crazy. And frankly it's sad to call those people crazy without realizing that label could be the thing that pushes them to an act of desperation. 

I've heard acquaintances who are trained therapists, who should know better, call a person in their social circle "crazy" because of addictive, depressive, or anxious behavior. A "crazy ex girlfriend" or "crazy ex husband" - - how many times have we heard that? Granted a lot of mental health professionals would never say something like this...but some of them would. If the very people we rely on to understand this plight and help us into the light could use such language to describe someone's obvious struggle with 'being ok' - what hope do ANY of us have for the greater population of untrained folks to understand?

This stuff is complicated, not easy to understand if you've never been there, but not at ALL surprising, if you understand that head space at all, when someone finally succumbs to those unrelenting, punishing thoughts. 

My heart goes out to Kate Spade's people, Anthony Bourdain's people, and to all of you who are in that head space right now but don't know what to do, and to your friends and family who truly care about you and worry about you. Shit, I don't know what to do to make it right for you either - but keep trying. Please keep trying. As trite as it sounds, we are all in this together. Much, much love to you all.- Katy" 

For more information on mental health or addiction please visit  or call 1-888-883-8433

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal ideations, please call the National Suicide Hotline today at 1-800-273-8255

My Beautiful Son, A Father's story

This past Thursday I buried my 24 year old son. He died March 25, 2017 after an overdose on what we suspect was tainted heroin. He had around a 9 year history of substance abuse. He started like so many kids with a little drinking and some pot. All of which were hidden. He was an extraordinarily talented musician, a world class Halo player, the most popular guy in school and made straight A's through middle school. As he grew there was increasing aggression, and a decreasing desire to do well in school or be anything BUT in control of every interaction. Like so many people with whom we may relate, he had the type of "A" personality that was sometimes a problem.


About 2 years ago his problems blossomed. He couldn't hold a job, my dad died and he used that as an excuse to hit the turbo on his drug use. He burned through relationships as fast as he could go. Eventually only close family had any significant interaction with him and unfortunately some of them were actively living the same cousin in particular.

About 7 months ago he went kicking and screaming into a residential rehab. Within 2 weeks a new man was writing letters and expressing feelings of long thought were beyond him. The next 4 months were almost heaven with him as new relationships were formed, old wounds were bound and new hope was on the horizon. But as a wise man once said, "Addiction is a 3 fold disease.... Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years". A few days into this year he left U-Turn and now within a few months he's gone.


(I) Cleaned out his car yesterday. The contrast was stark. Trash and open containers against suitcases of neatly folded clothes organized by season. Old candy wrappers and receipts contrasting little presents he had been collecting from the thrift store where he'd worked. He's gone and I'm still here. See, his story and mine aren't all that different.... for some reason he just couldn't stay in the solution and kept going back again and again to the problem.


A whole lot of you have already been expressing support for our family and for that we are grateful. is real, it is a disease, and it is survivable.


One last thought. As Andrew got closer and closer to leaving rehab he kept using the excuse of this (rehab) being a "waste of time now. I'm sober. If I get into school it'll help me stay focused and I can use the tools I've already learned." My response was "what is even a year's investment in this vs 50 years of life when if you leave you may only have a year?" He got into school...hated it and for whatever reason just kept on going.


Brad H.




 “We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

― C. S. Lewis

Parkdale CEO to Present on National Stage




Parkdale CEO, Rodrigo Garcia will address attendees at the National Organization of Alternative Programs (NOAP) in San Antonio, Texas to discuss the addiction crisis amongst health care professionals.  During the April 28-April 30 National Symposium, Mr. Garcia will present his highly regarded “Catch Me If You Can” presentation which depicts the impaired professional managing the care of patients.  Drawing from his vast professional experience in the health care industry as a board certified nurse anesthetist, his formal didactic studies in addiction and health care, his role as CEO of Parkdale Recovery Center, and his personal experience, Mr. Garcia depicts the challenges, struggles, and societal implications of the impaired health care provider.  In experts from an interview with Mr. Garcia, he stated the following:


Interviewer:  We hardly ever hear about this so how big of a problem is this really?


Mr. Garcia:  That in it self is part of the problem.  The potential fallout and publicity hospitals will receive if the news of an impaired provider got out could be detrimental to their image.  This often encourages the facilities to act swiftly and quietly although not necessarily in the best interest of all involved.  According to the National Safety Council, 1:15 people currently suffer from some form of substance use disorder.  Those numbers are estimated to be closer to 1:10 for health care workers for a variety of reasons including increased stress, accessibility to controlled substances, and expert knowledge in how to use them. 


Interviewer:  That number seems very high.  I would expect to see impaired health care providers falling over themselves in the hospitals.  How does the impaired provider typically present?


Mr. Garcia:  That is a great question.  In fact, it can be very difficult to detect unless you are looking for it specifically.  The impaired provider can present in many ways that, on the surface, may not appear significant until a sentinel event occurs.  An impaired provider can be:  A surgeon who is hung over from the night before, A radiologist suffering from withdraw symptoms and unable to concentrate, a pharmacist that is diverting pills from patients leaving them in pain, a nurse that is actively under the influences of drugs or alcohol and forgets to administer a medication, a technician who is switching out medications and infecting unsuspecting patients, or the anesthesiologist that just overdosed in the bathroom.  As you can see, the implications on the patients can be quite profound.


Interviewer:   I am still surprised as to nearly 10% of providers being “sub-optimal” due to some form of substance use.  These providers have spent years of their life and significant financial sacrifices to be accomplished professionally.  The burning questions is “WHY?” would they do this?


Mr. Garcia:  Although there are some factors that may predispose people to addiction or alcoholism, there is usually a precipitating event.  Sometimes it is increased personal stress, a prescription for pain after surgery, a chronic medical condition, or a significant life event.  The event coupled with maladaptive coping skills and a genetic predisposition creates a perfect environment for the addiction to seed it self and take root.  In other words, the addiction and subsequent addictive behaviors usually have a benign onset.  In fact, at some point most of our patients say a variation of “ I once said I would NEVER do those things yet here I am”. 


Interviewer:  If that is the case, why don’t they ask for help before they get caught or hurt someone else? 


Mr. Garcia:  Unfortunately, society does not allow that to happen so easily.  The stigma associated with the word ADDICTION or ADDICT and the common punitive response to it often dissuades people from asking for help.   It is easy to track the “scarlet letter” of addiction through work history, insurance submissions, legal fall out, and general town hall gossip.  Once the stigma is placed, it and all its’ prejudices are hard to shake.  As a result, the addict will try to stop on their own repeatedly, until the subsequently get caught.  Ill ask you a similar question, and be honest, what is the first thing you think about when you hear that your nurse is a recovering drug addict?  Furthermore, does the word “recovering” bear any weight? 


Interviewer:  Point taken, I can see how that could be a problem.  I am sure there is no simple solution but what is one thing you would suggest that we could all do about this apparent epidemic?


Mr. Garcia:  You are right; solving this problem will require the dedicated concerted efforts of many.  However, we can all start by learning more about this disease and realize that not talking about it is making it worse.  The facts are that nearly everyone is affected by addiction or alcoholism.  One in ten people live with addict or alcoholic and one in three know an addict first hand.  The only way this gets better if we all commit to talking about it with an open mind and more importantly, an open heart.


Mr. Garcia continued the interview by discussing proposed solutions for health care facilities, suggesting ways the general public could help safeguard their care, and provided resources / advice for the impaired professional. 


Rodrigo Garcia possesses an MBA with a focus in Health Care Administration; he is a Board Certified Nurse Anesthetist, Advanced Practice Nurse, and Critical Care Registered Nurse with over 20 years of patient care experience.  He is also the current CEO of Parkdale Center, a treatment center specializing in the holistic management of the impaired professional.  To contact Mr. Garcia directly or to request a speaking engagement with your facility, please email