In chemical dependency the term 'enabling' takes on a negative meaning. An enabler is a person around the dependent who steps in to protect him/her from the unhealthy, irresponsible, and anti-social behavior which the dependent exhibits and also protects him/her from suffering the natural consequences that are constantly present in the life of a dependent person. For a time, enabling does prevent the social and financial difficulties the dependent and family would experience. However, by preventing the crisis that might bring the chemically dependent to treatment, his well-meaning family, employer, and friends actually prolong the illness.
Paradoxically, the enablers act out of a sincere sense of love, loyalty, and concern. One cannot be an enabler without caring for the dependent. Sometimes enablers are motivated out of shame or fear. This is especially true with supervisors in the workplace as their own self-esteem and respect are involved. These people see no other alternatives. As it does with family members, enabling begins imperceptible and ends just like it does for the dependent—in denial.
Consequently, covering up for the dependent person, making excuses, doing his or her work, overlooking the shoddiness and inconsistency of the work, and becoming more responsible for the dependent are all making it possible for the dependent to go on drinking or using. This is a sure sign that the concerned person is caught up in the illness.