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Codependency and Enabling: Winning the Battle Over Addiction

Codependency and Enabling

At the Road to Freedom’s Winning the Battle Over Addiction: All in the Family conference, Dr. Jay Burns shared a lesson on codependency and enabling.

Caring for and wanting to protect loved ones comes naturally, but when done in excessive ways it can be detrimental. As a family member or loved one of an addict, ending codependency and enabling behaviors is a crucial step to aid in their recovery.


Codependency is behaving in overly passive or excessively care-taking ways. This creates a dynamic of putting one’s own needs below someone else’s. The other aspect of codependency is idol worship: putting children or loved ones above Christ. This results in a lack of positive decision making by the addict because they can rely on someone else to do it for them.


Enabling is when someone takes the responsibility or blame for the addict’s harmful behavior. It is very easy to feel that these actions are protecting a loved one, but removing their natural consequences becomes part of the problem. Rescuing someone from natural consequences enables them to continue their irresponsible behavior and gives them a false sense of reality.

Proverbs 14:12
There is a way which seems right to man but in the end leads to death.

Many people struggle with wanting to be the one on the throne, but it is only when God is put on the throne that one is able to see progress and hope. We are fortunate enough to honor a God that does not ask us to do something that He hasn’t already modeled for us:

Pslam 33:16-20
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield…

2 Corinthians 1:9,10
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Creating boundaries is a major step in ending codependent and enabling behaviors. These boundaries assist the addict in their recovery by allowing them to see the path of destruction and hurt they are causing. Without consequences, it is easy to continue along that path. Dr. Jay left us with suggested scripture on creating positive boundaries and enforcing consequences:

  • Hebrews 12:34
  • Ephesians 2:10
  • Proverbs 19: 18,19
  • Proverbs 29:15,17,19,21
  • Hebrews 12:4
  • Ezekiel 33:1-10

More on Codependency and Enabling

For more information from Dr. Jay and other speakers, such as this topic on codependency and enabling, visit our Winning the Battle Over Addiction Facebook page. All of the audio and PowerPoints from the May 2013 conference have been made available to the public.


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