Life Advice



Ask Amy: Sober friend worries about friend’s enabling

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

I’d appreciate your advice.

– Seven Years Sober

Dear Seven Years: You state that these enablers may not understand the negative power of alcohol. And yet they do understand this power because the job of keeping “Emily” alive is absorbing the full attention of two people. That’s power!

Your question perfectly illustrates a point I often try to make: Addiction will absorb everyone in its path to varying degrees until the addict receives treatment. Case in point: Emily, Emily’s mother, your friend “Brett,” and now your relationship with all of them has been swallowed up by her disease.

I suggest that you put this to them: “Emily has a disease. It’s called addiction use disorder. She needs treatment. If she had cancer or diabetes, wouldn’t you encourage her to get treatment?”

They do not have the power to save Emily. Enabling at this level really is “playing God.” Imagine if Emily had landed in court-mandated rehab as a result of one of her drunken car accidents? She might be celebrating her own sobriety by now.


My favorite phrase describing this dynamic is that people who repeatedly save addicts from the consequences of their disease are actually “loving them to death.”

You are an alcoholic in recovery. You could take your friend to an Al-anon meeting; you could present him with some literature about co-dependency. Beyond that, you should not engage further, certainly if your own sobriety is threatened. Because then you would be one more casualty of this person’s disease.

Dear Amy: I realize I’m about to complain about a first-world problem, but I am a dad and will always want what is best for my boys.

My wife and I have two awesome sons in their early 20s who live with us.


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