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How Can A Parent Avoid Enabling?

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Joined: August 21, 2018

Posted: August 21, 2018, 3:01 PM
I have family in their late 30’s with recurring addiction problems around cocaine use. They have brief periods when they are clean but they tend to lapse or relapse. I can not trust what they say any more. I have tried to be supportive with housing and sometimes food since they run out of money but I feel a bit like an enabler when I rescue them from time to time. I would like advice from people with experience as to what a parent should NOT do in terms of being supportive or enabling. It is hard to draw a firm line and see your family living without. I feel like a bit of a patsy sometimes and I think that they know that I will come to some degree of rescue when it gets down to the crunch. I am a caring professional Dad who does want to help but also does not want to enable by helping too much. It is a difficult line to tread.

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Joined: July 6, 2018

Posted: August 21, 2018, 6:11 PM
I am the ultimate enabler. Provided food and housing and cars and everything else. The only way to help them is to let them deal with the consequences.
Things are going to get worse as you pull way. They addicts become more demanding.
My daughter has lost everything and is finally entering rehab. If I offered one little thing,one more ride ,ten more dollars she would not have gone.She would try to get another 10 the next day.
They say you need to set boundaries and keep them.
I suggest stepping back,no contact. Give your self some space to see what you feel comfortable doing. Cut off one thing at a time if that gets you started.
I actually would put marks on the calendar on every day that I didn't give her prove to my self I could do it

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Joined: June 27, 2016

Posted: August 23, 2018, 7:51 PM
hello Jay,
Search these postings in the search box at the bottom of the page:

Ways Family Members can Help, What Not to do, Let me fall all by myself, Will you learn to say No

Go to Nar Anon meetings - with other family members who want to go.

online read -- keep reading and learning. While detaching as much as possible.

Whatever is not your responsibility, don't do

It is hard to fully detach. We have tried the easy way and the hard way. Over 5 years our son went to rehab 3 times.and lived away from home for 4 of the 5 years. and worked full time most of those years, except for the months in rehab. when not in rehab and in a relapse situation, while working, we continued to 'help' to try to keep him afloat thinking working was better than not working, and we thought he would get tired of it and turn it around. and we thought if we lead by example, he would see there is a better life.

the truth is that 'we kept him afloat'. each time it was only when he lost everything, car broke down, lost job, lost housing situation.... that he agreed to go to rehab/detox. he also tried very hard to stop on his own. as much as he wanted to , he could not. it is too strong of an addition (pain meds and benzos) to do on your own. they need medical supervision. It was not something parents are qualified to deal with.

From Jan to May I started seeing a therapist at a recovery center and continued to tell my son about the programs there, etc.
You have to take care of yourself. Do what is right for you. Steer them in the right direction of the proper people who can help your family

This post has been edited by NyToFlorida on August 23, 2018, 8:34 PM

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Joined: October 25, 2016

Posted: August 23, 2018, 10:14 PM
It is very hard to draw a line and not cross it. It was so against my natural instincts that I had a mental breakdown when I decided to stop enabling my son. I was so much a part of his life and problems. I also had and still have terrible guilt for his suffering. Not necessarily a logical reaction. Letting them suffer unleashes many emotions. I think a trained counselor can help a parent see things more objectively. It is good to say things out loud and get input from someone not involved in family problems.

I recently helped him again but didn’t have any real expectations. I think my reservations were correct so now I need to get back into hard-a** mode. He has been trying but it is an uphill battle. We don’t have enough money to give him all the help he needs. We have done this over and over. We could spend a bunch of money to get him where he needs to be but it is not sustainable. He won’t stay there and we will start going round and round again. It is hard not to help.

This post has been edited by BugginMe on August 23, 2018, 10:52 PM


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Joined: August 18, 2016

Posted: August 24, 2018, 2:34 PM
I am an addict in longer term recovery. My opioid addiction spanned about 17 or so years. I can say unequivocally that my family stopping their enabling got me into recovery. I have posted about this before, but my parents and husband stopped enabling as a United front and they got into recovery about a year before I did.

They told me they would support my recovery but would no longer co-sign my bulls***! At first, I didn't believe them. I really figured I could still get things from all of them because they had drawn many lines in the sand only to crumble under my constant begging and manipulation. This time it was different. I would call in one of my crisis's and suddenly no one was around! My parents were now out with friends, exploring hobbies they put off during my active years. Requests for help or money or food was met with "I'm sorry you are going through this, but I know you are smart enough to figure it out! I believe in you". Every single request for money, rides, food etc was met with a variation of that statement. It took me about a year to really know they were serious and that I truly was alone in my addiction! It was a scary place to be, but they were right... I was able to figure it out! When I started doing things for myself, it increased my self esteem and my longing to get better! Everyone around me was enjoying their life.... I wanted that life, too! I then went about getting the help I needed.

To parents/significant are not responsible for your loved ones addiction and not enabling does not always lead to recovery. Some will die from this disease. Unfortunately, like cancer, there are some who go into remission and some who's disease is fatal. Either way, not enabling gives the addict the opportunity to to grow and for the enabler, stopping codependent relationships will give you an opportunity to live YOUR best life!!! You are important!!!

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Joined: March 20, 2018

Posted: August 24, 2018, 7:30 PM
Love/enabling, so hard to differentiate. No advice for you Jay, I'm too new at this (AND I HATE IT). I just wanted to post so those offering any words of wisdom/advice know that we appreciate it.

I read all the parenting books, we played together, they played with friends. I was there for them before and after school, they played hockey and soccer, we went on holidays. I thought I was doing it right.

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Joined: August 21, 2018

Posted: August 27, 2018, 7:05 PM
I appreciate all these comments. Even knowing that my concerns are not unique is a help.

Lolleedee, your note was particularly useful.

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Joined: November 16, 2017

Posted: August 27, 2018, 9:27 PM
Thank you, Lollee!!!!!!!

Always puts things in proper perspective.

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Joined: September 8, 2018

Posted: September 8, 2018, 7:10 PM
Avoiding enabling and detaching is tough. But like many other things start with easily obtainable goals and work from there. I see too many jump from playing dumb-nah they don't have a problem to full scale punishment and harsh boundaries(sometimes warranted). You literally have to learn to say no. Start with the small stuff, stick to no regardless of request and slowly but steadily increase the effort to toward zero enabling and full detachment. Consistency is key.

Don't blow off the small stuff no matter how much it may inconvenience the addict or trouble you. Time will not make things better unless someone takes action. Do not be afraid to nudge or coerce the expected behavior out of a child. I know someone who is paying the price for not forcing/nuancing issues that are a decade old at this point. The frustrating part is all they had to do about 10 years ago was bring up the issue of unpaid loans because the adult addict child with gray hair just assumed the parent didn't care and started assuming the parent would take over payments for them(which they did) And yet the few times financial issues were brought up it scared the poop out of them. You have to let them know you are paying attention and will not tolerate their ignoring obligations and boundaries. Cleaning up a child's or adult child's drug related mess is NOT like cleaning up their room or making their bed. The absolutely must learn to deal with their mess.

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Joined: December 25, 2017

Posted: September 14, 2018, 7:22 PM
Jay, my wife andi are 10 years into this with our son who started on tobacco and canabis and is now living on the street on Heroin.

We have watched him lose everything, partner, children, home, job, self respect.

It took 9 1/2 of those years for us to truly stop enabling.

Its not intentional and there always seemed a valid reason to give those lifelines of cash, food etc We genuinely thought we were helping him not to fail by supporting him financially and materially but i can tell you that all it did was enable him to keep taking whatever drugs he was currently taking whilst producing child after child and draining everyones generocity dry.

It was only when we became more educated about the problem ( mostly through this forum) that we finally completely stopped.

They will tell you that they hate you; how can you do this to THEM (My son even told me he steals because i wont give him money) but they dont mean it and however much it hurts to hear them saying these things, it probably hurts them more and i have often had an appology the next time i see him.

If i have one regret (and i am sure all parents of addict children are, like me, haunted by many) it is that we did not pull the plug on supporting him from DAY ONE and, vulnerable adult or not (he has ADD, Dyslexia and a few other issues too), made HIM responsible for HIS own actions.

At this point in my understanding of drug addiction, tbis is the best advice i can give you.

This post has been edited by Jet0912 on September 14, 2018, 7:46 PM

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Joined: September 4, 2018

Posted: September 23, 2018, 7:28 AM
I needed to read this today. I am struggling so badly. My young adult son will be discharged today from his treatment facility. This is the first time he has totally completed one. He will also be starting IOP this week. He lives alone across the country and his rent is quite high plus all of his other bills. He was doing okay when he had a partner but she left him so it is quite a struggle now. Add his addiction into that and how much he spent on that there was no way he would make it. Not sure if that is what pushed him to get help or if he really wanted it. I guess we will see now that he is leaving. I am torn. We want to help if he is in recovery and agreed to help with small costs like getting to and from IOP and meetings (he doesn't drive so he needs to pay to take lyft/taxi/ etc. It would cost around $40 round trip multiple times a week. So as long as he shows proof he is going then we offered to help.
I am struggling with the other bills. Like his er co-pay when he went a few months ago due to too much alcohol consumption. I know how he is. He will complain his funds are low and he needs to have money to pay his rent which I agree (I don't want to have to pay that!) So part of me feels like I should pay the little bills so he doesn't come to me for the huge bill.
I just don't know if he will follow through with going to AA meetings and getting together with sober friends. He usually plays the "I don't have money to get there" card and then resorts to sitting alone in his apartment which leads to isolation, and use.
Praying so hard that he has turned the corner and wants a better life. He seems to have engaged while at treatment so I guess we have to see how he does in the next few weeks.

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Posted: September 24, 2018, 9:43 AM
Keepthefaith, I understand your fear,but you don't control his healing. If your son wants to get sober he will.If he wants to go to a meeting, he will find a way. Maybe he will go to an online meeting.
You can't drug test him sober.You can't pay his way.
Its time you take care of you.
What happens to you as you approach retirement? Who is going to pay your bills ,fix your car,get you to the doctor. Pray for your son but take care of you.

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Joined: April 13, 2019

Posted: April 13, 2019, 5:32 AM
All the posts seem so old. I hope there is someone still active on this site. My son has been addicted for years. Much of the time I didn't know it. I knew he used drugs, but then he'd pull himself together, and he is so smart and so talented, I would always believe that this time he had achieved enough success that he'd stay clean and sober. Things just got worse and worse. He went from a six figure income to driving a dilapidated car to deliver food. He divorced his wife -- a wonderful woman. The hardest part is when I don't hear from him. I don't know if he's alive or dead, because when he uses, he "goes right to the edge." I don't keep it a secret, but it isn't helpful to talk to friends who don't know from experience how it really is. So many sleepless nights. Preparing for that awful day when he just disappears forever and I never know if he's alive or dead.

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Joined: July 6, 2018

Posted: April 13, 2019, 9:00 AM
Anddj, it's so hard the knowing and not knowing cycle. I also don't keep my daughters addiction a secret. Everybody knows and sometimes my coworkers will ask because they do care,but you are right they don't really understand.
It sounds like your son wants to protect you from his addiction. He goes "radio silent". I always preferred that,I hate seeing my daughter when she is messed up..

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Joined: November 9, 2018

Posted: April 13, 2019, 3:35 PM
Sadly, this is part of addiction. Knowing and not knowing. Its very hard to see a beautiful person, a child, spouse, or partner, just go lower and lower. Its a self destruction. I know too my daughter has periods of silence and it's seems just as awful as the crisis calls in the middle of the night. This is something no one would understand unless they have lived it. I keep praying and I stay available however I don't enable. The addiction takes over, everything.

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Joined: April 13, 2019

Posted: April 13, 2019, 4:48 PM
Thank you so much, Sallyanna and Walkedon, for your replies. Some days are better than others, but this is a particularly hard day. I called a treatment program and the drug counselor was generous with her time. She acknowledged that there is a fine line between being supportive and enabling. It was helpful to hear that she thinks I'm not enabling, because the few friends that know details think that I am. I don't think they have any idea how hard it is to watch an otherwise talented and intelligent child go down the tubes with cocaine. And I appreciate your responses. It is so helpful to have contact with someone who KNOWS.

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Posted: April 13, 2019, 5:37 PM
The temptation with adult children in particular is to enable hoping time and age will change their behavior. It will not. Every month or year of addiction makes it harder to change their ways. I've seen senior parents give money, room and board and it ended in disaster having to borrow against their house. You cannot look at your ADULT child as a child especially because they are not young, innocent nor have their future in front of them.

And yes absolutely a fine line between support and enabling or very basic common courtesy and enabling.

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Posted: April 14, 2019, 5:37 AM
Anddj please feel free to post a topic any time you have a question or a need if your like. I have found everyone here to be very helpful and understanding. We know what it's like to have a child with an addiction because we are living it. Its very hard and sad and we do the best we can. We all love our children very much.

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Joined: December 30, 2018

Posted: April 14, 2019, 6:41 AM
As a parent of a addict, I have a lot of mixed feelings and emotions about this, i don't give my son money he dosent ask to borrow, but he life's at my place gives me board, but I feel it's a soft landing for him here, am I enabling he earns good money but has nothing to show for it, so am I an enabler letting him stay here?? I don't know we always question are selves, l think there's lots of different ways of enabling and its finding the fine line where you know yourselves that is not comfortable with you, when your not feeling right about it youself then it's a problem


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Joined: November 16, 2017

Posted: April 14, 2019, 11:57 AM
It is super difficult! I think, as another said, you have to go with your gut instinct. If it feels kind of "icky" in my gut, I know I am doing too much and/or not taking care of myself.

I am pretty stingy with any help. And, it has to be something tangible and temporary.
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