Enabling vs Helping: How to Stop Catering to your Adult Child’s Addiction

Again, addictions are brain diseases that can’t simply be pushed to the side with one conversation. They’re caused by changes in brain chemicals and brain circuitry, and they need in-depth treatment to amend. Addiction is a family disease as it affects not only the person suffering but the entire family as well.

enabling parents of addicts

Here, your goal should be to force your child to get medical help and then change the circumstances they were pushed into using. Children do not have the capacity to help themselves, and it is your responsibility to take steps to get them help. Enabling behavior can occur at every age level, with young children, young adults, and adults who have moved out of the home. “Our loved ones are our loved ones, so it is very personal,” she says. If you say or do something negative in response to the other person’s latest mistake, then they can react to your reaction. If you remain quiet, or if you go on with your life as if nothing has happened, then they are left with nothing to respond to except their own actions.

Sherry has agreed to reach out and start the healing process. Although she can’t make the rest of her family seek help, she can influence them by making positive changes in her own life. If Sherry’s parents were to reach out and become educated they would learn what they’re doing isn’t helping Jim, but crippling him. They would also learn Jim wasn’t the only one struggling with delusion. But more importantly they would learn without consequences, Jim will surely succumb to his illness and die.


Codependents become codependent because they have learned to believe that love, acceptance, security, and approval are contingent upon taking care of the addict in the way the addict wishes. In their decision-making process, they allow the addict to define reality. Unfortunately, this excessively care giving behavior tends to foster even more dependency on the part of the addict.

  • Do you feel afraid to talk to your child about the issue, in fear it could damage your relationship?
  • Addictionsare brain disorders, and in most cases, people with addictions are simply incapable of modulating their use.
  • It is important that both you and your child understand that any consequences your child may face are a direct result of their own actions.
  • After all of this the patient should attend AA or NA meetings to prevent relapse.

Finances lead to a large number of family arguments, both between spouses and between children and their parents. When money begins to disappear from shared bank accounts or parents can no longer afford to provide essential items for their children, a heated discussion is lurking just around the corner. It’s hard for loved ones not to feel hurt when all of the family’s finances begin to go toward enabling an addict’s lifestyle. The solution is allowing the substance user to face uncomfortable life situations and feelings without avoiding them by using drugs, alcohol, or other means. The danger lies in doing an intervention or approaching the problem with the misconception that it is all about substance abuse.

Does Your Loved One Have a Problem With Alcohol or Drugs? We can help.

At Family First Intervention, we are dedicated to assisting families as they end toxic relationships and start down the road of recovery. Despite the fact that millions of Americans are currently struggling with substance abuse, only a fraction of them receives proper treatment. Some believe an intervention is what they see on television….

Instead, the daughter had a long history of abusing opioid drugs. In actuality, she was seeing a psychiatrist for depression but the daughter and parents kept the drug and alcohol abuse a secret. When her death occurred guide to living with an alcoholic the family was overwhelmed with shock, grief and loss. Their secrecy was a classic example of both codependence and enabling behavior. What was even more tragic is that they had no idea of what they were doing.

An enabler will make excuses to keep the peace, to shield off potential consequences, and to give off a calm, collected façade in front of others. If you believe you may be enabling your child’s addiction, you are not alone. Enabling is a very easy habit to slip into unintentionally, as it is often disguised by well-intended actions that you feel may benefit your child at the time. As a parent, it is important to know that this is not deliberate nor is it your fault.

This family member might be worried that the other can’t handle the task, and this person wants the laundry to be clean, so outsiders don’t see evidence of addiction. When a partner, child, or parent enables a family member, they shield the addict from the consequences of their actions. This enabling may come in the form of paying rent or monthly bills for a spouse, providing housing to a child without a job, or covering for a drunk parent when they miss work. Regardless of how the enabling occurs, covering for an addict simply encourages the individual to continue living his or her self-destructive lifestyle. It is a well know fact among drug and alcohol counselors that the worst enemy of the abuser is money. The reason for this is that money becomes the means the addict makes purchases of more drugs to feed the addiction.

enabling parents of addicts

Getting Along is a column about taking care of yourself, setting boundaries, and having difficult conversations, for people who struggle with all three. THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information contained on this website is not intended to be a substitute for, or to be relied upon as, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any what should you do after a relapse questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Another parent may worry that if her son has a felony record, he will not be able to get a worthwhile job. She thus decides to hire a high-priced attorney rather than let him work with a public defender. She knows this is “enabling,” but believes that, in the long run, she wants him to be financially independent and self-sufficient, so she is willing to engage the lawyer.

The loan is not an intentional acceptance of the addiction; the parent does not want to deal with the chance of rejection from a child if they do not comply. To keep the peace, to smooth things over, and not initiate complicated feelings and emotions. So many parents, and other family members for that matter, struggle with the concept of enabling. There certainly is a natural inclination on the part of parents to love, protect and nurture their children, but when does it cross a line that can be harmful rather than helpful? This discussion focuses on the definition of enabling and what to take into consideration when trying to motivate your child to engage in healthy behaviors.

Because of the nature of addiction, many addicts decide to continue their addictive behaviors. In that case, the family must remain tough and not give in to the addict. This means that the addict may become homeless while sleeping in shelters. In some cases they may even be arrested and end up in jail.

Know that you don’t have to cope with this situation alone.

What Sherry can’t see is this; Jim’s illness has effected everyone in Sherry’s family including Sherry. Since Jim got sick he is rarely home and when he is, he’s pretty quiet. He doesn’t want to upset Sherry’s mother, or her brother. Sherry – not her real name – says her brother Jim – not his real name – is a stranger to her. She and Jim were close when they were little, but that all changed when Jim entered eighth grade and started smoking marijuana. Instead of hanging out with Sherry, Jim spent most of his time alone in his room.

The web service is open to anyone suffering an addiction, including families and friends of an addict. While watching a child lose the things they have worked for is painful, supporting an addict only enables them to continue using. So long as the addict knows that you will step in to cover for their bad decisions, they have no real reason to stop using. You spend too much money on the addicted person, even maxing out credit cards or mortgaging your home. “Enabling is an act in which one’s behavior, though generally well-intended, further contributes to their addiction to alcohol or drugs,” Glowiak says. Take some time to learn more about enabling and the family disease of alcoholism, attend an Al-Anon meeting in your area.

Since Sherry stopped talking to her parents, she is plagued by guilt. On the one hand she loves her family, on the other, she doesn’t like who she becomes when she’s with them. Sherry acknowledges she struggles with controlling her parents and Jim. Sherry says she has lost her whole family to addiction.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. One thing that members of Al-Anon learn is that they no longer have to accept unacceptable behavior in their lives. You may not be able to control the behavior of someone else, but you do have choices when it comes to what you find unacceptable. Saying, “If you don’t quit drinking, I will leave!” is an ultimatum and a threat, but saying, “I will not have drinking in my home” is setting a boundary. You can’t control whether someone quits drinking or not, but you can decide what kind of behavior you will accept or not accept in your life.

Bruce Berman personally has assisted several hundred people into treatment for alcohol addiction, substance abuse, and dual diagnosis. He has maintained continuous recovery from various addictions since September 1989. Besides himself, he has placed his own children, employees, family members, friends and other loved ones into various recovery treatment programs. Whether you or your loved one is alcohols effects on blood pressure struggling with addiction, it’s most likely the author has dealt with a similar situation in the past. Bruce is a father of four children ages 9 to 31 and happily married to his wife Victoria who has also been in recovery since November 1995. Together Bruce and Victoria run 800 Recovery Hub a company that specializes in placing people in need of treatment into the best treatment center they can.

By the way, he’s now at Duke University pursuing a double major in economics and international relations. Addictions can also rob a person’s ability to cover those costs. People might miss work altogether, or they might do the sort of sloppy work that keeps them from getting promotions. They might not be able to look for better jobs, and they may miss out on investment opportunities, too. Enabling is a habit, and like most habits, it can be broken. Here are nine steps families can take to break the enabling cycle.

Therapists are Standing By to Treat Your Depression, Anxiety or Other Mental Health Needs

Rushing in to rescue someone may satisfy a personal desire to feel needed, but it doesn’t really help the situation. It only enables the person to avoid the consequences of their actions. If the person with an alcohol use problem has lost their driver’s license, giving them a ride to an A.A. These are things the person cannot do on their own, so helping them can be a way of supporting their recovery efforts.

Learn to tell the difference between boundaries and ultimatums.

In many cases where a parent has an adult child who is suffering from addiction, the parent will begin to exhibit codependent behaviors. Codependency is characterized by emotions and behaviors within a relationship that is mutually destructive. Enabling behavior occurs when another person, often a codependent, helps or encourages the addict to continue using drugs, either directly or indirectly. Enabling is the intentional process of contributing to another person’s self-destructive behaviors. For example, when trying to help someone with addiction, the habit becomes acceptable, excused, and continual. Therefore, enabling behavior excludes boundaries and accountability.

Alcohol, according to theNational Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, can cause discernible memory changes after just one or two drinks. Peer support groups like Al-Anon can put family members in touch with others who know a great deal about addiction, and the information shared in these meetings can be transformative. In other words, people who go to these meetings may not know very much about the challenges their families are facing, but if they keep going to meetings, they’ll learn.

If the consequences can’t be tolerated, then do what you think is best, remembering that you are the expert on your loved one and family situation, and will have to live with the outcome. If the consequences can be tolerated, let them play out, as the world is often a more powerful teacher than we can be. Along with all of those signs of upset and stress, family members might still believe that they can somehow shift the behavior and make the person’s addiction fade away. Some of the most egregious things that happen during the course of an addiction take place when the person is actively intoxicated, and often, drugs of abuse cause persistent memory loss.

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