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Parents of Drug Addicts: How to Stop Enabling My Child’s Addiction

Am I enabling my child’s drug addiction?

Perhaps the answer to this question can be more easily identified in the context of an ‘either/or’ question: Am I enabling or am I helping? Depending on the situation, there exists a very fine line between the two.   When it comes to our addicted sons and daughters, the line needs to be drawn very firmly in the sand if they are to eventually lead a happy, sober life. When supporting an individual with addiction, helping to resolve the individual’s immediate problem often results in exacerbating or perpetuating addictive behaviors.  In the practical sense, when we as parents of addicts “enable”, we take on the responsibilities that our son or daughter should be handling for themselves.  Are you empowering your child to take responsibility for his life?  Responsibility for the choices he makes?   Typically, if we are being honest, truly honest with ourselves as parents, the answer has often been NO. Serving as the alarm clock has not empowered our children to wake up on their own.  Calling in sick to our son’s employers when he is hung over in the morning has not encouraged him to stop drinking.  Blaming the professor for our son’s failure in school has not resulted in any improvement.  Have you “helped out” with rent money just one more time until your child could make ends meet and found that, despite sufficient income opportunities, you were still giving him money? It’s time to stop! It is plain and simple.  The more you do for your son, the less he will do for himself. Until your child suffers the consequences for his behavior, he will have no reason to change. Am I Enabling My Child’s Addiction?So let’s get back to enabling the problem verses helping the solution.  How do we help foster the solution?  It is clear, although painful at times, we as parents of addicts must learn to allow our children to feel the consequences for their behaviors. To start – ask yourself as you are about to bail your child out of a possible consequence for his choices, “If I do this for my child, what will he learn from this experience?” Be honest… if the answer is he will avoid the pain of his decision then DO NOT DO IT.  Sit tight.  The only thing your child learns from you bailing him out of the consequences of his behavior is that someone, not him, will prevent the pain and prevent him from feeling the need to make any change. By nature, individuals suffering from addiction look at the external forces or reasons for their circumstance, rather than looking inward. Is this truly what you want the lesson to be? By allowing him the opportunity to fail and find his own solution, you will be helping to support change, rather than enabling the problem. ………………………………………

Lauren Springer, MSW

 As the Family Liaison for Turnbridge families, Lauren offers support, caring guidance and education to parents and families as they negotiate the pathway to their own recovery.   She believes that parents having their own recovery program is not only essential to their own health and well-being, but in turn aids in their sons’ recovery.