Addicted Child? How to Help Without Enabling

Are You Enabling an Addicted Child?

Look for yourself in either of these descriptions:

Enabling Someone in Addiction: Doing something for someone to ease the reality of their consequences. Doing something for someone that they can (and should) do for themselves.
Possible examples: Calling treatment facilities to ask questions about care. Searching the internet for job openings while your child sleeps. Driving someone to obtain illegal substances to help keep them from withdrawal. (The alternative to this last sentence would be to provide information on detox facilities).

Helping Someone in Addiction: Offering support, encouragement or information to help a person begin their journey of recovery.
Possible examples: Visiting a person in treatment during family day. Attending Al-Anon or Nar-Anon in order to understand codependency and to become as healthy as possible for yourself and the family as a whole.

When you choose not to enable someone, you aren’t saying you don’t love them. You are simply refusing to eliminate their personal responsibility in the situation. For many parents of adult children struggling with addiction, this is a hard realization to grasp. Parents often see their child struggling and desperately want to want to help them. That desperation is what can blur the line between helping and enabling, however. When a parent becomes desperate, they may not see where and when they need to let their child take responsibility for their own actions and consequences. In fact, some parents believe that to do so is to abandon their child. This is why seeking outside help is so important.

What Enabling an Addicted Child Looks Like

For many parents, who just want to love their children and express that love, the term ‘enable’ can be hard to understand. Here are just a few things to consider that may enable your son or daughter to continue their addiction.

  • Make calls about court dates, fees, fines – Letting them take the lead regarding calls about consequences connected to their addiction helps them take responsibility for their actions.
  • Paying their belongings out of pawn – This gives the addicted child the opportunity to pawn the items again for extra cash. It’s a vicious cycle that should not be started.
  • Give them cash –  If an individual isn’t allowed to feel the consequences of their addiction, the period of active addiction can often be prolonged. Replacing money or providing an allowance that ends up being used for drugs ends up being what many parents succumb to. “It’s better than listening to him beg for cash every day and eventually wearing me down,” says one frustrated mom. This is more common than you might imagine.
  • Providing your car – Or giving rides to work, school or even to pick up drugs. Again, we’ve got zero consequences or accepting responsibility for actions here. Plus, you’re putting your own insurance policy, your vehicle, and the safety of others at risk by lending your vehicle to someone in active addiction.

Unique Situations

Some actions may or may not be enabling, depending on circumstances, such as letting your child stay in your home or bringing them food, clothing, and blankets when they are struggling or homeless. What if they have children of their own? Do you have the space, the patience and the money to take in your grandchildren or do you need to look for outside assistance? For these answers, you may want to make an appointment with your pastor or a family therapist. A professional an look at the situation objectively and help you come to the healthiest decision for everyone involved.

For homeless adult children, here are some services you can contact for assistance:

How to End Enabling

So, how do you love your addicted child, show him you care and help him without enabling him?

  • Be honest with what you know. Don’t turn the other way as your addicted child steals from you or simply accept the lies just because you’re tired of dealing with the situation. Becoming numb to the chaos is a sign that you may be in need of help.
  • Don’t assume love means always saying yes or protecting from consequences.
  • Offer to help him find help. He needs to make the calls, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide the information for him or give him a ride to treatment.

Addiction Recovery Help At Gracious Care

Gracious Care Recovery Solutions offers medical detox, PHP treatment, outpatient treatment and sober living programs. Our addiction recovery programs give your son or daughter a plan that is made specifically for them. They’ll meet with a primary therapist, work with a group of individuals who are in recovery as well and be given the tools they need for long-lasting sobriety.

Learn more about what we offer.