Enabling – The Deadliest Parental Sin

Enabling [en-ey-bling]: To make able or possible, to give power.

Enabling is a major factor in addiction. Enabling allows a person who is addicted to continue in their disease by preventing them from experiencing the negative consequences of his behavior. Giving in to my daughter Lauren, who had a spiraling addiction, was a recipe for disaster. It mortifies me to think about how I handed out money and gave her rides to be with her drug-dealing boyfriend. I think the scariest thing about enabling is that most parents don’t even realize they’re doing it — and that was certainly true for me. I believe enabling was just another way for me to protect myself while I was fed lies and deception to hide my daughter’s using drugs.

Facing the truth was too hard and I wanted to be able to trust my daughter and give her the freedom that any typical teenager should have. The problem was that we were dealing with anything but “typical.”

Many times I hear parents say, “But I want my kid to like me.” Dealing with a rebellious teenager is tough enough for most parents; add a growing addiction to that and you are faced with something beyond your control. Coming from an alcoholic upbringing myself, I struggled at times with codependent tendencies, including weak boundaries and difficulty asserting myself with my kids. Living with an active addiction in my teens triggered those inclinations. I was an easy target as my daughter developed into a master manipulator in her quest to acquire drugs she needed to fuel her addiction.

Lauren needed professional help for her addiction and I needed help just as badly for my enabling ways around her disease. One addiction counselor told me that my daughter was not ready to change because she liked her life. What I didn’t realize was how much I was responsible for providing the environment in which her disease was thriving. Once I implemented consequences, set boundaries with money and rides, and mandated a recovery program for her if she wanted to live in my home, it rocked her world and things started to change.

Many teen substance users are able to reach a point where they want to recover because they cannot stand to lose any more of their former privileges. Only when they’re faced with natural consequences — just like real life — will they even try to make a change.  There is help for parents who are dealing with family addiction. Families can heal.

Five ways to stop enabling behavior:

1) Attend meetings for families of people who have a drug addiction.
2) Get professional help for yourself and practice self-care.
3) Establish real-life consequences in your home.
4) Stop providing privileges for your substance user.
5) Develop a support system with other parents of children who are addicted to drugs.

Skills to Help Your Child and Family Heal

Community Reinforcement and Family Training, or CRAFT, is a scientifically proven approach to help parents change their child’s substance use by staying involved in a positive, ongoing way.

16 Responses

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    February 23, 2014 at 3:18 AM

    I want to give up on my son, this means to mean kicking him out and changing the locks. He is 15 years old. I’m waiting until he is 16 to give him the boot if his behaviour continues like this. My logic is that when he is 16 he has the potential to get a job and provide for himself or get locked and no bail to my house. To stop being an enabler, its like I said refuse bail to my house, this will mean he will get locked in youth justice residence. ITs just so hard when he cries or tries to kill himself because of his addition. the drain on our resources whether its eating all our food when he has or taking our belongings to sell for drugs.

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