Updated: Mar 10, 2022
A woman in recovery told me an interesting story yesterday. It was about how her parents enabled her all of her life. They never wanted her to be without or suffer. And it wasn't until they both died at an advanced age that she was able to get sober. Often I write of the dangers of enabling our children by not holding them accountable. By not allowing them to be responsible for their lives. Many residents of TLC only came to us after everyone else was through with them - including their parents. It's easy to understand how parents get into enabling. Many of them feel they owe their children because they weren't able to give them the best upbringing. Maybe they were poor. Or divorced. Perhaps they were addicts themselves. In any case, they get the subconscious idea that had they raised the child differently they wouldn't have become an addict. So when they discover the child is an addict they procrastinate. They allow them to live at home even though they know they're using. They're afraid to give an ultimatum because they fear losing their love. Or they're afraid the child might overdose before getting help. The scenarios are endless. I generally suggest parents tell their child they'll help them get into recovery. But if that doesn't work, then they're done. No more help. No more using the car. Or sleeping on the couch. No more handouts. Some don't have the stomach to take this strong of a position. But I know that once my family and others quit helping me over 25 years ago it changed my life. At first I was angry. I thought they didn't love me. Today I know how much they really did care.
"An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior?" Allison Botke - "Setting Boundaries with your Adult Children"
Because I regularly deal with enabling parents I thought some of you would find this author's information helpful. Here are a few questions from the author's book that might help you determine if you are an enabling parent.
1. Have you loaned him money repeatedly, seldom (if ever) being repaid?
2. Have you paid for education and/or job training in more than one field?
3. Have you finished a job or project that he failed to complete himself because it was easier than arguing with him?
4. Have you paid bills he was supposed to have paid himself?
5. Have you accepted part of the blame for his addictions or behavior?
6. Have you avoided talking about negative issues because you feared his response?
7. Have you bailed him out of jail or paid for his legal fees?
8. Have you given him "one more chance" and then another and another?
9. Have you ever returned home at lunchtime (or called) and found him still in bed sleeping?
10. Have you wondered how he gets money to buy cigarettes, video games, new clothes, and such but can't afford to pay his own bills?
11. Have you ever "called in sick" for your child, lying about his symptoms to his boss?
12. Have you threatened to throw him out and didn't?
13. Have you begun to feel that you've reached the end of your rope?
14. Have you begun to hate both your child and yourself for the state in which you live?
15. Have you begun to worry that the financial burden is more than you can bear?
16. Have you begun to feel that your marriage is in jeopardy because of this situation?
17. Have you noticed growing resentment in other family members regarding this issue?
18. Have you noticed that others are uncomfortable around you when this issue arises?
19. Have you noticed an increase in profanity, violence, and/or other unacceptable behavior?
20. Have you noticed that things are missing from your home, including money, valuables, and other personal property?
If you answered yes to several of these questions, chances are at some point in time you have enabled your adult child to avoid his own responsibilities—to escape the consequences of his actions. Rather than help your child grow into a productive and responsible adult, you have made it easier for him to get worse.
Click here to buy Allison Botke’s book.
-John Schwary, Recovery Connections