Whether you have toddlers, teens, or adult children, making parental decisions is difficult. Having an eternal perspective rather than thinking of the “here and now” is a learned skill that can come by trusting in the Lord and being close to the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
As parents, we worry… all the time. Watching a child struggle with addiction is a whole new ballgame. It is a devastating endeavor and a rollercoaster of emotions. It often helps to educate yourself on your child’s disease and first to come to complete terms with the fact that, yes, it is a disease. Classes, webinars, and other informational resources offered by local addiction recovery centers and community drug and alcohol rehab programs can be powerful educational tools.
Dealing with substance abuse is like drowning. Even if you know how to swim and come up for air, your brain craves to swim deeper and deeper. And the deeper you swim, the harder it is to counteract that voice in your brain telling you to keep going into the dark, deep waters.
Whether it’s to satisfy your loved one at the moment or your instinct’s way of keeping your child safe, enablers encourage people with an addiction to keep swimming deeper. Eradicating your enabling mindset can help save your child’s life.
What is Enabling?
Enabling your child means actively participating in their ability to continue and sustain their addiction. Maybe you don’t even know your decisions are enabling your adult child’s addiction. Or perhaps you are entirely aware of your enabling role but do not know how to stop. This disease is complex. Your child is unique. Dealing with substance abuse can lead even the most present-minded parent into a dark and confusing hole of conflict.
Some of the biggest signs of enabling behavior include:
- Allowing your adult child to live under your roof, utilize your money, and comfortably benefit from your provision of basic human needs such as heat, food, and clothing.
- Making excuses for your grown child when they face a consequence of their addiction.
- Covering up for your child when they get into trouble related to their substance abuse, e.g., hiding drugs for them, making up lies, or paying a fee to get them out of something.
- Aiding in and helping to fund their addiction, such as driving them to pick up drugs or alcohol and giving them money for it.
Often, a parent’s role in enabling comes from their desire to help their child, but enabling always makes the situation worse, and the sooner you stop being an enabler, the better. Sometimes, enabling is a parent’s desperate way to control an uncontrollable situation. It often begins a messy cycle that grows out of hand in the blink of an eye.
How to Stop Being an Enabler
It doesn’t matter why or how you started enabling your child, it’s time to stop.
Close your eyes and think about what is best for your child. Ask the Lord to guide you as you make some big changes. Think about the path your enabling behavior will lead them down and the beautiful path of healing and repentance possible with some hard, but necessary changes.
You don’t want to be a part of the problem any longer. You want to be a part of the solution. A hand in the journey of healing, hopefulness, and happiness. Although those may seem unattainable right now, and you may be feeling the exact opposite emotions, it’s time to put your best foot forward, stop being an enabler, and give your grown child a chance at recovery.
Four Ways to Eradicate Your Enabling Behavior
1. Don’t Tolerate Abusive Behaviour
One very heartbreaking symptom of addiction is that the person abusing substances can begin to treat their loved ones in an abusive way. Addiction brings on mood swings, irritability, and agitation. When addiction takes over, it can turn the person you care about into someone unrecognizable. This can be devastating for a parent. Know that is not the real son or daughter that you know and love. It’s the monster of addiction. It has hijacked their mind and turned their life upside down.
It’s common for substance abusers to yell at you, demean you, disrespect you, and manipulate you into supporting their addiction. Being aware of this behavior and role-playing with yourself to prepare for situations of manipulation can help you to say “no” and stick to your guns. Remove yourself from the situation when your child is disrespecting you. Show them that you will not tolerate it.
2. Set and Stick to Boundaries
We’ve all done it in parenting — we set the rules, but then we don’t enforce them. Setting boundaries is crucial in letting your child know what is and isn’t acceptable behavior; sticking to them is everything. Here are some examples of boundaries you might set:
- No drugs or alcohol under your roof
- No living under your roof while using drugs or alcohol
- No provision of finances
- No physical, mental, or emotional abuse allowed of any kind
3. Offer Ultimatums
Whether in marriage, friendship, or parenthood, we often set ultimatums when we have reached our limits. And ultimatums can be a great tool in putting you back in the driver’s seat, taking a stand, and allowing you to advocate for your peace and sanity.
When setting boundaries for your son or daughter, set ultimatums to which you will hold them if they cross your boundaries. Be consistent, insistent, and uphold them at all costs. Show your child that walking all over you isn’t an option. Failure to enforce your ultimatums will show your child that you’re not serious and may give them the green light to keep partaking in their unhealthy habits under your roof.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Parents, especially mothers, are notorious for caring for everyone except themselves. It’s a natural motherly instinct to put their self-care on the backburner to focus on the children.
When your child struggles heavily with substance abuse, you must put your oxygen mask on first before helping them with theirs.
Don’t be afraid of therapy. If you have been an avid exerciser, don’t stop now. Your mental health matters, and it is not selfish to care for yourself so that you can be there for your struggling adult child. Becoming an enabler can happen so quickly that you feel the damage is done. This brings on guilt. Your child’s addiction is not your fault. Be patient with yourself and give yourself grace. There is hope in Christ.
5. Pray for Strength
Sometimes we get so caught up trying to fix things as fast as we can that we forget to sit still for a minute, pray, and listen to what God puts on our heart. If you desperately need guidance, turn to the Master himself. It’s not hard to pray with a sincere heart and real intent when praying for your child. Pray for little and big miracles. Pray for the right approach. Pray that your child will turn to Him. Pray for clarity. Praying is a powerful tool and can be the one act that brings us peace on the most helpless days.
There have been thousands of parents, just like you, who could never comprehend the light at the end of the tunnel but somehow mustered the strength to put forth even 1% of faith and got their adult child on the path to recovery. Save them from drowning by throwing them a lifeline. Hope can return, a normal life is attainable, and a Christian-based rehabilitation center is a great place to start.