06-Jeff photo shoot 327

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli Cecconi

A mother wrote me to: My son is back in detox for the second time in less than four months. Hopefully this time he will also go through rehab and stay sober, but I don’t know. I pray that his journey will not be long and hard, but somehow I fear it may. I pray that I have the strength and knowledge to know the difference between helping my son and enabling him. 

My reflection: I was never very good at knowing where the line was between enabling and helping. Addiction forced me to make decisions that were difficult and, oftentimes, life threatening. In the end, I learned to stay close, but out of the way of the chaos. It’s an inexact science, but I found a way to love my son without being tossed around by the waves of his addiction.

Today’s Promise: I admit that I don’t always know how best to help my child, but I will continue to learn. I will not blame, accuse or berate. I will be an active participant in my support groups, stay close and trust God.


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11 Comments on "HELPING OR ENABLING?"

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Karen maragioglio

I am going to meet with my sons counselor today… He too is in an inpatient program….I do not want him back in my home…he is 37…. I have enabled and closed my eyes to things he has done in the hopes I was doing the right thing….I wasn’t….. I now need to be strong, tough and stick to my decision…but I am so scared of what cod happen….

Linda Capasso

After 17+ yrs of struggling w our son’s addiction
We still also battle everyday w that fine line.
Going to our support group,Learn2Cope,is
helpful,but unfortunately there’s no easy
“How to” pamphlet in dealing w this ugly
disease,& the family’s role in it.I can only hope
the huge damage done to our family isn’t

It is heart wrenching to know the difference between enabling and helping. I got a lot of advice, from people at Alanon and from friends. And I stopped talking about what I was dealing with so I could avoid advice that was upsetting to me. I tried to focus on what felt right in my heart and my daughter has thanked me many times since for never losing hope. I once visited my daughter when she was in jail and she was crying,afraid that I wouldn’t come. Addicts are afraid of losing the love that they so need. I learned… Read more »
Jay Frost

My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family and your son. My son too is struggling with this awful disease (only 16 years young). Tough to know what is right to do but I have found my faith in God to be huge and my support groups of Al Anon and Nar Anon. God Bless.

Beryl Singleton Bissell

How true. We never really know if the decisions we make are the right one. I found this one of the most agonizing aspects of loving our addicted children.

pat nichols
I eventually learned to ask myself just two questions, is what I am about to do and/or say (1) helping addiction destroy my child or is what I am about to do and/or say (2) bringing my child’s recovery date in closer? In order to answer those two questions correctly I had to educate myself “fully” on the disease of addiction. I became a P.E. (Parent Expert), it took me thirteen years to get this designation at a cost of over $150,000.00 !!!! 🙂 In addition to my own education – getting the correct answer required me calling my alcohol/drug… Read more »
Jane ciaramella
Thank you Libby for a topic that is always a difficult one for most of us. I struggled with this too. Eventually I always asked myself the same two questions Pat just described. I used the Al Anon slogan , think, and paused before making decisions involving him. It did not create perfect decisions but it helped me structure my decision making. I also found some decisions could be life altering or life threatening. It was down right scary. But we are not in control of much on this journey. Staying close was sometimes hard when my son was so… Read more »
This question became such a source of torment for me ,for us, for our family –when to help ,when to say no –because SO many times everyone was in a different place — when one of us was “say no” — they can’t come home this time, or no to giving help, another family member was” we have to help”. So this very question “what to do what to do what to do” started to define what hell we were in — doing nothing felt wrong, praying until knees were worn out gave no answers either. Then? I found Libby’s… Read more »
My son was hooked on crystal meth 4 years ago. We staged an intervention in NYC,(I live in MI) and he got clean in an out patient setting and has moved back to MI with his partner. His partner just informed me my son is using again and I am struggling mightily about my role. I am letting his partner take the lead..which I truly think is the right thing to do. He seems to be doing some of the right things, but he is co dependent and I worry if he has the strength to stand up to my… Read more »
I am so grateful for the messages here, and that I took the time to read them. They give me strength and hope. Because my son has been incarcerated for 17 months, and twice lost privileges for using in jail, I have detached more than ever, and have asked him not to write to ask me for anymore money. I haven’t heard from him in six weeks, and now I am starting to feel those codependent pangs of anxiety and loss. But the messages here remind me that I have to make these tough decisions, but I can still love… Read more »
A very timely post as we have just brought our 22 yo son home from rehab this evening. It is his first time in rehab but he has struggled with heroin addiction the past 3 years – tried methadone then suboxone because he just wasn’t ready for rehab — until now. I have learned a lot this past month – and I struggle with wanting to keep him safe and yet not enable him to use again. I am frightened that he will overdose if he uses now but I tell myself that if he uses, that it is his… Read more »