ENABLING THE ADDICT: PART I

Jeff - Camogli - 1Jeff told me, There is a difference between enabling the addict and supporting his recovery. Active addicts are great liars and manipulators – they have to be because those behaviors help protect the using, the one thing we’re most afraid of losing. Addicts are not trying to hurt their families, but parents are typically the easiest places to find money. It’s helpful when parents support the sobriety process, but often the addict manipulates their desire to help and those resources (money, places to live, cars, etc.) are used to continue using. 

My reflection: Jeff’s addiction lasted fourteen years. While it is true that he was in love with drugs, it is also true that I was part of the problem. We once spoke in Oklahoma, and a man in the audience asked Jeff, “If your mother had quit paying for everything, do you think your run with addiction could have been shortened?” Jeff answered, “Addicts need money and we can find it in lots of places, but my mom made it a whole lot easier.”

Today’s Promise to consider: There are times when it’s difficult to see the clear line between enabling and supporting our loved ones. I will allow my sons to feel the consequences of their choices because fixing their problems doesn’t help them. I will give them the opportunity to learn without my interference, but my emotional support is unwavering.

 

 

 

 

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Pat Nichols
9 years ago

Great post!

I was at that meeting! Did I ask that question? Sounds like something I would have asked, at that time. 🙂

You & Jeff touched many parents with your story that evening. Thank you both for sharing.

At one of our parent support group meetings our speaker, a psychologist, finished his presentation and asked for questions.

A mom asked, “What is it going to take to get my son to stop using?

The speaker paused for a few seconds and quietly said, “Pain.” he then paused a few more seconds and said loudly, “Pain.” The room was silent. Then he screamed out in a very loud voice, “PAIN!”

I don’t think that was what the audience wanted to hear. 🙂 However, he did follow up that statement with information that validated his use of the word “pain.”

I do believe I would have never accepted my own recovery through the Twelve Steps of Families Anonymous had I not had more pain than I could bear.

So, pain actually freed me from my unhealthy attachment to my addicted son. This, in turn, allowed my son the “opportunity” for his own recovery — much sooner.

Just my personal experiences.

Traci
Traci
9 years ago

I believe this…..my daughter was in and out of rehabs for 4yrs. I did everything to help but when I decided to move on and get married. She got clean without me and I let her figure it all out on her own.now on July 2 she will be clean1 yr. so proud of her and the person she has become… So we as parents needto let them figure it out own their own. I am so happy now with two clean children. I LOVE MY LIFE.!!!!!

Jane
Jane
9 years ago

Great great posts. Good reminders for me. Thank you for that. Pain is a motivator. Agreed

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Dear Pat,

When I read your comment, I smiled. Not sure who asked the question, but the direct quote was, “If your mother had quit being the Bank of America….” I enabled for many years, and I didn’t do anyone any favors – not Jeff, not Jeremy and not me. As Traci writes, ‘My daughter got clean without me.” I think of the Big Book, “I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That holds true for both the addict and us. I agree with Jane that pain is a motivator.

My love to you all.

L

Barbara
Barbara
9 years ago

I also agree with Pat and Jane. Pain is a motivator. The addict has to feel the pain to get sober. We, the parents, have to feel the pain to get freed from the addictions.

After all the pain that I’ve been through, losing my son and my grandson, I will stand tall, keep my faith, and know that God has a plan and this is all part of it.

Congratulations to Traci’s daughter! Clean 1 year!

My love to you all
Barbara

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Barbara, Happy to see you’re back and writing in. Thanks for staying close. We missed you. You and your family have been in our prayers. Love you!

Libby

Sallie Polk
Sallie Polk
9 years ago

Libby, a friend of mine passed along a couple of weeks ago. i immediately ordered your book and read it straight through often with tears streaming down my face. My son has been struggling with addiction with 6 years after a month and a half of hospital stays. The doctors so wanted to manage his pain. I didn’t realize what was happening. He left with healed lungs and the beginning of an addiction. Although the details of yiur story are different, the emotional and mental struggles as a mother are so similar.

And this week, my son heads back to college. There are still things out of kilter and the debate about supporting a sober, productive life versus enabling an addict is alive and well for me right now. And, I know that I am operating totally in place of fear right now. i will head back to Alanon meeting tomorrow so I can be with people walking the same path. I have lots of support but no one close who experienced the pain and grief of parenting an addict. After all the counseling, reading, etc. I am not equipped!!

For tonight, I am going to read you blog archive and all the other “mother” comments. It is the closet I can get tonight to feel support from those who know the struggle.

Thanks for opening your life-

Sallie Polk
Sallie Polk
9 years ago

PS. Sorry for the typos. It has been a long couple of days and I am weary…

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Dear Sallie,

Thanks for reaching out here. Addiction suffocates life and, as parents, I think we feel the pain as deeply as if it sears our very soul. I, too, wanted to know where was the line between supporting and enabling my son. It’s not easy to know the difference. We want to help, but sometimes our help actually hurts the addict.

I’m sure you’re weary and I understand. Please know that I am with you as is everyone on this blog. We are all parents joined together in hope and support. Going to Al-Anon saved my emotional life. I’m glad you’re going back.

My love to you,

L

Sallie Polk
Sallie Polk
9 years ago

Thank you, Libby,
One thing I didnt expect was the need for my son to relearn how the world works. Sobriety allows a familiar personailty to show itself. And yet, there are still problem behavior patterns that have to be worked on. It is so hard to watch and not reach out. Trying to remind myself that I can’t prevent a relapse by trying to remove obstacles or stress. I can’t love him enough to keep him sober. That’s his to own. Just like I wouldn’t take credit for his sobriety, I can’t take responsibility for creating a relapse. Somehow need to stay present but at an objective healthy distance.

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Dear Sallie,
Jeff once said, “When I got sober, I didn’t even know what color I liked.” His life was all about drugs and learning to live in a world without drugs was a huge challenge. He said, “I didn’t even know what to do on a date. What do normal people do on a Saturday night?” With all the learning and relearning they need to do, Dr. MacAfee says, “Addicts are saints in the making.”

I love your sentence, “Just like I wouldn’t take credit for his sobriety, I can’t take responsibility for creating a relapse.” Yes, Stay Close: Stay present, but out of the chaos (at an objective healthy distance). We’re here for you.