HELPING OR ENABLING?

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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Karen maragioglio
Karen maragioglio
6 years ago

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
Linda Capasso
6 years ago

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
irreparable.

Susan
Susan
6 years ago

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 to only listen when someone was going through a tough time and not give advice or judge his/her choices. I came to dislike the word “enabling” because it confuses people and I learned to “stay close.”

Jay Frost
Jay Frost
6 years ago

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.
Jay

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
6 years ago

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 counselor and then my twelve step sponsor. If I failed to do these last two actions I could lose my P.E. designation! 🙂 If I could summarize in one short sentence what I have learned over all these years it is this, I am not in control, God is.

Jane ciaramella
Jane ciaramella
6 years ago

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 sick. It affected us all so deeply. Sometimes total detachment was necessary for a while and prayer was my only contact. Bottom line is that you need to get out of the way. When it is a parent child relationship, this is a very hard thing to do, when your natural instinct is to protect.
This is why a strong support group is essential. We need the support
Jane

joy
joy
6 years ago

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 book and this site.

Stay close, out of chaos.

Yes, yes .yes. Not always easy but to keep loving, keep loving.

Yes, that was it. This meant my son in my house detoxing –(but only once )– but sometimes loving meant being braver than I have ever been. Having to answer to emotional blackmail with saying “I love you so much and if you decide to kill yourself I will be in grief forever, but I cannot send you money. I cannot. I know you are still in active addiction. The money I send might kill you. Again, I love you. Good bye.”

I am writing this because I want anyone who comes here to know every day is STILL a day at a time for my son and always will be –but after 17 years he is free of illegal drugs,managing his mental health better tun he ever has, and building a life of hope and purpose.

We pray on. BUT LIBBY & this site saved me in so many ways.

I want to say to every one and remind myself — never do anything out of fear and do what your DEEP heart says –forget the word enabling even — keep the faith. Never ever give up on someone you love or hope-even if you distance yourself from them –and say no to them , keep them in prayers and heart. Also, when safe and you feel you can, share your story — help educate others-because none of us needs judgement.
Parents –love yourselves, do not let the disease torture you. Then “it” wins. If you are here — you already love your child. The journey they are on IS part of your journey and spiritual learning on this earth, but it is theirs — not yours to fix or solve. I wish I had known that sooner. But I am still on huge learning curve.

Libby — you and all who come here are in my heart in my prayers every day and I give deep thanks to ALL of you.

Susie
Susie
6 years ago
Reply to  joy

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 son’s very strong personality. Any advice would be appreciated

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

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 and pray for him. I am going to write a letter to my son today and send the family pictures that he asked for and tell him that I love him, and I am grateful that he hasn’t tried to cross the new boundaries that I set.

barbara
barbara
6 years ago

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 decision. I can’t control him or his addiction. I stay close but this is his journey. For Laura — send the pictures. I believe they need to know that they are loved but you don’t have to let them take advantage of you.