IMG_1696A mother wrote to me:What is enabling? Webster’s dictionary says, “to make possible, practical, or easy.” How simple this sounds. Why would a parent want to make it easy for a child to destroy himself? My aunt said to me yesterday, “You need to have guidelines and discipline in your house.” I just thought to myself: I would love to have that. I am a mom trying to raise three kids and one is an addict. I am not so sure what rules I am to follow.

My reflection: Dr. MacAfee says enabling is anything that maintains the status quo, the pattern of behavior that’s currently in place. Trying to break the status quo required me to step back and allow Jeff to face the consequences of his addiction, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Saying ‘no’ to my son and staying close without withdrawing love took me fourteen years to learn.

Today’s Promise to consider:Today, I will not enable my loved one to maintain the status quo, the patterns that are destroying his life. I will let him feel the consequences of his addiction. I will stay close, but out of the chaos.





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9 years ago

How I related to this week’s meditation. When you stated that it was the hardest thing you ever had to do, to let Jeff suffer his own consequences, I had pondered it.

When I had to let my son go, it was the most difficult thing I ever had to do in my life. When I say, “let my son go”, I mean, to allow him to face his consequence at any price. The price was his life. But, even though it took his life, I no longer blame myself. It was not my fault. And, that was the second most difficult thing in my life – not blaming myself.

Enabling is part of addiction. It’s something that we have to learn to control. And, that is very very difficult. It’s difficult to love your addicted child, and stay out of the chaos.

Addiction is complicated and the complications are complex. There are no real answers, are there. We can only try our best to stay out of the way, but also show our addicted one, that we love them unconditionally.

It took a lifetime for me to learn how to love my son, support him, without enabling him. Addiction is lifelong learning. And, we can learn, learn, learn, forever. But, it never makes it easier. What makes it easier, is people like you, Libby, and all who come here to share their experiences with addiction.

pat nichols
9 years ago

This weeks meditation really gets to the heart of a parent.

When addiction forces you to your knees and you reach your moment of desperation reach out to the God of your understanding and let Him know you are willing. He will not fail you. He will never leave your addicted child. He can be trusted fully regardless of the depth addiction may take your child. Believe. Let go. Trust.

Enter into the room filled with love, understanding and compassion. Rooms like Al-Anon and Families Anonymous. Here is where your fellow travelers will give you the strength to persist. Even in the darkest moment you will have the contact information of another mom/dad who you can talk with. Priceless. Life saving.

And know with every consequence your child is faced with he/she is taking the next step to lasting recovery. They are steps only they can take.

You have every right and every reason to believe that one day you will get back a child in recovery. Yes, we know that there are no guarantees but it will serve absolutely no purpose to focus on your worst fears.

There are over twenty-two million Americans in recovery today from “problematic” consequences due to mind altering substances. Your child will very likely be one of them. Never give up.

Stay out of their way BUT continue to give them the one thing they will need to survive – love.

This is what I have learned in my twenty-two year journey.

Barbara, thank you for sharing. Your posts are priceless.

9 years ago

Dear Libby, Barbara and Pat…
I am grateful for your posts, today and always. Thank YOU. So meaningful… In so many ways.

The following is a post on my son’s FaceBook today:

“I hate the disease of addiction. I’ve lost so many relationships and close friends due to the fact that this thing we fight on a daily basis is so powerful that it constantly taunts us, whenever we are confused, sad, lonely and even happy. I love all my friends, and all the people I know who are still out there. I’m riding for you guys, just in a different lane right now…”

My son, Michael, seems to truly understand the concept of staying close, offering love and hope, and not enabling. I am still learning. Michael is feeling the heartbreak brought on by the recent relapse of several of his very close friends. Friends, that like him, were also at about a year and a half in recovery. My heart breaks with him and for his friends and their families.

My son has nearly 16 months clean; I Thank God every day for Michael’s strength in recovery. Because of this, the biggest crack in my heart gets a little bit smaller by the day.

NOT enabling is a very hard concept to learn… And one that is even harder to put into practice. It’s not ‘one day at a time’, it’s moment by moment.

9 years ago

Hello Barbara, Pat, Libby, Susan
The topic and everyone’s shares are very helpful this week. Excellent reminders, this is so hard. Everyday I wonder about enabling and think about what I should and should not do. As Barbara said we can spend a lifetime leaning. Barbara thank you for all of your wisdom and selfless sharing.
Pat- good advice
Thank you for this weeks meditation Libby. Good reminders to keep us aware
Love to all

9 years ago

I think this question is one of the most difficult for parents of addicts to figure out. When I finally stopped enabling, my son had to deal with some dire consequences of his addiction. Sometimes I think my enabling did help keep him alive, but it also helped to keep him in addiction, which was no way for him (or our family!) to live. Now that he is in prison, the difficult question still persists. I think that when an addict stops using, the question of enabling can be even more difficult because we tend to forget the monster addict that we let go of, and we want to become loving, “helpful”, supportive parents again. Dr. MacAfee’s definition-maintaining the status quo-helps me because it reminds me that although my son seems to be clean and more appreciative of his family, my pattern of behavior with him has to continue to change. Thank you Libby for sharing such important information.

9 years ago

Dear Laura,

I re-read your posting this morning and my heart bled for you because your son is in prison. I remember when my son was in prison. It was the last time I heard his voice.

It’s so difficult when your loved one is in prison. At first, when my son was in prison, I sent him goodie boxes. Lots of them. Then, I questioned, is this enabling? Well, let’s just say that the goodie boxes got fewer and fewer.

There is a fine line between enabling and loving the addict. Finding the tightrope balance on that line can be very Hard.

All we can do, as parents, is the best we can.

While your son is incarcerated, I pray that you will find the balance. I pray that your son will find sobriety after he returns to civilization. May he find a support group, because I know he is loved.

With love,

9 years ago

Thank you Barbara. I know you understand and I hear your message.

9 years ago

I found not only strength from reading your book but also relief. Relief because I’m not alone. I think I am weak but he knows what buttons to push and how to beat down my resolve.

Today I refused to allow my son to “sleep in his car outside my house” because he has no where to stay (again). I will not let him come to my house unless he is clean and is working. He has not hit bottom and I cannot dwell on the day he does because it is like a festering wound inside of me and it will consume me if I don’t stop it.

I’m not “being mean” or hateful or a bad mother.

I will continue to work on listening, keeping him close, loving, and finding that balance. But I will not enable, will not be used, as this person who is my son is under the influence of the disease and therefore not the boy I raised. I want him back but he has to come back on his own. I can’t threaten, make deals, or listen to promises that are never kept. I won’t anymore.

It is so hard but I’ll make it. I’ll reach out for the support of others who are in my same situation.

Thank you!