Upon learning that one’s child has an addiction, emotions can soar and parents may immediately start looking for someone or something to point their finger at. Unfortunately, many parents fail to recognize that they themselves share some of the blame. In fact, many compassionate parents have fallen into the trap of enabling their child’s bad habits. This tendency for parents to enable stems from feelings of guilt, shame, and a desire to see an end to their child’s suffering.
It is vital that parents understand how enabling, even with the best intentions, can result in grave consequences for their child and prolong the battle with substance abuse. This information also identifies how parents stop enabling patterns for good.
What Is Enabling?
Enabling refers to taking over activities that a person with a substance abuse problem should be able to handle on their own. It may seem natural for parents to offer assistance to their children battling a substance abuse disorder, but doing so may only prolong the addiction by making the habit easier to maintain.
Another form of enabling is any action taken to cover for an addict’s self-destructive or irresponsible behavior while using drugs. This includes cleaning the child’s home before company arrives, replacing ruined clothes and making excuses to teachers or supervisors. These behaviors prevent an addicted child from feeling the consequences of his or her choices. As a result, they are shielded from the negative feelings that might otherwise encourage them to end their substance abuse habit.
How Parents Stop Enabling
It’s can be hard for any parent to distinguish between enabling behavior and support that can help their children to lead a healthier lifestyle. Before providing any assistance to a child with an addiction, parents should ask themselves, “Will this make it easier for him or her to continue using?” If the answer is yes, then the activity is likely enabling. The following examples illustrate two of the most common traps that parents find themselves falling into as they try to assist a child with a substance abuse problem.
One of the golden rules of dealing with substance abuse in the family is this: never buy the addicted person drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, parents should only assist with financial problems if they can do so via direct payments.
Addiction naturally begins to turn its victims into master manipulators who will do anything to achieve their desired high. Because they are willing to mislead their family members for cash, it is important for parents to not let their love for their children blind them to the truth.
Parents may even feel tempted to provide a child with money for drugs or alcohol if withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest. Many drugs like alcohol and heroin entail severe withdrawal symptoms that can be very painful for those experiencing them. If a child reaches this point, it’s time to encourage them to seek treatment instead of prolonging their life-threatening habit.
Many people with substance abuse problems eventually turn to illegal activity to maintain their habits. The first instinct of many parents may be to turn a blind eye to this activity, or even provide some type of support. However, theft, driving under the influence and purchasing illegal drugs is more likely to put a person in jail than it is to help them control their substance abuse habit. In these situations, parents need to know that they can reach their children through an intervention rather than passively waiting for their children to hit rock bottom.
Handling Substance Abuse with Professional Help
Breaking enabling habits can be difficult, especially for parents who cannot stand the sight of their child in pain. In many cases, working with a professional interventionist can shed light on enabling behaviors and help parents recognize the damage they are doing despite their best intentions.
At Family First Intervention, we recognize the critical role that family plays in supporting a person struggling with substance abuse. Our professional interventionists fly all over the country to meet with families coping with addiction and offer ongoing guidance through an extremely difficult time. Working with a professional interventionist is one of the best things parents can do for a child struggling with addiction.
Find Out Why Parents Are Prone to Enabling Their Child’s Self-Destructive Addiction