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How to Stop Enabling Your Grown Child
10.30.2020

How to Stop Enabling Your Grown Child’s Addiction

Parents all over the country can understand how any type of threat to their children can produce that stomach-dropping, heart-pounding physical response. For parents with children addicted to drugs and alcohol, that threat occurs on a daily basis, as does that uneasy feeling. Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t just disappear once children become adults, as parents will forever love and care for their children unconditionally regardless of their age. If you are the parent to a grown child with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, then you know this to be true. You also know that even though they are an adult, your grown child’s wellbeing is of the utmost importance to you, and ensuring that they stay as safe as possible is your first and foremost natural instinct. But, sometimes that instinct can become problematic, especially if you begin enabling your grown child in their active addiction.

What is Enabling? 

Enabling your grown child means that you are actively participating in their ability to continue and sustain their addiction. You may be fully aware that you are an enabler to your grown child, but you may not know what to do to stop. Conversely, you may not realize that the interactions you have with your grown child are enabling their addiction. This disease is complex and confusing and can make even the most present-of-mind individuals temporarily lose their senses.

The most common signs of enabling an addict or alcoholic include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Making excuses for your grown child when they experience a consequence of their addiction (e.g. telling others that your child works really hard, so they deserve to go out drinking to let loose)
  • Covering for your grown child when their addiction might get them in trouble (e.g. hiding drug paraphernalia for them)
  • Actively helping your child fund and/or obtain drugs or alcohol, such as by driving them to pick up drugs and giving them money to pay for it
  • Allowing your grown child to live in your house, utilize your money, and benefit from your provision of basic human needs like clothing and heat while they are continuing their substance abuse 

These are just some of the ways that parents enable their children, even if they are grown up. In most cases, a parent’s enabling comes from their desire to help their child, but in fact, their enabling only makes the situation worse. Parents also tend to find themselves engaging in enabling behaviors as a way to control an uncontrollable situation. 

How to Stop Enabling Your Grown Child

No matter why or how you are engaging in this behavior, it is critical that you learn how to stop enabling your grown child. By doing so, you can help maintain your own personal health and wellbeing while also keeping from contributing to your child’s addiction. This is certainly not easy to do considering the parent-child relationship, but ending all enabling behaviors is vital if you want your child to have a chance at recovery. Some things that you can do right now to end the cycle of enabling include the following:

Do not tolerate abusive behavior

An unfortunate side effect of addiction is that the addict/alcoholic can quickly begin treating their loved ones poorly. This results from mood swings, irritability, and agitation associated with their use, as well as the underlying issues they may be experiencing. You are receiving the brunt of your grown child’s addiction if they yell at you, demean you, show no regard for your things, or manipulate you into supporting their substance abuse. Recognizing this behavior allows you to say ‘no’ or walk away when your grown child is behaving this way, showing them that their actions towards you are not acceptable.

Set healthy boundaries

Set healthy boundaries by evaluating your own personal situation. Make your boundaries as broad or specific as you like. Whatever bothers you regarding your grown child’s addiction can serve as your inspiration for the boundaries you develop. Some common boundaries that parents set on their addicted children both young and grown include:

  • No drinking or using drugs in the house
  • No living at your house while drinking or using drugs
  • No provision of finances for any reason
  • No mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive behavior allowed

Boundaries often provoke the development of ultimatums, which can be helpful in maintaining these boundaries as well as ending enabling behaviors. 

Uphold ultimatums 

Ultimatums are highly important when your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol. They put you back in the driver’s seat and allow you to maintain as much of your own inner peace as possible. A parent who is out of control because of their child’s addiction will not be an effective part of their recovery. So, decide what your ultimatums may be if your child crosses your boundaries. Whatever those may be, commit to yourself that you will uphold them at all costs. Failure to follow through with your ultimatums will give your child the green light to keep using under your watch. 

Seek help for yourself

Parents, especially mothers, tend to put their own wellbeing on the back burner in an effort to support the wellbeing of their children. This is a natural instinct and highly beneficial in many ways, however if you are not caring for yourself during this time, you cannot expect to be able to care for your grown child. This is not to say that you are responsible for your child, rather you are responsible with how you deal with their addiction and maintain your health during this time. Support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can be critical lifelines when it comes to developing positive coping skills and healing, as can reaching out to a professional therapist or psychologist. Your mental and physical health matters just as much as anyone else’s. The best way you can prepare to help your grown child with their addiction is to ensure that you are as well as possible.

Does Your Child Need Addiction Treatment? 

If your child, young or old, needs professional addiction treatment, reach out to us right now. We understand how complicated the disease of addiction can be, which is why we encourage you to call us today. We can help you get your child the care they need. 

Do not wait. Call us right now.

Listen to Podcasts
Season 3, Episode 31: 29 Years of Recovery w/ Andy V.