There is no arguing that parenting is one of the most complex and difficult jobs in existence–and that’s when your child is generally healthy and happy. When your child is suffering from a complex problem like drug addiction, parenting can become incredibly overwhelming, especially when you consider that most parents will do anything to help their child. But when does helping become enabling?
Helping vs. Enabling
When it comes to rendering assistance to a drug addicted child, there is a marked difference between helping them and enabling them. When you help someone, you are doing something for them that they cannot do for themselves and that aids them in their survival. When you enable someone, you are doing something for them that they could and should be doing for themselves. When you enable a drug addicted child, you actually make it possible for them to continue abusing drug substances by preventing them from facing all of the consequences of their drug use. Helping a drug abusing child may actually allow them to step onto the path to recovery, while enabling a drug abusing child may prevent them from ever locating this path. But how do you know where to draw the line in what assistance to give them? Following are 5 signs that you’re enabling your child’s drug use:
1. You are covering up your child’s behavior. Drug addiction will affect every aspect of an individual’s life, and if they have to face the consequences of their actions they may just find enough reason to do something to change it. But if their drug-related behaviors are covered up by others, they are prevented from facing the consequences of their actions. If your child is drug addicted and you want to help them, you should refuse to cover up their behavior for them–which means that when they are hungover you won’t call their boss and lie about why they can’t make it to work, or make excuses to family members and friends for their absence or behavior. It’s true, allowing others to recognize that your child is drug addicted can be embarrassing, but worrying about the social stigma that may be related to having a drug addicted child is completely irrelevant to helping your child conquer their addiction.
2. Giving or even loaning your child money. Giving or loaning money to a drug addicted individual is tantamount to placing more drugs in their hands, because that’s exactly what all the money they come into contact with will be used for. Unfortunately, children often know how to prey on their parents’ emotions–spinning fantastic stories about how they are starving and just need to buy more food in order to survive. However, if they weren’t spending money on drugs they could buy their own food, and giving or loaning them money “just once” tells them that you are willing to bail them out and they won’t have to experience the unpleasant consequences of their actions.
3. Failing to follow through on ultimatums given. When parents discover their child’s drug use, they often attempt to handle it by speaking with their child directly and then issuing ultimatums. For example, a parent may tell their child that they will be kicked out if they continue to use drugs. There is nothing wrong with giving an ultimatum–as long as one follows through on them. Again, an individual who is abusing drug substances must experience the consequences of their actions if they are to be expected to do anything about them. Empty threats may actually drive your child to become bolder about their drug use, because they may begin to realize that you just don’t have the guts to do anything about it. You need to take action so that they know their drug use will not be tolerated and does not come without consequences.
4. Blaming yourself or others for their actions. Your child will undoubtedly try to place the blame for their actions on others, maybe even you, and you absolutely cannot allow this to happen. It’s true that they may have been exposed to drugs through certain friends or situations, but it was they alone who chose to use these substances and they alone who are responsible for their actions. Blaming anyone else once again stops them from facing the full consequences of their actions.
5. Picking up their responsibilities. A drug addicted individual uses every thought and effort to obtain and use more drug substances, which means that they will slowly and steadily drop all of their responsibilities. If you pick up these responsibilities for them, they can continue to function this way, and have no reason for trying to resolve their drug use. It is important that their dropped responsibilities fall onto their shoulders so that they recognize their inability to continue functioning in life while maintaining their drug addiction.
There is no arguing that remaining firm with a drug addicted child will be incredibly difficult. They may cry and beg for help, and it’s your job to recognize that what they consider to be helpful is actually incredibly harmful. Be honest and open with them, but make it absolutely clear that you refuse to support or condone further drug use, and will only help them with recovery.