How Enabling Can Make Addiction More Dangerous

mother holding her daughter and kissing her cheek

Parental Instincts

You love your children. You believe in them. They mean the world to you. You want the best for them. You want to do your best for them. You worked hard to provide for them. Put a roof over their head. Made sure they were fed. Gave them a place to sleep. You want for them to succeed; to have things life didn’t afford to you. You offered the wisdom you had. You taught them. You trained them. Your children are your single biggest investment. It’s reasonable to want a return on that investment, right? They ought to be able to turn their lives into something. Shouldn’t they?

Denial and Deflection

You might think nothing is wrong. You may justify your child’s addiction. Or try to minimize it. “Well,” you might say. “They’re still in school.” Or, “they can still hold down a job.” Remember: drug abuse doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Addiction has an array of contributing factors. And one of those is a person’s home life. If you discover that your child is using, even once, ask questions. You should want to know why.

What Is Enabling?

In our quest to help our children, we want to spare them consequences. We want to protect them from their mistakes. This protective desire is normal. And healthy in many cases. But it can have a disadvantage. No matter how well intended our actions, they can enable our children to keep using. Enabling behaviors encourage or inspire continued substance abuse in our loved ones.

It’s an unfortunate consequence. If we shield our children from consequences, we can rob them of the impetus to change. As a result, they will have no desire to seek treatment. If an addiction continues unabated, it can cause irreversible health problems. Up to, and including, death.

Step Out Of Denial

“My child is an addict.” A very hard thing to say out loud. Even harder to believe. But that’s the first step, which is often the most difficult. Before we can begin to genuinely help our kids, we have to admit their problems. Try it. Put these words together. My. Child. Is. An. Addict. You must square up to this reality. You must acknowledge it. Don’t wait for a tragedy, like a lost job or failing grades. Intervene now. It might arouse anger, mistrust, guilt, or frustration. But not addressing the addiction will make it worse for you. And worse for your child.

I Admit My Child Is Addicted. Now What?

Cultivate trust. Trust is the essential ingredient in getting your child help. To cultivate trust, practice active listening. Look them in the eye. Ask them open-ended questions about their experiences. Respond with your body, as well as your voice. Nod. Use verbal affirmations (“yes, “I see,” “uh-huh,” “go on,” etc.). If you don’t understand something they say, then tell them so. Feel free to ask clarifying questions. Don’t offer advice. Don’t make any statements until they finish speaking. Once they are done, repeat back to them how you understand what they said. Preface with something like, “So, what I hear you saying is…” or, “let me make sure I understand…” Even if you get it wrong, it’s the effort that cultivates trust.

If you, or someone you love, is struggling with addiction, don’t wait. Treatment is available. If you’d like more information, call Harmony Treatment and Wellness now at 772-247-6180.


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