How to Stop Enabling Your Addicted Son or Daughter and Support Their Recovery

Is it hard to understand what enabling really means and what it might look like in your life? There may be certain things you do that are stalling your adult child’s chances for treatment and recovery. Hence, there are specific ways that you can stop enabling and start supporting them in a healthy direction. With professional treatment, the whole family can gain greater clarity around productive choices and behaviors for healthy growth.

When our children are younger, the support and attention they need is a fairly black-and-white equation. But as they get older, the support and attention they really need become a more challenging-to-decipher gray area. It’s challenging to decipher, and it’s challenging to act on—a healthy balance of stepping forward in support and stepping back to let them live their own life firsthand. The difficulty can be even more acute when your adult child struggles with addiction.

Whether it’s a matter of denial or just not knowing what the right actions really are, your behaviors could very well be contributing to the mess of drug or alcohol addiction. You may be denying them the opportunity to find another way forward—even if the lessons along the way are rough. Let’s get real about the impact of your behaviors and how to actually stop enabling your addicted son or daughter.

What Are Some Enabling Behaviors?

Have you loaned your son or daughter money? To pay the rent? To buy groceries? To go out with friends? For an unspecified reason? Have you made excuses for them when they failed to complete something or to show up at all? Have you put up with disrespect or suppressed your own better judgment when making decisions around them? At the time, it might seem like you’re being a compassionate parent by saving them from suffering. But you may just be prolonging the suffering because they’re likely to continue in this self-destructive pattern of addiction—seemingly without consequences.

If you refuse to hand over the money they need for rent, they will need to face the very real consequences of their desperate and backward priorities. If, however, you cover them “this time,” they may take the money and go right back to the bottle or the drug without a thought for what trouble that habit might lead to in the future. You have denied them the opportunity to learn and grow. They are leaving the possibility of resilience behind.

Tips on How to Stop Enabling Your Addicted Son or Daughter

If what you are about to help your addicted child with is something they could be doing on their own if they weren’t using drugs or alcohol, that is your clue not to do that thing for them. If you try to help in these ways, you’re making it okay for them to keeping making destructive choices because they aren’t feeling the effects of the destruction. Instead, try the following:

Don’t continue to turn over money for their living expenses, to bail them out of jail, for indulgences, or even for your own better intentions of building them a new life.

Don’t make excuses or apologize to their employer for an absence, to friends and family for their inappropriate behavior, to yourself in order to sustain your denial.

Don’t clean up their messes—whether literal or figurative in the midst of relationships or responsibilities.

Don’t turn a blind eye to intolerable behaviors, including theft, disrespect and abuse, late-night phone calls, or failure to follow through on responsibilities.

Don’t use drugs or alcohol with them even if you think that you might be able to help control their usage or gain their trust.

> Do set boundaries around them using in your home or coming over when they’re intoxicated. Set boundaries where you will no longer be participating in their active addiction.

Don’t put off professional help, thinking that you will be able to fix them or support them through this alone.

> Do reach out to a drug rehab and treatment center to start a conversation about the treatment options and next steps for your family.

Don’t isolate or try to hide what is going on with you or with your addicted daughter or son.

> Do find some support group meetings and keep going back in order to rediscover your power and your perspective of what is positive and productive.

Hope is Just a Phone Call Away


The Treatment Answer for Lasting Recovery for the Whole Family

When you enable your son or daughter’s addiction, you are participating in it. And they are not the only one suffering; the whole family feels the fallout of the addict’s lifestyle, their attitude, and their hopelessness. But the situation is not hopeless: You can turn the page of new possibilities at any moment.

You certainly can support your adult child without enabling them. Initially, it’s important to have an expert’s perspective and guidance to gain more clarity into which of your behaviors are helpful and which are actually harmful. And ultimately, your daughter or son needs clinical care to help them overcome the major hurdles of their substance dependency and the addictive, destructive behaviors that have become like second nature to them.

Once they do get involved in a comprehensive treatment program, they will have access to safe, medical detox, well-rounded psychiatric care, holistic therapies, and lasting recovery resources. In fact, the whole family will have a chance to participate in healthy new coping strategies and long-term planning for a brighter future.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.