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Parent’s Guide to Drug Abuse: Signs You're Enabling

Parent’s Guide to Drug Abuse: Signs You're Enabling

The first thing you need to know before reading this article is the difference between helping someone and enabling someone.

Helping is when you do something for someone that they are not capable of doing themselves. Enabling is when you do something for someone when they could and should be doing it for themselves.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem in their self-destructive and detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling your child creates an atmosphere in which they can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior which in this instance is their drug abuse.

What are the signs you’re enabling instead of helping?

1.       You’re their main source of income.

You rescue your child repeatedly by paying for things because your child isn’t working, isn’t working enough, spent the money on drugs and alcohol, or is paying off debt that has accumulated from getting high. Your child either doesn’t plan to pay you back or offers to pay you back but never does. Loaning money that is never repaid, buying things for them that they can’t afford and don’t really need. You’re continuously coming to their rescue so they don’t feel the pain or the consequences of their actions and choices. You’re basically “bailing them out of jail”.

2.       They become the center of every argument.

You and your spouse or other family members are frequently arguing about this child who is affecting everyone else negatively. Other people are telling you that you are tolerating too much and making excuses for this child. You are resistant to others’ suggestions that you use tough love. Whenever there is a family gathering “preventative” measures are taken in case your child shows up high or drunk or gets high or drunk at the party. Everyone tends to be on guard or on edge just in case.

You spend a lot of time thinking about how to “fix” the drug abuse and yet your child doesn’t show any interest in your ideas nor does there appear to be movement in a positive direction from your child on his/her own. This obsession to “fix” your child’s drug abuse is keeping you from enjoying your own life as much as you would be without this “problem.”

3.       You’re allowing the rules to be bent or broken.

You are tolerating disrespectful behavior towards yourself, family, friends, co-workers and loved ones. You are doing this because your child has “problems” and doesn’t seem to understand that you or others deserve to be respected. Your requests to be treated differently fall on deaf ears and only result in more mistreatment. You have set personal boundaries that are repeatedly crossed by your child and yet you continue to allow them to happen.

4.       You’re working more than one job to support yourself and your child.

You are working harder than your child. If you are taking on a second job, working longer hours, adding on extra chores, or taking on additional tasks while your son or daughter has many hours of down time. Your child is living at home with a lot of social time in which they do not work to support themselves but seem to always have the time and funds to hang out or party with friends. You are enabling your child to be lazy and to continue getting high and drunk while you are working to support their drug induced lifestyle.

Signs you are enabling and ways to work on it.

1. Remember the difference between helping and enabling. When in doubt, remind yourself that you can tell you are enabling when YOU are paying the consequence for your child’s unacceptable behavior.

2. Re-examine excuses that keep you ensnared in the enabling trap.

3. Resist the temptation to soften the blow of the natural consequences your child will experience due to his/her unacceptable behavior.

4. Reinforce the principles you want to extend to your kids by giving them the opportunity to learn them through pain when necessary.

5. Resolve to help (not enable) your children to get better on their own.

It can be hard to not want to save your kids if they have drug abuse going on. It also is going to be hard to not want to save them especially because addiction and alcoholism can be deadly. The point is though that you need to be okay and let go. You have nothing to do with your drug abuse and you will have nothing to do with whether or not they recover. You just need to be there to help when they decide they want it, and in the meantime you need to make sure you are ok. Set boundaries. Boundaries are standards you set for yourself not your child. Stick by these. Control your own actions not your child’s.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for Alcohol or Drug Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at

If you liked this post you might also like:

Parents’ Guide to Drug Abuse: Signs of Addiction


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