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Enabling is a Waste of Time

  • TerrifiedMom Asks ...

    Our 34 year old daughter is in an in-patient facility for opiate use. We realize we have enabled her for many years, and are now learning that we need to stop. However, when she is released, she will still have a job (as an RN) but no money & many bills because she & her boyfriend used the last of her money before we forced her into rehab by telling her she needed to move out of the trailer she is renting from us if she did not get help. My question.... Do we help her with these bills to reduce her stress during the critical weeks after rehab, or tell her that she's "on her own" because we are no longer going to enable her?

  • Dr. James Strawbridge Says ...
    Dr. James Strawbridge

    Essentially “enabling” is helping your daughter avoid the consequences of her behavior (drug use). Another form of enabling is nagging or fighting with your daughter over her use. This can give her an excuse for further indulgence.

    From this perspective, it looks like you can do no right. If you try to talk her out of using, she will give you an excuse. If you try to protect her job and and keep her from ruin, you're helping he avoid consequences. What is the best thing to do?

    Take care of yourself. Make sure that you have support for dealing with this problem. This can be as simple as talking to friends, or you may want to get counseling or attend a support group such as Al-Anon.

    Finally, learn how to talk to your daughter about the problem(s) in a way that is non-judgment and “non-nagging” as possible. Discuss how concerned you are, how her behavior makes you feel, what your fears are, and why you think there is a better way. Talk about how the drug use is causing problems that she may not notice. Remember, addicts often think that drugs are the solution rather than the problem---try to help her see otherwise.

    For example, if she says that drugs are the only way that makes her feel good, remind her of other things that she used enjoy (possibly music, work, friendships, sports, etc.). Stress that the nature of addiction is to push out all other sources of pleasure and then present the illusion that nothing but drugs is fun.


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