So you recently learned that your son or daughter is a heroin addict. They ask you for help because they are struggling. They need food, they need money, the need their bills paid or they will be living on the streets. Do you give them money? Do you bring them food? Do you pay their bills?
Unfortunately, a drug addict will lie, cheat, manipulate and steal to ensure they’re able to fulfill their powerful urge and compulsion to use. Everything your son or daughter has ever loved has taken a backseat to heroin. And they are no longer the same person. Thus, providing them with any financial compensation or help other than encouraging them or an immediate ride to a top drug rehab facility could be considered enabling.
What’s is Enabling and How Does it Differ From Love?
Parents often want to protect their sons and daughters from any and all harm. So when your adult child reaches out for help, despite their heroin addiction, the reaction to help them seems normal. However, your actions, though they may seem loving, could be hurting them and permitting the addiction to remain.
Enabling occurs when your actions make it easier for an addict to use drugs. Most people recognize that a heroin addict will use any money you give them to buy heroin. However, what you may not realize is that by paying their bills, buying their food or giving them a place to live, you’re making it easier for them to get and use heroin with the resources they’ve saved for themselves. Active addicts may even steal from you by directly taking your money or by selling your belongings to get money for drugs. Thus, family and friends of an addict have a decision to make. What’s the best way to love an addict?
Signs that You are Enabling Your Child’s Addiction?
Almost anything can be considered enabling. But it is often confused with love. So how do you know if you are enabling your child’s drug addiction? What’s the best way to love an addict?
1. The Cover-Up
Are you trying to cover up or hide your child’s drug addiction from other important members of the family? Are you making excuses for the addict who is suffering in his or her own addiction? You may believe that the problem is only short term and in time it will change.
2. Ignoring the Addict’s Negative or Potentially Dangerous Behavior
Sometimes it’s just easier to pretend a problem doesn’t exist than to look it in the eye. But if you are seeing signs of a problem and that your child’s actions are negative or potentially dangerous, it’s time to intervene. Failing to do so or blatantly ignoring potential problems is a sign that you’ve become an enabler.
3. Taking Responsibility and Providing for an Addict
Making your adult child addict’s problems your responsibility is another sign you are enabling your son’s or daughter’s addiction. When it comes to responsibilities, you are the one handling all of them. You are the one paying the bills and making sure survival is maintained. While it feels good to be needed, you have accepted the role of being the one the addict depends on. The truth is that all or some of these actions only keep an addict active in their addiction. You are the one facing the consequences of his or her inability to maintain responsibilities. Without having to face the consequences of the problems the addict creates, instead of helping an addict, you are likely assisting in feeding their disease.
What’s worse, is that nothing will ever be enough for the addict. The addict will expect that all of his or her needs will be catered to while becoming complacent in the relationship. The dynamics of the relationship will become greatly unbalanced. An addict may even make threats if his/her needs aren’t met. The addict will become like a succubus and like a vampire, they will suck the life right out of you.
3. Failure to Confront Problems or Holding Back Emotion
It’s not always easy to confront problems head-on. But if you suspect or know that your son or daughter is suffering from addiction, a failure to confront the issue and talk about it with them or other loved ones could make you an enabler.
4. Making an Addict’s Needs Your Responsibility and Priority
While it’s natural to want to help your son, daughter, mother, father or best friend, putting an addict’s needs ahead of yours will likely make you an enabler. After all, an addict will have some highly robust needs and meeting them will become more than a full time job. Pulling away from your addict loved one and letting them fend for themselves is typically beneficial and downright necessary so they can see and understand the consequences of their actions
5. Blaming People or Situations Other than the Addict
Parents always want to believe their children are honest and telling the truth. However, what parents need to understand is that the disease of addiction alters brain structure and chemistry, literally changing the way your son or daughter thinks, acts and behaves. As stated above, they will likely lie, cheat, manipulate and steal to obtain their drug of choice (the object of their addiction). Thus, as much as you want to believe your addict child, they are likely lying and blaming others or situations for problems surrounding your addict child is a sign you have become an enabler.
6. Resenting the Addict
It may sound strange, but blaming, guilt-tripping or resenting the addict may worsen their addiction. The addict will likely feel angry and hurt by your negative feelings towards them and will likely drown their sorrows by continuing to use.
How to Love an Addict and Stop Enabling
While it may become obvious that you are enabling, stopping is another thing. Since your actions are a direct reflection of the love you feel for your friend or loved one, it is important to know that you are hurting the addict by continuing to allow the addiction to have control. Feeling helpless while watching a friend or loved one suffer is a tough position to maintain. However, when an addict is repeatedly faced with his or her own failure to be responsible and the consequences of his or her own problems, the addict may finally achieve a desire or be forced to make a change.
“Tough love” is a concept that’s hard for parents to initiate. But in a lot of cases, it becomes necessary. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean kick them out of your house and have nothing to do with them. But it does mean stripping them of anything that makes it easy or convenient to go out there and use drugs.
Setting boundaries is important. Be clear about the boundaries you are setting. If you refuse to give the addict cash, then make sure you follow through with that. Do not give in. The addiction itself rewires the addict’s thoughts and remembering this is important. An addict will say whatever is needed to appeal to an enabler’s guilt. Addicts often lie. Telling an addict “no” will likely result in anger and possibly even some harsh words. It may be hard to hear and take, but persevere if you want to try and save their life.
Refuse to take over the activities and responsibilities that the addict can maintain on his or her own. For example, washing clothes, preparing meals, or cleaning a home environment are simple tasks that anyone can manage and maintain.
Friends and family should not assume the risk involved with addiction. The addict is making the decision to remain in active addiction. Therefore, whatever consequences result from it are the problems for the addict only. Do not assure him or her that you will handle their problems. Be assertive in your decision to stop extending help.
As hard as this may be, try to remain positive. As difficult as it is to see your son or daughter suffer from addiction, breaking free is their responsibility. It’s ok to love your addict child and you should. But if they haven’t learned already, this is your opportunity to teach them that they must be responsible for their own actions. Giving into their persistent requests or constant demands will only serve to enable their dangerous drug habit.
Do not give an addict money. Don’t allow excuses. Don’t offer a bail out. Do not take on the responsibilities of an addict.
Get support! Addiction is a family disease. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. Our free heroin addiction and recovery discussion forum is a great way to interact with others online just like you. We also help get addicts into treatment. If your addict son or daughter is finally ready to get help, click here to contact us for addiction help. Or visit and consult with one of our top addiction treatment centers and drug rehab facilities.
At the end of the day, an addict will only be successful in addiction treatment and recovery if they possess a desire to get clean, put in the necessary hard work and persevere. A desire to get clean comes as a result of ongoing and exacerbated consequences. Enabling an addict is an indirect method of removing consequences. We enable because we love, but it’s only because of consequences that 50% of heroin addicts decide they want and need help and addiction treatment.
Written and Published by William Charles and Kristi Tullis – Publisher and Writer/Blogger for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.