All parents have the desire to care for their child and solve their problems, even after that child becomes an adult. When an adult child is an addict, however, these inclinations can easily turn into enabling and lead to further harm.
It’s hard enough cutting off a friend or spouse, but when it comes to the parent-child relationship, you’re facing a complete reversal of what you’ve spent 18 years trying to do. The instinct to protect your offspring from the world – and even himself – is a strong one, and even if the relationship is damaged, there’s still love and the inclination to give him the benefit of the doubt. Many parents are stuck in a never-ending cycle of “just this once” or “just one more time” that they can’t break due to guilt. You might feel that you went wrong with your child somehow, particularly if they’re in the habit of blaming you for all their problems. While there are certainly cases where the parent plays a role in addiction (such as being an addict yourself or contributing to an abusive or traumatic childhood), remember that in the end, you can’t be responsible for anyone else’s choices.
Since addicts frequently have no jobs or sporadic incomes, the pressure can be even greater on the parent to intervene. After all, you might say, what kind of parent would I be if I let my son or daughter go hungry, or worse, become homeless? What’s the harm in loaning them a little money? The harm, unfortunately, is that they will never take any steps to improve their situation if you’re always there to bail them out. If there are no consequences for their actions, there are no incentives to stop. Also, loans are never loans when it comes to an addict. They wouldn’t be borrowing money from you if they had the ability to pay it back, and they’re never going to make that money without a reason to get clean.
This doesn’t mean you have to turn your child away completely. Draw a line in the sand and stand firm, but don’t be adversarial. It may be hard not to step in financially, but remember that it’s for the best in the long run. If you do provide money, don’t hand it over for every little whim. Make it contingent on steps toward recovery, such as attending 12-step meetings. Attend family therapy, where you can all learn how to help the addict get clean and live sober. If the adult child is working, ask them to contribute a portion toward rent or utilities. Also, consider any underlying mental health problems that could be contributing to addiction, and assist them in seeking help for those disorders.
Most importantly, don’t let your own health and well-being become a victim of someone else’s addiction. There are resources out there for family members of addicts, such as Al-anon, which encourages people to face their loved one’s addiction one day at a time. If things get bad enough – if your child becomes violent or steals from you-you might be forced to remove them from your home. Sometimes the best you can do is give them a reason to help themselves.
If you or a loved one need help to quit drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.