June 19th, 2007
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A couple of times, when the kids are in bed, I’ve seen the TV show Intervention and I think it is a searingly true-to-life horrifying look at addictions and what it does to the family.

In nearly every case, the interventionist will ask the parents, “Why do you think it is OK for you to allow a meth using adult child of yours to live rent free with you while shooting up?” Different scenarios, same age-old problem of the co-dependent relationship.

People have to hit rock bottom to get help, they have to do it on their own, and it can’t be done for them.


Parents face this conundrum each day with their children whether it is drugs, alcohol, behaviors or whatever. We can teach our children, give them the necessary tools for life, support them in their childhood years and educational endeavors but we can’t make them make good choices as adults.

On one of these shows, no on nearly all of the shows, an enabling parent will give the drug using, manipulating adult child some money. They’ll reason, “well I don’t want them begging on the streets, or turning tricks, or stealing.”

Don’t you want them to work? Is that not an option?

McDonalds is always hiring.

But why should these drug users work when their parents will accidentally pay for their drugs with their good intentions that always backfire because in the long run, enabling doesn’t help.

I don’t charge rent to my grown children who still live with me but if there were drugs or alcohol involved I double dog guarantee you that they wouldn’t still live here with me. They pay for their own cars, insurance, clothing and expenses which then theoretically leaves little party money. They are learning independence, budgeting and bill paying on a smaller basis, but they’re learning.

Working the drive-through window at McDonalds has bought my 18 year old her own nice Honda Civic and tons of cute clothes that she’s purchased for herself and she’s proud of that. I’m proud of her, that she doesn’t think she’s too cool to work there or that it’s beneath her. “ Honey, honest earned income is a source of pride,” I’ve often let her know.

Or my son, pictured above, working two jobs plus picking up farm work on the side because he has a picture in his mind of the F-150 truck he wants to buy to replace his 1983 Toyota pick-up. Stashing his dollars away, watching his bank account grow, and telling me about it, knowing I’m proud of him as he resists the wasteful temptations common to men his age. He feels good about himself and he should. He’s not whining to anyone about his lot in life, rather he’s working at making his life be what he wants it to be.

Dr. Phil has often asked people as they run through their myriad excuses, “Well, how’s that working for you?” knowing the answer will be, “um…not really working good at all.”

We, as parents, need to take away their excuses, not enable negative behaviors in any way, shape or form. We’re not helping our children at all if we do.

2 Responses to “Not Enabling”

  1. John says:

    Everything you say is right Cindy. I did the enabling thing with a drug addicted son who also had a considerable number of disorders. When I got to the point that I could do it, I put him on the street. That was the worst experience of my life. Each night I was afraid there would be a knock at the door and a policeman saying my son was dead.

    These shows do a wonderful job of making the parents look like complete rubes, as in dah, you can’t you see what is so obvious! What they never show is the justified real fears of the parents. The child may very well die before they can get the hang of being a street person.

    My son spent about 18 months on the street or in jail. Yes, it was what had to happen. Yes, it should have happened sooner. Yes, my fears were real and justified. Like a lot of kids with addiction and disorders, he was not someone who impresses bad people with his reserve and great deportment. He survived and that is a miracle. I never did have the power to stop his addiction, wish I did. Today he lives in an independant living home on his SSI and still uses, but not quite so disruptively.

    After experiencing this problem, I feel great compasion for the parents who have to deal with this. If they didn’t care, they would have flung the kid out long ago. John

  2. Cindy Bodie says:

    John, And that huge fear, that very real fear that something could happen, makes all of us parents struggle with a lack of sleep and a lack of appetite. We know how hard the world is, all the bad things than can and do happen while our children seem so oblivious to it all and certainly unwilling to listen to us. It’s gut wrenching isn’t it?

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