Note: This post on enabling the addict is once again from our contributor B.H. and it explores her experience with her son’s addiction.
What Does It Mean to Be Enabling the Addict?
Enabling the addict doesn’t necessarily mean to help the addict continue to get drugs or alcohol. It doesn’t mean to actually give them the cash to purchase the harmful items that are ruining their lives. Yes, this does happen, and that is most certainly enabling in the worst case, but that is not solely what enabling is.
In the case of my son and me, I now recognize that I enabled him in several different ways. I continually made excuses for him to family and loved ones, and I consistently bailed him out by paying his bills. Why wasn’t he paying his bills? Because his money was going to drugs. I didn’t know that then, but when I got the late-night phone calls from him when I suspected he was under the influence of something, I listened to his desperate plea and sent him money. So, in essence, I was enabling him without really even knowing it.
In the back of my mind, I knew he was partying and living the college frat-boy life. I knew he was drinking and smoking pot “on occasion”, I mean, don’t many college kids do that? So, I was already in acceptance mode and completely making excuses for his behavior. Little did I know that he was using cocaine and actually selling it on the streets of the big city in the vicinity of the university he attended.
Oh boy. When I found out, when he came home on a Wednesday night to tell me he needed help, I cried. I cried so hard that I think I shocked my whole system. I didn’t know what to do, where to turn, and who to tell. But, I still made excuses for him. I blamed the university for assigning him to a roommate who was using and selling cocaine, I blamed the fraternity for doing drugs and having them available for my son, I blamed my son’s emotional difficulties, and I blamed myself for the tumultuous divorce his dad and I went through when he was nine-years-old. I blamed everyone except for my son, who chose to use drugs.
Hindsight is 20/20
I know now that this was my son’s fault. He made the choice to start using drugs, and this led to his addiction. I know that I should have seen the signs when he was in high school, such as the drinking, the marijuana use, the change in behavior and erratic emotions, and more. The money always being needed by him, the people he was hanging out with, and the constant school tardy slips. But I continued to let him do as he pleased, give him money, and sleep in instead of going to school on time because he “wasn’t feeling well.” Honestly, if I could go back in time, I would not have let him go away to college and try living on his own, surrounded by the many temptations that are out there in the world today. I would have followed my instincts and got him counseling and been stricter with boundaries (or set them in the first place). This is why they say hindsight is 20/20…because it really is.
I no longer blame anyone else, or myself, for my son’s addiction. I don’t beat myself up anymore over not listening to my inner voice and not following my gut feeling. Ultimately, he was an adult after 18, and he made the decision to use in the first place. Life circumstances no longer mean anything to me anymore in reference to his choices. It has taken me a year to get to this point, and I no longer have regrets.
Life is a learning experience. Parenting is a long, long drive while navigating the twists and turns (and bumps!) of the road. Mistakes will be made, and that is how we all learn. Becoming educated about drug addiction and receiving counseling has helped heal the relationship between my son and me. We are learning as a family to slowly trust him once again, but not without being proactive, vigilant, and with boundaries. We also keep a very open and transparent line of communication, and love each other more than ever before. Time heals so much!