You probably never imagined that you would be in this situation. How can it be that you are the one on the sober side of this relationship? Your mother and father are supposed to be there to support you throughout life. You probably figured as they got older you would have to shift to caretaking, but you thought that would be later in life. What do you do when you are the one watching them wash their life away via excessive drinking or a deadly drug habit? You love them, but loving may not look like what you think it should, or what they are saying it should.


What Does Enabling Look Like?

Whether your mom or dad became addicted to drugs or alcohol early in life and you’ve been enabling them for a long time, or they started taking prescription medication that lead to addiction, and it was downhill from there, enabling them in their addiction can be more than problematic, it can be dangerous. But a parent child relationship is complicated, and any addict in the thick of chemical dependence can be manipulative and pushy. Sometimes it’s hard to know what helps and what hurts. Enabling a parent can involve situations like the following, though there are infinite ways enabling can play out, here are some common ways:

  1. They show up for a visit and don’t leave. You can’t bare to kick them out.
  2. They stop paying bills and start asking you for money. You justify it because they’ve always been there for you.
  3. They ask you to help them buy alcohol or drugs to maintain their habit, citing chronic pain, needing a reprieve from anxiety or depression. You hate to feel like you could help them come out of that dark place, so you oblige.
  4. They just want to party with you. This is an old excuse. Now that you’re older, they tell, they want to hang out like adults. They want to do drugs or drink heavily with you. It’s a bonding experience. Don’t fall for this. Addiction is deadly.


Discovery InstituteHow Can I Stop?

They have held you during the most impossible times of your life. Now they need you, but not in the way they think they do. If any of the ways people commonly enable addicts listed above ring true for you, you need to immediately reconsider the dynamic of your relationship with your mother or father. It can be hard to shift things, especially if the enabling is something that has been going on for some time.

And even if it is a new part of your relationship, it’s equally as important to transition out of the destructive habit and help your parents get the kind of quality care they need. There’s help out there for your parent struggling with substance addiction and chemical dependence. Discovery Institute rehabs in NJ and detox centers have the kind of medical professionals who can offer your mom or dad a real chance at turning their health and wellness around so that they can begin living a sober life, and your relationship can become a healthy one again, truly supportive and loving on both sides.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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