If you are dealing with an addicted teen or young adult, that is an incredibly difficult and painful situation. However, that already difficult situation is often magnified and intensified by enabling. Right now, as a parent, you probably feel caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you don’t want to finance your son or daughter’s drug habit. On the other, you don’t want to see him or her suffer. In most cases, parents go to one extreme or the other. They either enable their drug addicted child to the maximum or they impose tough love and pull the plug. The correct approach is somewhere in between. To help you learn how to help an addict without enabling, I’m going to provide 2 tips to stop breaking the bank. Then, I’m going to briefly outline the 3 steps of my “Addiction-Free Kid Blueprint.”
Give up the Guilt to Stop Enabling
As a parent, you want to feel as though you are doing everything possible to help your addicted teen or young adult. I can assure you, doing everything is not the answer. Enabling perpetuates and exacerbates your child’s addiction. Many parents find it difficult to cease their enabling behavior. There’s a reason for that. It’s called guilt. Before I go any further, I want to make something perfectly clear. This isn’t about blaming anyone. It’s about helping your child get off drugs. That should be the focus, irrespective of what you did or didn’t do in the past. Maybe you feel guilty that you didn’t spend enough time with your son or daughter? Perhaps you’ve been overly critical or controlling, and you regret your behavior? Or, maybe your partner has mistreated your teen or young adult, and you feel guilt about not intervening? There are several types of family, relationship dynamics that cause guilt. Whatever the pattern is, you can’t buy your way out of the problem. No matter how much money you give your child, what you buy for him or her, or what you do, those actions will only make matters worse. On the other hand, pulling the plug is not a wise thing to do either, especially if the addiction is fairly advanced. I do not recommend imposing tough love. That is bad advice, which almost always ends disastrously.
To learn how to help an addict without enabling, you need to give up the guilt because that is what’s driving your behavior. In order to let go, you’ll need to unearth the pattern of family, relationship dynamics that formed the foundation for guilt. Then, you must change it. Of course that isn’t easy, but if you want to help your child it’s necessary. If you regret being overly critical and controlling in the past and feel guilty about the damage it’s done, then change your behavior. Assume responsibility for your behavior, apologize, and don’t repeat it. Sit down with your child, and have a heart to heart. That being said, your future actions must match your words. If they are matching, and your child is convinced of the change, then you can take some other positive steps to coach and mentor your child. Bottom line, if you acknowledge the root cause of your guilt and correct it, your guilt will vanish and so will your enabling behavior.
Give up Fighting the Effect to Stop Enabling
Alright, so you are working on giving up the guilt. That’s great. However, there’s one other thing you need to give up – fighting the effect. When most parents discover their teen or young adult is using drugs, they panic and attempt to fight the effect through negative reinforcement and by policing behavior. Neither of those approaches will yield positive results. The Surgeon General has been warning, for over 40 years, that smoking is hazardous to health, yet 36 million people still smoke. Drug prevention advocates have been warning that drugs are hazardous to health for nearly as long. Despite those efforts, the addiction/overdose crisis is spiraling out of control. As strange as this may sound, right now, your child doesn’t view his or her behavior as being problematic or hazardous. That’s why “This your brain, and this is your brain on drugs” doesn’t resonate.
As far as policing behavior is concerned, there should be rules. And, those rules should be enforced. However, that is not what the focus should be. If you want to get rid of a weed in your backyard, would you scold it for growing over the fence and build a barrier as a preventive measure. I doubt it, although that’s what most parents do when dealing with addiction. As the addiction weed grows, they continue to build a higher barrier. If we inject some guilt and enabling into the situation, then they would water and fertilize the weed daily as well. Basically, you’re feeding the problem, then building a bigger wall to stop it. That’s not how to help an addicted child without enabling.
Instead of attempting to fight the effect of the addiction weed, I recommend that you pull it out by the root. What type of family, relationship dynamics generated your child’s addiction? How have they affected his or her self-esteem, level of personal power and/or personal identity? How have they contributed to emotional deterrents such as fear or anger, which are paralyzing your child from making positive change? How have they fed the false narratives that are sustaining your teen or young adult’s drug or alcohol abuse?
How to Help an Addict without Enabling
If you want to discover how to help an addict without enabling, three steps are required. They are as follows:
1. Taking Responsibility
Assume personally responsibility for the family, relationship dynamics that have contributed to your son or daughter’s anxiety, emotional distress or depression and change them.
2. Setting Boundaries
Refrain from setting negative boundaries or issuing ultimatums. Instead, learn to set positive growth-oriented boundaries that will encourage your son or daughter to climb to higher ground and work towards success.
3. Coaching and Mentoring
Become the influencer-in-chief in your child’s life. Learn how to coach and mentor your child, establishing core values, guiding principles and grounded beliefs. Teach your son or daughter how to process emotion and take a stand to face challenges. This will bulletproof them against the guns of addiction.
For the exact, 3-step plan, download my free e-book “The Addiction-Free Kid Blueprint, Revealed.”
For additional reading, check out my other blog posts below: