When Parents of Adult Children are Toxic Enablers

The love of a parent is fierce. No love on this earth compares. This strong parental love protects children from the world’s dangers while they grow and develop. This way, children can grow into well-adjusted, emotionally stable adults. In most cases, parents will do anything and everything to protect their children as a result of this strong parental love. But, while this is a great thing, it can lead to codependency and enabling. In the case of addiction affecting adult children, parents often turn into toxic enablers as a result of their strong, passionate love for their child. And, can affect the chance of their adult-child getting the help they need to overcome addiction. 

 

What is Toxic Enabling? 

Enabling is giving someone the means to do something. While this sounds like it would be a good thing, when a person is struggling with addiction or drug abuse, they don’t need enabling. Certainly, it’s good to want to help someone. But, when a person wants to abuse drugs, enabling this behavior can lead to completely detrimental effects. So, it’s incredibly important for parents of drug-addicted adult children to understand what toxic enabling is. This way, they can identify this type of behavior in their lives. And, work to enable recovery rather than drug abuse and use. 

 

Are you a Toxic Enabler?

There are many ways of enabling people struggling with drug addiction. And, part of giving a person the chance of successful recovery is identifying enabling behaviors others portray. This way, everyone can learn how to support the person’s recovery journey. Some examples of enabling behaviors parents may portray can include: 

  • Not allowing adult children to experience the consequences of their actions or words. For example, paying their rent so they don’t get evicted. Or, calling an employer when their addicted daughter misses work so she isn’t fired. 
  • Not setting boundaries or saying “no” in fear that the adult child will be angry at you or never speak to you again.
  • Fearing that the adult-child will relapse if you say/do the wrong thing to set them off. 
  • Taking over responsibility for things that are the adult-child’s fault or attempting to solve the adult-child’s problems for her.
  • Allowing the adult child to manipulate you to get what she wants with guilt.
  • Not understanding that rescuing your adult child is harming her. 
  • Attempting to control the adult child’s life in fear that she will end up in jail or worse. 

 

Why Many Parents Enable Their Addicted Adult-Children

 

Certainly, the main reason that parents may become toxic enablers to their adult children struggling with addiction is love. However, if a parent loves their adult child and wants them to recover from the effects of addiction, realizing enabling is essential. Besides the love parents have for their children, enabling may arise as the result of: 

Lack of Education: In most cases, parents aren’t even aware that they’re enabling their adult-child’s addictive behaviors. This is just simply the result of a lack of education. Learning more about toxic enabling can help parents of adult children struggling with addiction to learn how not to enable it. And, display healthy, supportive behaviors while also establishing healthy boundaries. 

 

Guilt: Sometimes, parents will display enabling behaviors because they feel guilty about something that’s happened to their adult child in the past. This guilt leads them to feel they have to protect their adult child from further life consequences, even if they’re a direct result of their child’s actions. 

 

Fear: It’s obvious that it’s frightening when any loved one struggles with addiction. So, in many cases, the parents of adult children struggling with addiction will enable unhealthy behaviors out of fear that if they don’t, their child will end up paying the ultimate price. 

 

Past Family Issues: When parents of adult children struggling with addiction haven’t addressed their past family trauma, they’re more likely to become toxic enablers. In this case, it’s common that a parent will attempt to resolve their past family issues with their child. So, for these parents, it’s important to address these unresolved issues in therapy. After they address their past issues, they’re more successful in developing healthy boundaries with their adult children. 

 

Learning About Toxic Enabling in Treatment

Are you the parent of an adult child that’s struggling with addiction or drug abuse? If so, you can learn more about enabling and how you can address the issue in your own life while your adult child is getting the help she needs. 

Here at Lotus Healing, we understand that the women in our care have families and parents who love them. And, that they need these people in their corner to get the support they need for a successful recovery. So, we offer counseling opportunities to support families. To learn more about our programs, contact us today!

Dr. Dixie Brown is a PhD level Therapist, Integrative Medicine Practitioner, and Nutritionist with 15 years of experience working in Mental Health, specifically with trauma, eating disorders, and substance use.

Dixie Brown

Author

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Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.

Lotus Healing helps substance use and mental health providers, foundations, organizations and healthcare companies address urgent healthcare challenges that impact their ability to provide high quality healthcare to vulnerable populations by prioritizing organizational leadership, structure, education and research and commitment to improved organizational wellbeing.