Addicted to your adult child

Addicted to your adult child

After counselling people with emotional issues and addiction issues for 23 years I can safely say that we have found that the enabler is oftentimes at the very core of addiction issues. There has hardly ever been a case where someone suffering from addiction issues does not have an enabling parent or partner right behind them in the wings cheering their addiction on and calling it loving kindness. If you have a 40-year-old that you are calling your child, ‘the kids’ or the children then you need help and you need it fast. It is pathological to treat a 40-year-old like a person with an IQ of less than 70 if that is not the case. It is not okay to do things for an adult that they can do for themselves when it leaves them feeling less than capable. It is not okay to baby adults and it is especially wrong when it has been left untreated for years or decades. Enabling addiction is a disease and it has taken lives as well as caused so much unnecessary suffering that we need to start talking about adults and parents who become Addicted to your adult child. “If I can just get him or her to get a job, leave their partner, find new friends or interests than they will be fine” – is getting way out of your business, oftentimes with major negative consequences for all parties concerned.

A large part of the problem of being addicted to your adult child is that you are unaware that this is the case. You are acting subconsciously to heal your own trauma which is a large part of the problem of being addicted to your adult child. Worse still, you may be unaware that this is the way things truly are. You may be acting subconsciously to heal your own inner wounds vicariously through another person. A skill you probably learned in childhood. You’re working on your own trauma, guilt and shame and calling it a good way to behave. Enabling, is all about attempting to fix problems for others and doing so in a way that interferes with their growth and responsibility. Even though your intentions are probably good, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

“For years some of us have focused our attention (and worries) on our adult children. We’ve not only taken on the role of director in the drama of their lives, but the roles of producer, stage manager, dresser, caterer, financier, and scriptwriter as well. We’ve done countless things for them that they are more than capable of doing for themselves.”

― Allison Bottke

Another core trait of the parent that enables addiction, emotional maturity and other mental health issues is that they have an entourage of people, friends and family who are constantly trying to make them aware of their behaviour as something that just does not work. Yet, just like an addict, they refused to listen to anybody and continue enabling through lying, through money lending, through making excuses and so on. They simply refuse to quit the addiction of codependence turned confidence-killer. They are of course addicted to their thinking and we all know denial is the defence mechanism that we deal with most when it comes to starting a journey of recovery and transformation.

Addicted to your adult child

Signs that you’re Addicted to your adult child

No one who has a loved one with a substance abuse problem wants them to suffer. No one wants a person they care about to be in pain, to descend further into the dysfunction of addiction, to lose their livelihood, their family, their life…or their opportunities in the future of having these things. How many times have you heard someone say, “I would do anything to help them”?…In treatment we often find that this is not true, in the beginning, for a time. Often the carer or parent, or spouse that allows the behaviour to continue. They pay for it, keep secrets about it, commit crimes, even buy or pay for drugs and pretend that they have no part in it! Just like the addict themselves.

We protect, we cover, we shelter, we defend and we do so in the name of loving and caring. We may engage in a lot of behaviors that we think are helpful, or that we are told are necessary but if you start to dig deeper into what that action is all about you find it perpetuating or masking the problem – not solving it! The problem is that the very things we are doing to help someone, may be things that are enabling the addiction and keeping them from getting well. These may also be things that we are doing because it is more comfortable for us than dealing with the hard facts of the situation – and if we truly want someone to get well, and to recover, sometimes, as family or carers, we have to get well first! 

Enabling an addiction

15 ways to stop being addicted to your adult child

Mark L Lockwood BA(hons)(psy) has been an addiction strategist for two decades and has these tips for anyone addicted to your adult child. “First is awareness, then acceptance of things exactly as they are without your ‘playing God’ and trying to make things different when they are not different, and then their is new action. New behaviour….So catch yourself when you’re triggered and about to relapse on guilt and shame, unregulated emotional states that makes matters worse. Become part of the solution and not the problem and then stay that way because that will make you trustworthy, reliable and the rock of certainty that someone may need when they are confused, unmanageable, erratic and impulsive.”

They may not be able to stop the child from abusing substances, but they can offer a warm place to stay on a cold night….this escalates into maladaptive behaviour in the parent that harms instead of helps! A parent can’t take away withdrawal symptoms in the morning, but they can bring food and water to ease the process along. To a parent, rejecting a child in need is practically betrayal. Facing consequences is a vital part of recovery. 

Addicted to your adult child

It is not punishment! People don’t change when they don’t have to and addicts don’t get well unless they face what it means to be unwell. Some parents may also feel guilty about their child’s addiction. Addicts are master manipulators and will play the blame card daily if allowed to do so. Blaming and denial are two very serious enabling tools for addicts. Often, those with past substance abuse issues may feel that they have passed on their problem to their child, holding themselves responsible. In addition to nature, they look to nurture: they blame themselves for not being a better parent. 

  1. Let people live their own lives as adults. Adult children are ugly.
  2. Stop insulting people by calling them children, kids, or babies when they are 18+ year old adults. Yes 18 is the age where kids become adults and get treated like it. Especially when they have addiction or emotional problems. The world has changed, so must you.
  3. Money, food, computers, cars, cigarettes – do you give these to someone with a substance abuse problem? You may need help first in order for addiction recovery to start.
  4. Stop secret keeping. Only the truth will set everyone free.
  5. Don’t protect because you will smother. Only do what is right – that is love.
  6. Stop making excuses for your enabling and then the need to enable another.
  7. Let go of your need to control.
  8. Don’t make idol threats and stop lying. When you say this is the last time and you lie, you have just become the problem. Become consistent and reliable.
  9.  Oftentimes, parents may feel that they have passed on their problem to their child, their divorce, their financial difficulties, their mistakes, their past substance abuse issues…holding themselves responsible. In so doing they perpetuate the cycle. Stop that.
  10. Replace the message to the adult child of, “You’re not competent to make it on your own.” to try, fail, learn and grow. That, yet again, is love and if an Eagle can do it for its young, so can you.
  11. Stop cleaning up for other adults with problems caused by your need to control.
  12. Stop offering shelter at 3am. There is NO crisis but rather it is a process of learned helplessness.
  13. Stop making excuses, refusing to acknowledge the issues, lying for the adult child, and giving money that is buying dis-ease!
  14. Stop saying yes or no. Rather so I will look into it when I can. That ends all the manipulation in a second. Have iron clad boundaries and know you don’t have to say yes or no at all.
  15. Finally gain knowledge and get your head out of the sand. Start really listening to the level headed people around you, to experts and to professionals. Notice your own denial that makes you Addicted to your adult child.
Addicted to your adult child

Treatment for parental addiction to their adult children is difficult. Just getting through the denial and blaming for a parent with this type of addiction can take several months. They can often follow good advice but when there is a ‘crisis’ created by the adult child they fall apart and relapse on enbabling attitudes faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Even when the therapy starts with them admitting that they have a problem with enabling and keeping a child or partner sick they are still unable to stop when the heat gets turned up. The inevitable crisis that’s an addict makes constantly is something that these parents become addicted to. They start to get a high of the help! Their very own stress hormones drop chemical bombs that make them feel like they are rescuing rather than ruining and the pay off is less guilt when their head hits the pillow at night.

Enabling is really about preventing someone from having to take responsibility for themselves, and whether it is done with good or bad intentions it doesn’t matter. If it prevents the other person from fully living their own life, it will become harmful not helpful.

Addicted to your adult child