Am I Helping Or Enabling?

Memoir Excerpt:

 “Rehab was mostly clear sailing for Angie. But there was one incident at the end of March that was upsetting: she snuck out beyond curfew with a friend and got drunk. She came back eventually, very repentant, and good-naturedly accepted her loss of privileges. The staff felt obligated to call me about the incident. I wasn’t sure what it all meant, but I joked with Gene that she has acted out more since she was twenty-one than she had in her whole life!

I’ve heard it said that once drug abuse takes hold in someone, they stop growing emotionally and remain stuck. Angie was thirty that year but clearly acted like a rebellious teenager. And up until the present when she found the courage to break away from me, she had been almost completely dependent on her father and me. But we, addicted as we were to her, made that easy for her. From time to time throughout her addiction, she fought to establish her independence from us. Then she would turn around and ask for help. I wanted so much for her to take charge of her own life, but later on it would be crystal clear: Addiction was in control and was happy for any handouts. Drugs cost money.”


I made many mistakes early in Angie’s addiction. Taking over too many of her responsibilities, I should have closed the bank sooner. I often say that deep pockets are dangerous. They allow us to be generous and feel good about it. A friend in Virginia told me that she’s glad she didn’t have the money to bail her son out of jail. He was forced to stay and feel the consequences of his behavior. It taught him a lesson, and he chose to go into recovery when he got out. He’s doing very well today. I see an important lesson in that.

2 thoughts on “Am I Helping Or Enabling?

  1. I think I came across this story just in time today. Like you, in the beginning before I knew better, I threw all sorts of money around believing I was helping. Once I became aware of how damaging it was, I was able to almost completely stop, but never entirely. Then just this morning, even with knowing so much more than I used to, I seriously considered “fixing” something again. Instead of flying into action, I decided to hit pause and see how I feel about it later. So thanks for the reminder, you just saved me $1,600.00!

    1. Judi, we all need reminders! I’ve read that if we do for others what they can/should be doing for themselves, then we’re enabling. It’s important to make the distinction so that our kids will remain accountable for their actions, and therefore hopefully learn something. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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