☼ Please Don’t Enable The Addict To Harm My Son

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Most enablers are well-intentioned. We act out of kindness, not realizing we’ve been lured to the tip of the skewer by the addict. We try to rescue the addict from himself by fixing his circumstances and kicking his troubles down the road.

Other enablers do-the-deed through denial, low stamina for high-alert, party-buddy preservation, or simply because they couldn’t care less.

And then there are the enablers who adhere to an Unwritten Code that commands loyal protection from ‘getting in trouble’ (not seeing the real trouble the addict is already in). These enablers guard secrets that shouldn’t be kept, covering for even the most destructive behavior, like drinking while driving or overdosing or relapsing. To be nice. To be helpful. To protect.

Protect. A concept so simple, yet so misconstrued. When applied to an addict, the definition of protect needs to be turned inside-out.

Protect /prə-ˈtekt/: a) to make the addict violently angry and hate you and think you are mean; b.) to re-examine the meaning of help and hurt, and to act on that new understanding; c.) to be negatively judged by the whole world; d.) to feel sick and tired; e.) to suffer all the above short-term for the sake of the addict’s long-term well-being.

The addict pushes away the people who get in his way — the ones setting up roadblocks and shining lights in dark corners and speaking truths  — but clings to (and flatters) those who so accommodatingly allow him to thrive. My son pushed away me and all the rest of his family and everyone else who truly cared, surrounding himself instead with people who would make his pathetic addicted existence comfortable. People who made it easier for him to use. Enablers. But, every time Joey was broken or dying, the enablers disappeared, thankful, I’m sure, the mess wasn’t theirs to worry about (if they bothered to give him any thought at all).

The enablers won’t lose a single night’s sleep if Joey dies.

But I will.

The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction is available in bookstores and libraries.

31 thoughts on “☼ Please Don’t Enable The Addict To Harm My Son

  1. RTDM

    I get strength from reading this, and your book. my daughter is a drug addict and alcoholic, she is in and out of recovery. She is now pregnant 23 weeks. and has relapsed a few times that I know of during the pregnancy. I want to scream at her, but I know it is not use,
    I just pray, and pray. and keep taking care of me, and support her in her sobriety, That is all I can do. I wish there was a magic fix.
    Heart broken and frightened though!!

    Reply
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  3. Kate

    I have a question for many of you, I have two nephews who say they are clean and are living with my mother, their grandmother. I was visiting the other day and one of the boys was fidgeting, sweating and appeared like he could barely hold his head up. I brought this to my mothers attention and she said he was fine. Next day I go to her house & looked through their room & found a Baggie full of different pills, 3-4 bottles of Dormin (I read is used to cut in heroin), a food chopper that appeared to have white powdery reside, glass pipe & large freezer bag with corner cut out. Now my mom & a sister are furious with me, says I need to stop causing trouble & boys are clean. My mother has even changed locks on her doors so I can’t go in, she didn’t even change them when boys were stealing her jewelry & my late fathers tools & pawing them. My question is, has anyone else been treated like this & is this normal?? I can’t get over how crazy this is.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne

      Such a sad story and one that many of us can associate with in one form or another. Of course they are using again. Your mom and sister are in denial. Plain and simple. They just want everything to be ok, to be normal. The ostrich reaction.. I would continue to be supportive and try to talk to them but it may take them a while. Hopefully not too long as it could become too late. If you can, obtain a cartridge of narcan for them in case one of them over doses. It may insult them at first but it’s really just a gesture of love. They will come to realize it. Narcan is available through different organizations and even at some pharmacies but you will have to research your area. Also, find them info on help in your community. Don’t give up. Good luck.

      Reply
  4. reen

    Addiction is like a cancer…it needs a host to grow is how I choose to understand it. Anytime I DO anything, offer a ride, a place to sleep, money, etc. I am enabling. I will not host this cancer in any way. I am immune to the charming words, to the empty lies about going to treatment tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow, to the half truths, blah blah blah. Everything spoken by my addict is basically bullsnhit. I will not invest anymore in my addict only in myself. I believe in myself, my words, my actions and that is where I sow my seeds. In me. I hope one day my addict will love and cherish himself enough to invest in himself and stop abusing and using drugs and the people in his life.

    Reply
  5. Corrine Lawrence

    My 24 year old son has been in residential treatment for almost 2 months. I walk that line of joy and fear. He has returned to the land of the living…. I pray he stays.

    Reply
  6. Karen Alberini

    Thank you for your courage. My son 24 yrs is a heroin addict. In and out of jail and detoxed and now has a warrant out for pawning jewelry he stole from his girlfriend. He hid out in a strict program. He was in the program for almost a month. He got kicked out for having an argument. He can go back in 2 weeks but decided to use while waiting to get back in. He has been at my house for a week. I can’t watch it anymore. I was going to turn him in this morning but my daughter begged me not to. As I read this blog I am thinking strongly about turning him in. I feel he will overdose and I WILL FIND HIM DEAD. I am so sick to my stomach and my daughter is full of anxiety and pain and can’t work or enjoy her life with the fear of her brother dying. I must not enable him. I hope I can do the best thing for all of us. There is no peace in my life or my daughters. Thanks for your support.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne

      Hi Karen, I happened upon this blog and your comment. It’s been over a year.. How are you and your son …and daughter doing? I have similar circumstances as I’m sure many who visit sites such as these do.

      Reply
  7. Misty Rosenberger

    I needed to hear this tonight…I had to tell my daughter, who has been a heroin addict for about 3 years now that she couldn’t come home while she is still using. It was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do…to tell your child that she has to stay homeless on the streets of Detroit and can’t come home! I felt like the worst person ever, but have come to realize that I have to stay firm with this and that she has put me in the position to tell her this. Being a patent of an addict is so hard because you are helpless. Good bless all families going through this in their life!

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Misty, I couldn’t agree more. Being the parent of an addict is so, so hard. Sending warm hugs to you.

      Reply
    2. rose

      It is hard & i am scared to death.we just discovered our daughter is using H. She is 25 years old 4 time dui felon. We knew she was using many diff drugs..but after serving 6 months in jail we thought she had hit her bottom.We have custody of her 5 year old.As soon as all mandatory expectations were fullfilled…with court program , we noticed bad behaviors again. In december she blew up & said she had to move out to prove to us & court she could be responsible on her own and regain custody…instead every step forward has been discarded. She dropped out of beauty school (again) lost her job..lives in an abandoned house…and has become a stranger.She has not been able to show up twice weekly as before to see her daughter.It is down to once a week, she is very unkept..falls asleep as soon as she gets here & has been wearing long sleeves in 85 degree humid weather. I vowed..if it happened again i would grab her and roll up her sleeve.i am saddened to no end..for confirming my suspicions. Shes shooting heroin.Because there is a child involved..we have told her..we have hit our bottom. She is not to resume any visits with her child until she PROVES to us she is in a program getting help. She really lays on the guilt trips..& i do believe this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done..but the nicer we are & the better we treat her…the worse she gets.She has lost 40 to 50 lbs. In a month. I cant witness anymore! She says its recreational. ..only 3 or so times a week…Lord..this is insanity to me..i know nothing about addiction & i dont know how to help her anymore!!
      Are we right to say get help or stay away? Thousands of enabling dollars later…and she is going darker and darker…love her but shes destroying all of us!

      Reply
  8. Darlene

    I have been struggling with trying not to enable
    my son it has been on my mind slot the last couple of days and then this mourning I look at
    My phone and find your quote . I don’t even know how I got to your page. The quote is so true Thank you .

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Darlene, addiction gets love and help and enabling all twisted up. As mother’s we do our best in this confusing and scary world. I’m glad you found some help here. Hugs to you.

      Reply
  9. Melanie

    I recently learned of your blog and website. I also have a son named Joey. He is 18 now, quit school a few years ago to get his GED but, didn’t finish. He’s been through 3 drug overdoses in the last 2 years. He doesn’t live with us. He carries around a duffle bag sleeping where ever. When he’s been up for days and hasn’t showered or eaten for days he comes home to eat, sleep do laundry and he’s off again to who knows where. We don’t fight any more or give him any money. We are tired, numb and at a loss for what to do. He is our middle child of 5 children we have. We have 2 younger daughters to protect and raise. I love reading the truth in your blog post. We do feel isolated by family, friends and church family. No one understands and we feel judged by some. I pray they don’t go through what we have gone through! The only thing I will do for him is buy him minimal clothing. We have keyed locks for every door in my house. He doesn’t have a house key. I fear for him but, its peaceful when he’s gone. Numbness takes over. Thank you for using your voice to help others!!

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Melanie, oh how sad it is to read your words. Your story is my story too. My heart breaks for you. I know your pain. Hugs to you and your family. There are too many of us. And too many Joeys. Thanks for writing.

      Reply
  10. mairin

    What you have written is so true. It is sad that it takes us, as parents, so long to learn that helping an addict actually means hurting them. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  11. penny

    How do i get your book. Im doing a family meeting for familys dealing with a family member who is a addict. Any guild books out there study guilds out there
    I am a mother of a addict but i can only tell my story so many times in a group. Thank u

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Penny, my book is in the hands of publishers, hopefully soon to be in the hands of people who need it! Until then, I recommend Debra Jay’s book, ‘No More Letting Go.’ Also, my blog posts might be of use. Thanks for writing. Good work you are doing. Sending hugs!

      Reply
  12. Kristin Haskins

    I just came across this article, thank you. My 22yr old son is a heroin addict. The last 3yrs have been very difficult. I tried everything to help him. Signing him up for rehabs, driving him to every class, getting him into programs, only to have him be kicked out every time. He was, of course on probation by the last year, and I took him to all the drug drops to make sure he got there, and went to every court thing there was for a year…and it was really all in vain….because I couldn’t ‘fix’ him by doing this. He lived with me and his 3 younger brothers off and on the whole time. It was horrible for all of us to see what he was doing. When I realized that he had robbing all of us for the last couple of months and lying about everything, things had to change. Even though I thought I was helping, It turns out that those last couple of months I was enabling him. I kicked him out, and for several months he was living on the streets. This is by far the hardest thing to watch. He had, of course, violated probation by then, and had active warrants. It took me a couple of months to finally get him to come to my house, thinking that I would give him money. I then called the police on him and he is in jail now. Many people think I’m terrible for doing this, but… not my son actually. He has been in 7 months and has a year to go. He actually ‘thanked me’ for getting it all to stop. (he was not happy with living like that) He has been ‘clean’ for 7 months, and for the first time in years, I get to talk to my baby being sober and learning what it’s like to be a sober adult…and he likes it…and himself finally! Will it last next year when he gets out? I don’t know, but we BOTH at least have some hope now! I am fairly positive that he would not be alive now if I hadn’t turned him in(and he believes this also). I just want to tell others that it’s okay to turn your addict in, it doesn’t have to be considered a terrible act. For the time being, my son is alive and not on drugs…and I know where he sleeps each night. I will not enable the addict behavior ever again. Also, do not confuse ‘enabling’ with helping somehow. I will ALWAYS be there for him…I just have to be careful in what capacity. Good luck to everyone else out there going through anything similar. It is by far the hardest thing to watch your children self destruct before your eyes. It really can get better sometimes, so don’t ever give up. Big hugs and lots of positive energy going out to all dealing with this! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Kristin, thanks so much for sharing your story, strength, and hopeful and powerful message. No more enabling. And Let Go with love. Yay you! Congrats on your son’s hard work and success and your selfless support. Hugs!

      Reply
  13. Cindy Renner

    I just came upon your website and can so relate. My 34 year old son was once the little boy you describe your Joey to have been. Inside I know he’s still there. I can’t tell you how much enabling I did, how many thousands of dollars I lost, all because I thought I was “helping”. I too have been to Naranon on line and to meetings. He finally entered rehab on April 4 of this year by his own choosing. I was so proud of him and he came out looking so healthy, standing strong and tall. He went to a sober living house for approximately one month. I begged him to stay, but he refused, saying he didn’t need to be there. He moved in with his father (also an addict,his DOC being prescription pain meds). He told me he felt by being confronted by his dad’s using, it would help him to remember the hell he went thru and be strong enough to turn away. My gut feeling is he has relapsed, yet part of me wants to believe because he is still on probation with random drug testing that maybe my gut is wrong. The thin line of enabling and helping is a tough one. Thank you for creating this site. Your words are truly a blessing.

    Reply
    1. Sandy Swenson Post author

      Cindy, yes, the line between helping them to live and helping them to die is a hard to determine. Addiction turns everything about parenting against it’s nature. I’m sorry addiction has caused so much pain. Sending hugs.

      Reply
  14. Julia

    Sandy = MADRE CORAJE.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us your thoughts, your pain. I can feel it so deep so I can not even imagine what will it be for you…
    Thank you so much for making me see my life from a diferent perspective, no so selfish, no so frivolous, no so trivial.
    GRACIAS.

    Reply
  15. Kathy

    Sandy-
    I SO needed to hear this tonight. My addict daughter just tried to persuade me to have contact with her again……boy this is heart breaking. I have to protect myself, husband and her two sisters. Years of her abuse is just so tiring:(.
    Thank you for posting right when I was feeling weak…..I needed to hear that!

    Reply
  16. Elaine Mansfield

    Hi Sandy,
    I don’t have addicts in my life, but there were a few times I had to call out my sons for self-destructive behavior. I was lucky and they found their way to good lives, but it was mostly up to them. I only had to risk saying what I saw, not enable, and face their angry response. Anger is a terrific defense, especially the threat of “I’ll never see you again.”
    I so admire your courage and clarity. And I know that, no matter how strong and clear you are, this must hurt and ache.
    Thank you for all the solace you bring to others in your situation.
    Elaine

    Reply
  17. Dawn

    thank you…again…sandy.
    you (somehow) give voice to my inner most emotions, and finally i recognize that it’s ok to give voice to them myself.
    miraculous, what sharing does…
    my newly reclaimed life is an open book, following your lead. and it feels good.
    dawn

    Reply

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